If you’re getting started with your grant research and don’t know where to begin or are wondering what the best websites for grantseekers are, stay with us!
In this article, we will evaluate the best online resources for grantseekers available and share some tips on how to make the most of them, detailing exactly how they can make a difference in your grant research and grant writing job.
Types of Online Resources for Grantseekers
In the same way as any business, nonprofits need to source most of their funding themselves. While applying for and winning grants is no easy task, there are many different types of online resources available to help grantseekers throughout the entire grant lifecycle.
Nonprofit organizations want to associate with and work with organizations that have similar missions and values. Databases for seeking grants help you with prospecting funders that are a good fit for your nonprofit and the project you are seeking funding for.
Finding the grantmaking agency most likely to fund your project takes time. Thus, the best grant databases will allow you to easily narrow down the many results to find the funders who are interested in your cause.
The majority of databases for seeking grants have search interfaces in which you can insert the keywords that define who are you serving, where, and what you do so you can be matched with potential funders based on their areas of interest and history of giving. You can also receive relevant information about their grant cycles and open calls for proposals as well.
After you are matched with the best grant opportunities for your nonprofit, having access to grants templates and example proposalscan make a difference in your grant writing if you feel lost or need some guidance and inspiration!
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Although no two grant proposals are alike, they generally follow a similar structure or format which often include: introduction, needs assessment, program description, logic framework/theory of change, outcomes, budget narrative, evaluation plan, sustainability, and attachments (such as letters of support, staff resume, IRS determination letter etc.)
Finally, after you receive in your inbox the notice of the award, you will need additional help with grant tracking and management (such as deadline reminders, managing the grant pipeline, reporting features, and organizing your work by project).
Both newbies and those familiar with grants can benefit from these resources. Some online resources are free, some offer a free trial, and some others require a paid subscription. The best websites for grantseekers will make your research intuitive and straightforward, providing you with the best tools for your nonprofit and allowing you to work easily and smoothly.
Follow along as we dive deep into the best websites for grantseekers!
Best Websites for Grantseekers
While there are many websites available for grantseekers, not all of them are created equally. To help you pick the right website for your grant needs, we have compiled a list of the very best online resources for professional grant writers and nonprofit staff.
Our evaluation will be informed by the following criteria:
Phase of the grant lifecycle: what parts of the lifecycle can the website support
Functionality: what exactly can the website do and not do
Updates: are grant opportunities and the overall website regularly updated?
Instrumentl is the institutional fundraising tool that brings grant prospecting, tracking, and management to one place.
Instrumentl’s powerful search database allows you to explore grants from corporate funders, federal and state grantmaking agencies, private foundations, and community foundations. New grant opportunities are added to the database on a regular basis and Instrumentl can also help identify potential funders whose history of giving aligns with your mission.
What makes Instrumentl truly unique is its ability to smart match your organization with federal, foundation, and corporate funders using keywords and other specific filters.
Once you create an Instrumentl account, you will be able to develop your research project from scratch: you will be prompted to select your preferred criteria such as the area your project serves and your target population, along with grant amounts and grant types.
If you are only interested in grants that are currently open for submissions, you’ll be able to navigate to the Opportunity Matches tab to review the grants that Instrumentl’s algorithm has identified for you.
Once you identify a potential funder, Instrumentl will synthesize the important eligibility criteria or relevant information gathered by key trends from their 990 to help you quickly determine whether or not they would be a good fit for your nonprofit.
Below you can see a high-level 990 Snapshot where Instrumentl summarizes the financials, key people, and location of a particular funder.
A great feature when reviewing 990 reports is the “Key People” tab. This will help you identify who you may want to begin building relationships with when working towards your next grant award.
If you are a more seasoned grant seeker, you will appreciate the additional features that Instrumentl offers, such as weekly notifications of new matches, automated deadline reminders, customizable reports, and a wide array of tools for grant management.
Phase of the grant lifecycle: Instrumentl helps you throughout the entire grant cycle. It makes your grant research easy and intuitive and offers services at a price you can afford if you work on large volumes of grants. Instrumentl is the only website that offers a smart matching feature to find your perfect fits, provides information on various types of grants, informs you about funders priorities, history of giving and key people, and allows you to easily export the results of your research all in one place.
Functionality: Instrumentl is characterized by an intuitive and user-friendly interface that anyone can learn in an hour. To see what makes it different from other tools, check out this page.
Updates: 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.
Foundation Directory Online (FDO) is a database offered by Candid that can be accessed for free through their Funding Information Network. About 400 public locations in the US (mainly community centers and libraries) are included and if you need to find the location nearest to you, a search tool is available.
FDO provides you with access to Candid's database and fundraising expertise with updated information on all 240,000 U.S. Foundations. It also offers the Philanthropy News Digest (PND) that provides news about philanthropy for which materials, newsletters, and RFP announcements are all accessible free of charge. FDO offers two types of paid subscriptions: the Essential and Professional.
If you subscribe to the Essential, you will have access to a continually updated database with 100,000 funders (including U.S. federal agencies, state governments, and local governments).
Phase of the grant lifecycle: FDO helps you in prospecting and is a great tool if you need to personalize your research and share the results with your team (downloading or exporting via email, PDF or Excel). FDO also informs you of foundations’ Board Members and Trustees so that you can find a way to connect with them or find people in your LinkedIn network who can introduce you to them. FDO does not offer corporate grants, grant management tools, downloadable templates, updates on funders priorities, or the possibility to save your project or set reminders.
Functionality: The search interface is overall intuitive and offers the option of advanced research with many keywords. Although you won’t be able to access the funders’ history of giving, FDO provides access to a much greater number of foundations than most other databases. Given what you’re paying for their Professional plan, you may find other tools more cost-effective. To learn more about how FDO compares to other grant tools, check out this page.
Updates: FDOprovides updated information on various types of grants and informs you about funders priorities.
3. Grant Forward
Grant Forward is a database that offers access to more than 190,000 grant opportunities and provides information about sponsors, pre-solicitations, and the award winning grantees. The subscription price varies depending on your institution size (in terms of both total population and annual research expenditures).
Phase of the grant lifecycle: Grant Forward helps you with prospecting and offers various educational resources. Grant Forward does not provide additional features such as downloadable templates, reminders, grant tracking and management tools, and smart matching.
Functionality: The search interface allows you to search by keywords and narrow down your research using a variety of filters such as status, applicant type, deadline, amount, and grant type. The interface is overall okay to navigate. It provides information on various types of grants and informs you about funders’ priorities and key people. Grant Forward also allows you to easily export the results of your research.
Updates: Grant Forward's search engine combines a personalized funding recommendation service with a specialized search algorithm. Most of their customers are universities rather than nonprofits and their information is regularly updated.
GrantScape is a product of Thompson Grants; the company has experience in grant management, compliance, audit, and grant development.
With over 8,000 foundations and 2,000 federal and state grantmaking agencies included, the database provides about 4,000 open grants.
Phase of the grant lifecycle: GrantScape offers information on various types of grants and provides the opportunity for subscribers to ask experts questions about grant compliance to get support after the award. It does not offer features such as templates, reminders, grant tracking, and management.
Functionality: GrantScape can help make your grant research more organized overall. They offer services at a price you can afford if you work on large volumes of grants. GrantScape allows you to save and share the results of your grant research with your team, create deadline reminders, and set up custom alerts for the specific search criteria of your interest.
Updates: Open grant opportunities are continuously updated and may be searched by deadline, funding availability, or status (active or inactive).
GrantStation provides nonprofits with the opportunity to identify funding sources and access resources (blog, newsletter, webinars, conferences, development tools) that can help throughout the grant seeking process.
Phase of the grant lifecycle: GrantStation helps you primarily with prospecting funders. Their database includes about 9,000 faith-based grantmakers, private foundations, community foundations, corporate foundations and contribution programs, federal and state grant opportunities, and association grant programs. They have three different interfaces for international charitable databases, the U.S., and Canada.
Functionality: The GrantStation website provides you only with the founder's name, geographic scope, and focus. GrantStation is not the best tool if you need to save or download your research results or need to learn more about the funders’ history of giving. It will be a bit more time demanding and will require you to dig deeper by yourself on the funder’s profile. To learn more about the differences between GrantStation and other tools, check this page out.
Updates: GrantStation will inform you only about grantmakers that accept unsolicited requests, and does not provide crucial information on past history of giving. They have some weekly newsletter options but are not as dynamic as alternative tools.
If your nonprofit only focuses on federal or government grant opportunities, Grants.gov is a great website since it is a free service offered by the US government.
Grants.gov lists funding opportunities from 26 federal agencies and 12 independent federal agencies, executive branch offices, and commissions.
Through this is a free grant database, you can find federal and government grants for your nonprofit by searching by keywords, funding type, geographic focus, and advanced searches over several categories, including agency and grant category/type.
Phase of the grant lifecycle: Grants.gov helps you with prospecting and creating your grant proposal.Grant opportunities can be sent directly to your email through customized search or via RSS feeds of the opportunities as they are announced by federal agencies.
Functionality: Grants.gov tools include downloadable templates, auto-populated data, fillable forms and error checks when you work within their workspace to create the draft of your grant proposal. There’s no smart matching feature available and you have to work hard to screen each grant requirement for eligibility and details on the program.
Updates: Their website is frequently updated and there are several ways to discover new opportunities: you can visit grants.gov and search by agency, you can subscribe to the grants.gov RSS feed, or you can download the grants.gov mobile app, which was recently released for IOS and Android to always stay on the lookout!
On the FundsforNGOs website, you can find information about recently released grant opportunities organized by category. FundsforNGOs also distributes afree newsletter of newly released calls for proposals and with the paid subscription ($49/year), you will also receive free access to their funder database, webinars, training, and resources.
Phase of the grant lifecycle: Funds for NGOs helps you with prospecting and developing new skills. Through their premium membership it is possible to gain access to membership-based service for NGOs, development practitioners, and fundraisers seeking to find new donors, develop new skills for resource mobilization.
Functionality: FundsforNGOsoffers services at an affordable price and provides information on various types of grants. Their website features a variety of additional resources for grant writers and for nonprofit staff such as videos, tutorials, downloadable ebooks, sample proposals, and job opportunities.
Updates: If you are a subscriber, you will be able to receive regular grant updates.
Guidestar provides nonprofit reports and Form 990s to nonprofit organizations. More experienced grant writers and grant seekers might be able to use the history of giving and recipients profiles as the main tool for grant research, especially for small nonprofits who cannot afford a paid subscription.
Guidestar grants you accessibility to public IRS 990s and 990-PFs.
Phase of the grant lifecycle: GuideStar helps you with prospecting.By reading the IRS 990 and 990-PF forms, you can discover the funders' giving history, the types of organizations they supported, a brief description of the grants they awarded, and the amounts they disbursed. Similarly, if you are interested in determining how and from whom your competitors or peers are receiving funds this is a good resource for you!
Functionality: Guidestar informs you about funders’ priorities, history of giving, and key people. Although it is a helpful website for nonprofits, you might need to look for additional resources for assistance with prospect research, grant writing, and grant management. If compared with FDO (also part of Candid) you won’t be able to carry out your grant research through keywords to be matched with prospective funders.
Updates: Funders are invited to update their GuideStar profile as frequently as possible but it is up to their discretion to do so.
9. Council on Foundations
Funding for nonprofits in the U.S. comes largely from community foundations, public charities with the primary role of supporting community projects. The Council on Foundations community includes more than 775 grantmaking entities of all sizes, focus areas, and geographies.
TheCouncil on Foundations’ website allows you to research community foundations at no cost through a map and has a list of community foundations organized by state.
Phase of the grant lifecycle: The Council on Foundations website provides insights and resources for the entire grant lifecycle. Subscribed members can create personal accounts and access all member benefits such as learning about opportunities, webinars, training and networking events. Additionally, the Council on Foundations offers the Philanthropy Exchange, a peer-to-peer platform connecting members based on shared interests, topics or resources.
Functionality: Members and non members benefit from multiple services on a rich variety of topics, also divided by type (FAQS, research, sample documents). Members receive personalized services and access to various resources.
Updates: The available information is updated monthly on their website
Click to find the best grants for your nonprofit from 12,000+ active opportunities.
Now that you know what the best websites for grantseekers are, you’re probably wondering how to best use them. Below we’ve compiled a list of tips to help your nonprofit utilize these resources to their best potential.
1. Determine your keywords: when you are conducting grant research, use the keywords that best reflect your nonprofit's goals and that describe your why. Ask yourself, “Who are the beneficiaries? Where is the project carried out? What is the focus of the program?”
2. Don’t waste time: grant databases generally have intuitive search interfaces. Some of them even allow you to enter multiple criteria as part of their "advanced search" feature. If it takes you more than one hour to learn the core functionality of a grant search website, just move on; using tools that aren't intuitive will make your search for grants more time consuming.
3. Screen your list: don’t feel overwhelmed if you receive thousands of results. As you will realize, almost all grant research tools will prioritize in the list the funders that are the best fits for your nonprofit. Instrumentl can be helpful here since it narrows the matches list for you instead of just showing you every single opportunity.
4. Get to know your funder: when databases provide you with the best matches, take your time to look at their websites, social media, blogs, and news related to their grantmaking history before applying for the grant. Getting to know your prospecting funder will make the difference when crafting your grant application!
5. Small then large: if you have never applied for a grant and your organization does not have a large number of supporters, looking for local funding is the best place to begin. By starting with small grants focused on your service area, you can develop grant application writing skills and build the credibility you need to apply for bigger grants later.
6. Read through the lines carefully: pay attention to the additional relevant information, such as 990s, Board Members, the most common grant amount, funders' areas of interest, geographic focus, and preferred populations. This will help you define how your program aligns with their priorities!
Wrapping Things Up: The Best Grant Websites for Grantseekers
Now that you have a list of the best websites for grantseekers, make sure you take advantage of them by evaluating how they can assist you in the different phases of the grant life cycle based on their features, functionality, and frequency of updates.
Instrumentl can help you master grant prospecting, research, and management all in one place.