The Best Grants Database (For Nonprofits and Grant Writers)

Grant writing can be a daunting and time-consuming process. Finding the best grants database that meets your needs can help you quickly identify good prospects and increase your success when writing grants.

In this article, we'll walk you through what a grant database is and help you understand how to evaluate potential grant databases to discover the best one for you or your nonprofit.

If you have written professionally before, or worked in fundraising, you may be wondering if grant writing as a career is a viable option. If so, this post might help answer some of your most pressing concerns about how difficult it is to become a grant writer, how stressful a grant writing career is, and how much money grant writers make.

What is a Grant Database and What Makes a Good One?

A grant database is a tool that you can use to help you focus your grant research efforts. A good database will provide you with valuable grant matches which you can then continue to research to narrow down your list of top prospects. Grant writing is no easy task and a good grant database will help you make the best use of your time.

Grants databases will have information on various types of funders such as foundations, corporations, government entities, and more. The databases are designed to use the information that you input to help weed through the hundreds of thousands of funding opportunities available and find good matches for your work.

A good grants database will help you find the right fit(s) funders for your nonprofit and your project so that you can focus your efforts on actually writing and winning the grant. You want to be confident that you are aware of the many funding opportunities available, but also that you are applying to the best funder to match your work.

The best grants databases will also include features such as keyword search, project matching, RFP details, links to 990s, etc.

How to Choose a Grant Database?

Pricing 

There are many grant databases available and some are free while others have a cost associated. It is important to look at the pricing of these options to make sure that you can afford the one(s) you choose. You will likely end up comparing costs with features provided to determine the best investment for your nonprofit or for yourself (if you are a freelance grant writer).

Popularity Among Nonprofits

One good way to gain insight about a particular grant database is to learn from other nonprofits. You can reach out to others you know in the field for their insight, or you can read reviews from the website of the grant database or other resources.

The more popular databases became so for a reason and must provide better features, better pricing, or other helpful tools that have made them popular.

Features Offered

We have touched on features offered as they relate to pricing and popularity. You will need to understand what features you are looking for from a database and find one or more databases that meet these needs.

Good features that will be helpful to you or your nonprofit include reporting tools, additional learning opportunities, grant tracking, search options, and linking to additional details about funders.

Types of Grants Listed

Different grant databases for nonprofits provide information on different types of funders. Some only list one type of funder such as foundations, while others provide a more comprehensive database of multiple types of grant opportunities.

It is important to know what types of funding you are interested in to make sure that the database(s) you choose include the right information.

Ease of Use

Grant writing can be very time consuming. You want your grant database(s) to help make the process easier and save you time.

Certain databases are easier to use than others because of features like smart matching or straightforward search options. Reviews from other nonprofits or grant writers can be a good way to learn more about whether a grant database is user-friendly.

The Best Grants Databases

While there are many grant databases available, we are providing you with a few of the best and most widely used to help you determine the right fit(s). We have broken down the grant database options into two categories: best for nonprofits and best for grant writers or consultants.

It can be difficult to identify the best grants database overall, but hopefully the information we are providing will help you narrow down the choices to those that best fit your needs.

Best Grants Databases for Nonprofits

1. Instrumentl

Instrumentl is one of the best grants databases for nonprofits based on our evaluation criteria outlined above. The key reason for this is due to its incredibly easy-to-use user interface, coupled with its intelligent features such as smart matching and robust grant tracking and management.

Instrumentl’s smart matching feature will identify grant opportunities that align well with your organization and your specific project. When reviewing your matches, you will be confident that they are among the best fit grant prospects.

Instrumentl’s projects feature provides workspaces where grant searches can be saved, while also allowing the user to track and manage grants they found both on and off Instrumentl in the same place. Below is an example of an individual project tracker:

Another great feature Instrumentl provides is the ability to search for multiple types of grants within one database. Instrumentl includes government grants, foundations, corporate grants, and more. Below you can see just some of the many filter options available when reviewing active grant opportunities in the matches tab:

Additional features within Instrumentl include keyword search and 990 snapshots. The 990 snapshot feature is a great way to learn more about a particular funder and see what types of projects they typically fund.

Here is a screenshot of the 990 snapshot feature:

All of the helpful features provided through Instrumentl make it clear why this grant database is quickly becoming very popular among nonprofits. These features do come with somewhat of a cost compared to other grant databases, but you can learn why the $179/month investment is worthwhile through a 14-day free trial of the grant database.

2. Foundation Directory Online 

Foundation Directory Online is another good grant database for nonprofits, especially if you are looking specifically for foundation funding. There are hundreds of thousands of foundations and this database can provide access to over 200,000 of them at the highest subscription level.

One good feature of this database is that many public locations such as libraries provide free access to it for nonprofits and others. You can use the lookup feature to find a free access location near you. If you prefer to have access whenever and wherever you need it, you can get your membership starting at approximately $49.99/month.

Another reason that this can be a good grants database for nonprofits is because it provides information on many foundations that may not even have their own websites.

Foundation Directory Online is also relatively easy to use due to helpful features such as keyword searching, linking to 990s, and information on work that has previously been funded by the foundation.

Your nonprofit can set up a recipient profile and then search for matches. The database also provides access to a funder profile for each funder which provides many details on the foundations including contacts.

If you’re exploring FDO vs. Instrumentl, you may find this page useful.

3. GrantStation

GrantStation is another grant database that is popular among nonprofits for reasons such as ease of use and pricing. It does not have as many advanced features, but the keyword searching feature makes the database user-friendly and can help point your nonprofit in the right direction toward grant matches.

One reason that many nonprofits choose GrantStation is because there are many ways to receive discounted pricing so that your organization does not have to pay the $699/year price tag for this database.

Many nonprofit associations partner with GrantStation to provide discounts and you can receive a free membership to GrantStation if you subscribe to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Additional GrantStation features that may benefit your nonprofit include training opportunities, blog posts, a newsletter, and more.

The funder profiles within GrantStation are also popular with nonprofits as they include current funding priorities, grant guidelines, application deadlines, and even specific notes about certain funders.

You can see an example funder profile below:

Compared to GrantStation, Instrumentl provides much more robust foundation profiles. Here is the link to the same exact funder on Instrumentl. Notice how Instrumentl gives insights to grant amounts, past grantees, openness to new grantees and more while GrantStation does not have this capability.

To learn more about the differences between GrantStation and other grant tools, go here.

4. Local and State Government Websites

Many nonprofits know the value of local and state government websites as a great place to start looking for government grants. These databases can be very helpful to your nonprofit as you already know that the funders listed have an interest in supporting work in your location or region.

Below is an example from the California Grants Portal:

Your nonprofit can access these websites free of charge; you simply need to search at the city, county, and/or state level to find potential funding opportunities. As an added bonus, your nonprofit organization may already have relationships with local and even state contacts which help increase your likelihood of success with these funders.

While you may not consider these true grants databases, these sites will have information specific to local and state-level funding opportunities. Because these sites are not designed for grant research specifically, it may be a bit harder to find what you are looking for. However, if you know of local or state funding opportunities already, these sites can be a great resource.

5. Grants.gov

If your nonprofit has any interest in government grants, then Grants.gov is the best database for all federal and some state-level grant opportunities for a variety of entities.

One reason this is a good database for nonprofits is because the website is free to access. The database does include keyword search options to help you find funding aligned with your work. However, you may find you’ll need to sift through the site to identify the best opportunities for you.

Because there are many opportunities listed through this database, It can be helpful to know which government entity you are seeking funding from or some information about a specific funding opportunity.

Another Grants.gov feature that is helpful to nonprofits is access to RFPs for all funding opportunities and links to the application documents.

Best Grants Databases for Grant Writers and Consultants

1. Instrumentl

Instrumentl is one of the best grants databases for grant writers. The database allows a grant writer to set up multiple projects and search grant opportunities for each. If you are working as a freelance grant writer for multiple nonprofit organizations, you can keep track of each grant and project separately with ease.

The projects feature also allows the user to track and manage grants they found both on and off Instrumentl in the same place. As a grant writer, you are likely writing and managing multiple grants, possibly for multiple organizations, so tracking is key. Below is an example of an individual project tracker:

We also recommend Instrumentl for grant writers because you can search multiple types of grants within one database.

If you are researching grants for multiple projects or multiple organizations, it can be helpful to see several types of options. You also may be working in a location different from where the project will take place and therefore may not have as much knowledge of local and regional grant opportunities.

Instrumentl includes government grants, foundations, corporate grants, and more. Below you can see just some of the many filter options available when reviewing active grant opportunities in the matches tab:

If you are new to grant writing, you can try out Instrumentl through the 14-day free trial.

2. Foundation Directory Online

Another good grant database for grant writers is Foundation Directory Online. There are over 200,000 grant opportunities through the highest subscription level and it includes information on foundations that may not have their own website.

If you are writing a grant for a project or nonprofit that is outside of your local area, it is helpful to have access to information on so many options. You may also be able to identify grant opportunities for multiple projects or nonprofits at one time.

Grant writers can benefit from the public access feature of this grant database which is available through many libraries. You can use the lookup feature to find a free access location near you. Even if it is better for you to have access wherever you need it, pricing starts as low as $49.99/month.

If you are working as a grant writer or consultant, you may also appreciate the keyword searching, linking to 990s, and information on work that has previously been funded by the foundation. These types of features can help you make the most of your time when conducting grant searches.

The database also provides access to a funder profile for each funder which provides many details on the foundations including contacts.

If you’re exploring FDO vs. Instrumentl, you may find this page useful.

3. GrantStation

As a grant writer, you may also find success with GrantStation. There are not as many advanced features, but the database allows for easy keyword searching and can help point you in the right direction to grant matches.

One reason that GrantStation can be a good resource for grant writers is because there are many ways to receive discounted pricing so that you do not have to pay $699/year for this database. Many nonprofit associations partner with GrantStation to provide discounts and you can receive a free membership to GrantStation if you subscribe to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The funder profiles within GrantStation are another great feature as they include current funding priorities, grant guidelines, application deadlines, and even specific notes about certain funders. Information within these funder profiles can help you, as a grant writer, keep things organized.

You can see an example funder profile below:

As a grant writer, it is also important to keep up with current information and training opportunities. GrantStation provides additional trainings, blog posts, and a newsletter.

4. GrantWatch

One reason that we recommend GrantWatch for grant writers is that this grant database offers a decent combination of features at an affordable price point. Similar to GrantStation, it’s an okay place to start a grant prospecting process, but does not have very robust features beyond that.

You can gain access to GrantWatch for $199/year if paid annually.

GrantWatch does include information which can be useful to grant writers such as details about pre-application workshops, funding amounts of previous grants, and the number of awards from a specific funder within their database.

The GrantWatch grant database is also popular among grant writers because their comprehensive search engine includes a variety of foundation, corporation, and government grants.

It is important to note that their user interface may feel a bit dated and clunky to navigate as you work through it.

Here is a screenshot from their site listing out the key features of the grant database.

If you’re exploring GrantWatch, you may find this page comparing it to Instrumentl helpful.

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Additional Grant Database Options and Resources

We have walked you through some ways to evaluate the best grants databases and our top recommendations. There are a few additional places that you can find good information about grants outside of traditional grant databases.

1. Corporation or Corporate Giving Websites

Corporation or corporate giving websites are a great place to start if you’re looking for corporate grants.

One nice feature of these types of sites is that they are free of charge. Do keep in mind that they are limited to funding opportunities offered by a specific company or corporation, so you may need to have some previous knowledge of what you are looking for before visiting these sites.

Most corporate giving websites do a pretty good job of listing out priorities of the funder as well as having some information on past awards for reference. We recommend finding the appropriate contact information for someone at the corporate foundation to reach out to help gain further insight before applying for funds.

Keep in mind that many corporate foundations now utilize online applications, and these will be accessible through the corporate giving site.

One downside to these websites is that they will only list funding offered by one corporation rather than multiple opportunities.

As a nonprofit or a grant writer, it is important to be aware of these sites as they can be a good source of specific information about corporate giving, but you will not be able to use them as your only source when searching for grants.

To give you an idea of what you might find on a corporate giving website, here is a screenshot from the Wells Fargo Foundation.

Another good example is Walmart Giving. We have included a screenshot of their giving programs and there are many other good resources on their website.

2. Community Foundation Websites

Another good resource when searching for grants are the websites for community foundations in your community, region, or state. These sites can be a great resource for local and regional funding opportunities and are free to access.

Community foundation websites are particularly popular among nonprofits because you will already know that the funder is interested in supporting your local area or region. These sites can also be helpful for grant writers or consultants if you are working on a project or with an organization in a specific location.

Most community foundation websites do a good job of clearly stating funding priorities and providing information on past awards. There will also be contact information for program officers or others who you can connect with to learn more.

One drawback is that these sites will only list opportunities through one specific community foundation. You would need to already have interest in a specific funding opportunity for these sites to be helpful. They would not be your only source of grant research, but could be a good additional resource to keep in mind.

One example of a community foundation is the North Carolina Community Foundation. They offer funding at the state and regional level, as well as operating affiliate foundations in many North Carolina Counties.

One example of a county affiliate is the Wayne County Community Foundation. If you are not aware of a community foundation in your area, you may be able to find one through a simple internet search. You could also reach out through your nonprofit association to learn if there are community foundations nearby that fund your locale.

Here is a screenshot of previously funded work from the Wayne County Community Foundation.

Wrapping Things Up: The Best Grant Databases for Nonprofits & Grantwriters

We have provided some background on what a grant database is as well as how to identify the best grants database. We also broke down several grants database options based on what we recommend for nonprofits versus grant writers.

Whether you work directly with a nonprofit or are a freelance grant writer/consultant, grants databases are an excellent tool to help you in your grant writing efforts.

Knowing the details of the work that you are hoping to fund will help you focus your research efforts. You also want to make use of features that let you save organization background and project information so that you can easily search for matches over time.

You will find that Instrumentl provides many valuable features for both nonprofits and grant writers and can help you manage your time and efforts with ease.

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