11 Best Grant Research Tools To Help Nonprofits Find Funding

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Published:

November 10, 2021

Last Updated:

January 19, 2024

Searching for grant opportunities to support your nonprofit can be a challenging task.

Fortunately, there are plenty of dedicated grant research tools to choose from.

In this guide, we have compiled a comprehensive list of the top grant research tools that can help you find funding opportunities that align with your nonprofit's mission and needs. We will break down:

  • What each tool is
  • What features make it useful
  • Who should use it and why

Let’s get started!

What Are Grant Research Tools?‍

Many nonprofits rely on grant funding for survival. Thanks to technological advancements, grant research no longer relies on tedious internet browsing or generic search engines.

Instead, grant research tools are designed specifically to streamline your search for funding opportunities. These grants databases typically operate through keyword utilization, helping you identify the most appropriate grants for your nonprofit.

The benefits of grant research tools include:

  • Access to curated grants databases for streamlined identification and exploration of potential funders.
  • Time savings from the elimination of irrelevant results.
  • Insight into funders’ grant cycles and giving patterns.

Now that we've covered the basics of what grant research tools are and how they can benefit your organization, let's move on to exploring how to decide which grant research tool is right for you.

How Do You Decide Which Grant Tool Is Right For You?

Choosing the right grant research tool for your organization is not an easy task, considering the multitude of options available in the market. Not all grant research tools are created equal—they vary in terms of features, ease of use, targets served, and price points.

Here are some of the top things you should consider when evaluating different grant research tools:

  • Price: Assess your budget and consider the cost of the tool. Some tools offer subscription-based pricing, while others may be one-off purchases or free (although, a higher price tag usually includes more helpful features).
  • Ease of Use: Interface and usability matter. A tool is only as effective as your ability to use it.
  • Grant Database Size: A larger database means access to more funding opportunities.
  • Grant Management and Tracking: Some grant research tools also include grant management and tracking features to assist with the entire grant lifecycle.
  • Insights into Funders: Some tools provide comprehensive insights into funders' preferences, funding histories, and giving priorities. This is important because it can help tailor your proposals to better align with the funder's objectives.
  • Unposted Opportunities: Some funders may not publicly post their opportunities. The best grant research tools will have the capability to uncover these hidden opportunities.
  • Support and Customer Service: Consider how responsive and helpful the tool's customer support team is. This is particularly important when you encounter difficulties or need guidance.

Bear in mind the "perfect" tool may not exist, but the "right" tool is one that effectively supports and streamlines all of your grant-seeking endeavors.

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11 of the Best Grant Research Tools

Each of the below tools brings something unique to the table. Understanding their offerings will help you make an informed choice for your nonprofit. 

#1 Instrumentl

Instrumentl


What is Instrumentl?

Instrumentl is the premier grant research tool designed to simplify the daunting task of effective grant seeking. It's an all-inclusive platform that facilitates the entire grant lifecycle—from grant research to grant management and everything in between.

Instrumentl offers a rich database with over 14,000 active grant opportunities and 410,000 funders, including:

  • Corporate grants
  • Federal grants
  • State grants
  • Private foundation grants
  • Community foundations grants

The database is regularly updated with the most recent opportunities. Aside from showing you active grant opportunities, Instrumentl is also able to identify potentially good-fit funders who may be invite-only or do not have websites but still have a history of giving toward causes like yours.

Overall, Instrumentl ensures you don't miss a single funding opportunity.

How is Instrumentl useful?

What sets Instrumentl apart is its comprehensive suite of grant research, tracking, and management features designed specifically to help nonprofits secure more funding for their missions.

The great thing about Instrumentl is that it does the hard work for you. Once you set up an account, you’ll be prompted to share some information about your nonprofit, its programs, and funding needs.

Instrumentl Edit your Project


Instrumentl’s Smart Matching feature then uses this information to automatically curate a list of active grants that align with your mission and funding needs! No more scrolling through an endless list of irrelevant opportunities.

Smart Matching feature

When researching grants on Instrumentl, you’re able to filter results based on:

  • Location
  • Different fields of work
  • Grant amounts
  • Grant types

However, it doesn’t stop there!

Once you click on a particular grant opportunity, Instrumentl will compile all the essential eligibility criteria and relevant information in one place so that you can decide whether they are worth researching in further detail.

Instrumentl also provides detailed funder profiles that you can use to learn more about a funder’s giving priorities, giving history, and even openness to new grantees! All of this information is distilled from funders’ 990 forms into easy-to-read snapshots. Say goodbye to spending hours combing through complex tax documents to determine if a funder is a good fit!

Detailed funder profiles


In addition to streamlining the grant research process, Instrumentl also provides a suite of grant management tools that make tracking and reporting on funding opportunities a breeze.

These grant management tools include:

  • Automatic deadline reminders sent to your email.
  • A grant tracker to organize your funding opportunities by year, application stage, and project.
  • The ability to create tasks for your custom milestones, such as reporting deadlines or draft due dates, to keep you (and your team) on track.
  • A document library to keep all of your grant documents stored, organized, and easily accessible in one place so your team has a single source of truth.
Grant tracker


Ultimately, this end-to-end grant lifecycle process is a distinctive feature that sets Instrumentl apart from other grant research tools, making it an indispensable asset for effective and efficient grant-seeking.

Don’t believe us? Check out our top customer success stories here.

Who should use it?

Instrumentl does come with a price, and is the ideal tool for medium to large nonprofits. We offer scalable solutions that adapt to the needs of both nonprofits and grant consultants.

Instrumentl


You can also sign up for a 14 day trial to try out Instrumentl totally free.

So, if you're committed to effective grant seeking, Instrumentl is the tool that will empower your nonprofit to reach its full potential.

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#2 Guidestar

Guidestar


What is Guidestar?

Guidestar offers these tools:

  • Provides access to IRS 990s and 990-PFs, annual tax returns filed by public charities, and private foundations.
  • Offers insights into funding patterns and grant disbursements.

This information is pivotal in understanding the funding landscape, as it includes details on some funders' giving history, organizations they've supported, brief descriptions of the awarded grants, and the disbursed amounts.

How is Guidestar Useful?

Guidestar helps nonprofits by:

  • Providing access to 990s and funder profiles for understanding funding strategies.
  • Helping nonprofits identify potential partners running similar programs.

Who Should Use Guidestar?

  • Experienced grant writers who know how to efficiently analyze 990 reports.
  • Guidestar is less suited for beginners in grant-seeking or those requiring assistance in identifying active grant opportunities or managing grants.

#3 Grantmakers.io

Grantmakers.io


What is Grantmakers.io?

Grantmakers.io is a valuable platform that provides:

  • Comprehensive access to more than 2.5 million IRS 990-PF tax return datasets filed by private foundations.
  • Deep dives into funding tendencies and grant awards.

By including details of grantmaking organizations, grant descriptions, and funding amounts, it gives a helpful perspective into the funding landscape.

How is Grantmakers.io useful?

Grantmakers.io helps nonprofits by:

  • Providing access to 990s for analyzing and understanding funding strategies of private foundations.
  • Enabling the identification of potential funders that have supported similar missions.

It offers insights into more than 4.8 million grants from the IRS 990-PF dataset, with details including foundation names, types of support offered, and grant amounts awarded.

Who Should Use Grantmakers.io?

  • Recommended for experienced grant researchers who can effectively interpret large datasets.
  • Less appropriate for grant-seeking beginners or those needing help in pinpointing active opportunities or managing grants.

For those needing additional support in grant management, or for those new to the grant-seeking process and requiring more user-friendly, curated information, Grantmakers.io could seem overwhelming.

#4 Grants.Gov

Grants.Gov


What is Grants.Gov?

Grants.Gov is a resourceful online platform which offers:

  • Broad access to information on over 1,000 federal grant-making agencies.
  • Detailed exploration of government grants, loans, and non-financial assistance for projects.

Armed with details of grantors, grant descriptions, and funding amounts, it provides a crucial viewpoint on the government funding landscape.

How is Grants.Gov Useful?

Grants.gov helps nonprofits by:

  • Offering insights into numerous grants from various federal government agencies, with specifics such as agency names, types of support offered, and grant amounts awarded.
  • Facilitates the identification of potential funders that have previously supported similar projects.

Users also have the option to receive grant opportunities directly in their email through customized searches or via RSS feeds as federal agencies announce them.

Who Should Use Grants.Gov?

  • Nonprofits that are primarily interested in federal and state grant opportunities.
  • Best suited for seasoned grant researchers capable of expertly interpreting extensive datasets.
  • Less applicable for novices in grant-seeking or those requiring assistance in identifying opportunities or managing grants.

#5 FundsforNGOs

FundsforNGOs


What is FundsforNGOs?

FundsforNGOs is a specialized platform providing critical resources including:

  • Comprehensive database of grants and donors for international development.
  • In-depth exploration of current funding opportunities and donor profiles.

With detailed information about the donor organizations, grant descriptions, and funding amounts, it presents a crucial viewpoint of the donor landscape.

How is FundsforNGOs Useful?

FundsforNGOs helps nonprofits by:

  • Facilitating access to a thorough database for analyzing and comprehending donor strategies for international development.
  • Enabling the identification of potential donors that have supported similar causes.

It delivers insights into numerous grants from a multitude of sources, with specifics encompassing donor names, types of support provided, and grant amounts dispersed.

Who Should Use FundsforNGOs?

  • It's suitable for NGOs seeking funding.
  • Less appropriate for those needing access to broader funding opportunities.

For those needing comprehensive data for detailed analysis, or for experienced researchers seeking unrefined information, FundsforNGOs could appear limiting.

#6 Grant Gopher

Grant Gopher


What is Grant Gopher?

Grant Gopher is an efficient platform offering:

  • Access to a well-curated and updated database of grants from various funding organizations.
  • Filters and search options to match grant opportunities according to specific needs.

With its expansive database of grants, it provides a simplified gateway into the world of grant-seeking, ideally suited for beginners as well as seasoned grant researchers.

How is Grant Gopher Useful?

Grant Gopher helps nonprofits by:

  • Providing a user-friendly platform to search and apply for relevant grant opportunities.
  • Offering tailored alerts, keeping users informed about new grant opportunities aligned with their specific needs.

With a database that's updated daily, it provides timely access to new funding opportunities, making it a reliable source of information on the grant funding landscape.

Who Should Use Grant Gopher?

  • Ideal for both beginners in the grant-seeking process and experienced grant researchers looking for an efficient and easy-to-navigate platform.
  • Also suitable for those looking for tailored grant alerts and assistance in managing grant applications.

#7 TerraViVa

TerraViVa


What is Terra Viva?

Terra Viva is a robust platform that offers:

  • Comprehensive access to a vast array of funding datasets concerning sustainable practices and environmental preservation.
  • In-depth exploration of global sustainability initiatives and their impact.

With detailed information about the organizations involved, the nature of their projects, and the scale of their impact, TerraViva provides a unique lens through which to view the current state of global environmental efforts.

How is Terra Via Useful?

Terra Viva helps nonprofits by:

  • Providing access to extensive datasets for analyzing and understanding sustainability initiatives worldwide.
  • Helping to identify potential partners who have pursued similar environmental objectives.

It provides insights into numerous sustainable projects, with details including names of organizations involved, types of initiatives undertaken, and the scale of their impact.

Who Should Use TerraViVa?

  • Recommended for researchers well-versed in environmental sciences and sustainability, capable of effectively interpreting extensive datasets.
  • Less suitable for beginners in the field of sustainability or those needing assistance in identifying suitable projects or managing sustainability initiatives.

For those requiring additional support in project management or for those new to sustainability research and seeking more user-friendly, curated data, Terra Viva could seem overwhelming.

#8 Foundation Directory Online

Foundation Directory Online


What is Foundation Directory Online?

Foundation Directory Online is a comprehensive resource that offers:

  • Access to an extensive collection of data on foundations and grantmakers.
  • Facilitates in-depth research into the funding landscape and philanthropic trends.

The platform provides detailed profiles of grantmakers, grant recipients, and grant purposes, offering a detailed view of the funding space.

How is Foundation Directory Online useful?

FDO helps nonprofits by:

  • Providing detailed access to a wide range of data for analyzing and understanding the funding tactics of grantmakers.
  • Helping to recognize potential funding bodies that have backed similar causes.

It presents insights into countless grants, with specifics such as the names of grantmakers, types of support given, and the amounts funded.

Who Should Use Foundation Directory Online?

  • Ideal for knowledgeable grant researchers who can effectively navigate extensive datasets.
  • Less suited for grant-seeking novices or those needing assistance in identifying active opportunities or handling grants.

#9 GrantScape

GrantScape


What is GrantScape?

GrantScape is a portal that features:

  • Extensive access to numerous IRS 990-PF tax return datasets submitted by private foundations.
  • Comprehensive analyses into funding patterns and grant awards.

It includes valuable specifics about grantee organizations, grant descriptions, and funding amounts, providing a detailed view into the funding landscape.

How is GrantScape Useful?

GrantScape helps nonprofits by:

  • Providing comprehensive datasets for exploring and deciphering the financing strategies of private foundations.
  • Assisting in finding potential funders that have backed similar objectives.

It offers a window into millions of grants from the IRS 990-PF dataset, with elements such as foundation names, kinds of support provided, and the grant amounts conferred.

Who Should Use GrantScape?

  • Ideal for seasoned grant researchers who can efficiently navigate and decode extensive datasets.
  • Not as suited for beginners in grant-seeking or those who require assistance in pinpointing active opportunities or handling grants.

#10 GrantStation

GrantStation

What is GrantStation?

GrantStation is an online resource offering a plethora of information and tools for securing funding. It encompasses:

  • A searchable database of potential grantmakers that can be filtered by focus area, geographic scope, and grantmaker type.
  • Comprehensive details about each grant’s application process, and contact information.

GrantStation's aim is to support organizations in their quest to find appropriate funding sources, saving valuable time in the search process.

How is GrantStation Useful?

GrantStation helps nonprofits by:

  • Providing an organized and efficient way to find potential funding sources.
  • Guiding users in the grant writing process, providing resources like sample proposals and writing tools.

With the wealth of resources available, including tips on proposal writing and direct links to application forms, GrantStation assists organizations in their journey from finding a funding source to applying for a grant.

Who Should Use GrantStation?

  • Ideal for all levels of grant seekers, from beginners to the experienced.
  • A useful tool for those wanting a more guided approach in their grant-seeking journey.

GrantStation's user-friendly interface and comprehensive resources make it accessible even for beginners in the grant-seeking process, while still providing valuable tools for experienced grant researchers.

#11 Grant Forward

Grant Forward


What is Grant Forward?

Grant Forward is a formidable platform that provides:

  • Comprehensive access to an extensive database of more than 190,000 grant opportunities.
  • In-depth exploration of various funding opportunities and award tendencies.

By encompassing details about the funding organizations, award descriptions, and funding amounts, it offers a unique lens into the funding landscape.

How is Grant Forward Useful?

Grant Forward helps nonprofits by:

  • Offering access to comprehensive datasets for investigating and deciphering the funding strategies of different grantmakers.
  • Enabling the pinpointing of potential funders who have backed similar initiatives.

It provides insights into a vast number of grants with details including the sponsor names, kinds of support provided, and the award amounts.

Who Should Use Grant Forward?

  • Suggested for proficient grant researchers who can efficiently decode extensive datasets.
  • Less suitable for novice grant seekers or those needing assistance in identifying active opportunities or managing grants.

For those requiring additional help in grant management, or for those unfamiliar with the grant-seeking process and needing more streamlined, tailored information, Grant Forward could appear daunting.

How to Use Grant Research Tools Effectively

It's important to not only be aware of the best grant research tools available, but also to understand how to effectively use them.

To truly maximize the benefits of grant research tools, follow these actionable tips:

Make Sure You Get Relevant Matches


The first step to successful grant seeking is to get the most relevant matches. To do this, you need to make sure to use keywords effectively.

Think about your nonprofit or program’s main theme and the specific areas it targets. Using these concepts as your keywords can help you find the most relevant grant opportunities.

Here is an example of how you might use your location and keywords to set up a search within Instrumentl’s database:

Make Sure to Narrow Down Your Grant Opportunities


Don't get overwhelmed by the multitude of grant opportunities that these tools can present you with. You should instead use filters to narrow down your list to the most relevant options.

For example, Instrumentl allows you to filter your searches by best match, deadline, amount, and more.

Grants search tool

Make Sure to Evaluate Funders


Remember, not all funders are a good fit for your nonprofit. Take the time to evaluate each funder so that you only apply to grants that you have a high chance of winning.

You should look at their past grantees and the projects they've funded. This can give you an idea of whether your project aligns with their mission.

While the majority of tools mentioned in this article are designed simply to help you find grants, Instrumentl goes a step further by providing comprehensive funder profiles with in-depth insights. More than just a list, these profiles help you understand the funder's motivations, preferences, and funding history.

Funder profiles

‍Grant Research Tools: Additional Resources


Additional useful resources for grant research are the Council on Foundations, Pivot, and NAVSO.

1. Council on Foundations: The Council on Foundations allows you to research Community Foundations at no cost. It is very important to highlight that Community Foundations are public charities with the primary role of supporting a geographic area, largely through the facilitation and pooling of donations for community projects.

2. Pivot: Pivot is a grant database specifically designed for researchers. To subscribe, you must be affiliated with a research institution. Grant research can be performed either by scholars or matching faculty.

3. National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations (NAVSO): Available on the NAVSO site is the Foundation Map created by Candid. As shown below, it features a variety of options such as map view, chart view, list view, and constellation view.

NAVSO


Wrapping Things Up: The Best Grant Research Tools

We hope you found our breakdown of the best grant research tools helpful. It was a long journey, but we believe it was worth it.

When researching grants, it's important to have a good understanding of the process and how to use keywords and filters to narrow down your search. There are many tools out there, but we hope it’s clear by now that Instrumentl is the best resource for navigating the entire grant lifecycle from start to finish. Don’t forget to try it out for free today!

Instrumentl team

Instrumentl team

Instrumentl is the all-in-one grant management tool for nonprofits and consultants who want to find and win more grants without the stress of juggling grant work through disparate tools and sticky notes.

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