FDO vs. GrantWatch vs. Instrumentl: Which Tool is Best for You in 2024?

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November 4, 2022

Last Updated:

January 18, 2024

Over the past decade, there’s been a proliferation of grant discovery platforms. It’s time to compare some of them by pricing, customer reviews, features, and more.

By the time you finish this article, you’ll have a better understanding of which grant discovery platform provides the best value and most helpful tools: Foundation Directory Online, GrantWatch or Instrumentl. Let’s jump in.

FDO vs. GrantWatch vs. Instrumentl Features


Foundation Directory Online has been around for years, but how about two other contenders—GrantWatch and Instrumentl?

We’ll compare the three of these grant discovery platforms to help you make an informed choice for you and your nonprofit.

Let’s compare how Foundation Directory Online, GrantWatch, and Instrumentl stack up in terms of the ability to search for RFPs and funders, helping you track prospect research, collaborating with your team, and more.

Finding RFPs and Funders

Foundation Directory Online Finding RFPs and Funders Features:

Foundation Directory Online Finding RFPs and Funders Features

Foundation Directory Online offers a database of foundation profiles that is searchable by EIN, geographic focus, interests, and more. See the screenshot below for an example of a foundation profile.

FDO foundation profiles

Each profile also offers available information on funding interests, application/RFP/giving limitations, key contacts, and financial data such as assets, annual amount given away, links to news, and more.

FDO’s Philanthropy News Digest, an emailed newsletter published daily, also lists some open RFPs.

On the platform itself, you can also search RFPs, but there’s one hitch: there’s no way to sort them by interest or geography. That means you have to slog through several hundred RFPs in order to find the one or two that fit your organization best.

FDO also allows you to look up organizations who’ve already been funded who might be a close match to yours.

GrantWatch Finding RFPs and Funders Features:

Based in Bradenton, Florida, GrantWatch was founded in 2010 by a retired special education teacher who wrote grant proposals on the side. Since then, GrantWatch has become something of a contender in the best grant discovery platform category.

GrantWatch Finding RFPs and Funders Features

GrantWatch excels in allowing members to search active RFPs, as opposed to FDO. Its database claims to have 28,820 active grant opportunities, awards, and archived grants.

However, it does not provide foundation profiles, meaning additional research will be necessary to truly understand the funder’s interests, average grant amount, and other needed data points.

GrantWatch does not offer recipient profiles so a user cannot look for nonprofits who have received funding who are similar to their organization.

Instrumentl Finding RFPs and Funders Features:

Instrumentl provides detailed information on private foundations, corporate funders, and government funding opportunities at the local, state, and federal levels.

Instrumentl also makes it easy for you and your team to find open RFPs corresponding with your nonprofit’s interest and mission as well as create and save searches for funders.

With a subscription to Instrumentl, you can create a project and then search for funders that align with your organization’s interests or cause. Instrumentl’s matching algorithms will identify best-fit funders—and continue to automatically (or “automagically”) update new discoveries and/or RFPs.

Instrumentl Finding RFPs and Funders Features

Each opportunity you (or Instrumentl) discover will give you the opportunity to get in-depth foundation profiles, including the funder’s history, geographic focus, fields of work, and more.

Instrumentl foundation profiles

Tracking Prospect Research and Grant Management

Foundation Directory Online Tracking and Management Tools:

Foundation Directory Online Tracking and Management Tools

Foundation Directory Online recently rolled out a new feature called My FDO Dashboard. The dashboard allows you to track submitted grants by the amount requested vs. the amount received. You can also track funder prospects and download them into a spreadsheet.

But FDO lacks robust grant management features. There are no deadline reminders. Nor do you get automatic updates if a funder changes their focus or their deadlines.

GrantWatch Tracking and Management Tools:

GrantWatch Tracking and Management Tools

GrantWatch has zero tracking or grant management features. This means users have to rely on another grant management tool or platform to avoid missing deadlines for grants or grant reports, to assign tasks, to track accountability, to pull reports, and more.

Instrumentl Tracking and Management Tools:

Instrumentl Tracking and Management Tools

Instrumentl’s cloud-based integrated grant management tools help you manage your entire team and your grant pipeline from first draft to final report. For instance, Instrumentl’s consolidated calendar makes it easy for everyone on your team to stay on the same page regarding deadlines.

And, Instrumentl makes pulling reports easy, whether in CSV or PDF form, helping you and your team (or you and your clients) be more accountable and transparent.

Collaboration and Reporting

Foundation Directory Online Collaboration and Reporting Features:

Foundation Directory Online Collaboration and Reporting Features

FDO offers very limited collaboration between users. It doesn’t have a centralized document library, although it does allow you to assign tasks, thanks to My FDO Dashboard.

Pulling reports is also a fairly simple process. And via the dashboard, you can also save grant proposals and contacts.

GrantWatch Collaboration and Reporting Features:

GrantWatch Collaboration and Reporting Features

GrantWatch provides zero collaborative tools making managing your team and pulling reports for your board and executive director more difficult and time-consuming.

Instrumentl Collaboration and Reporting Features:

Instrumentl Collaboration and Reporting Features

Instrumentl’s cloud-based collaborative tools help you track proposal progress, assign grant owners and deadlines, and streamline management of your entire team and your organization’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Training and Support

Foundation Directory Online Training and Support:

FDO offers chat support during business hours, but bear in mind they are on the East Coast. Users can also email for support.

FDO also offers training on-demand, via webinar, and with a podcast. Training focuses on the full spectrum of nonprofit fundraising, not just on using the FDO product. Candid Learning is another resource provided by FDO’s merger with GuideStar which formed Candid.

GrantWatch Training and Support:

GrantWatch hosts some tutorials on YouTube. It also has a fairly extensive knowledge base designed to help fledgling grant writers get their wings.

GrantWatch’s sister company, GrantWriter Team offers freelance grant writers to nonprofits, small businesses, and other organizations seeking grant money.

GrantWatch appears to be designed primarily for smaller nonprofits or start-up grant writing consultants.

Instrumentl Training and Support:

Instrumentl Training and Support

Instrumentl goes above and beyond in providing informative, user-friendly training resources and customer support.

Instrumentl offers the following support:

  • 30-minute onboarding calls for all trial users with an Onboarding Advisor—including their grants strategy and objectives, as well as oversight of how projects are created to optimize grant matches.
  • Weekly 1-hour small group live-trainings with the Customer Success team for new customers who subscribe, teaching all the fundamentals for grant prospecting, tracking and management with Instrumentl.
  • Free weekly grant writing workshops with partners and community leaders sharing the latest grant strategies and insights.
  • Chat support as well as support via hello@instrumentl.com.
  • A comprehensive help center at help.instrumentl.com.
  • 1-Hour annual review calls with Instrumentl’s Customer Success team to deep dive into your account and provide personalized recommendations for getting the most out of the platform.

Instrumentl’s world-class customer support will surprise and delight you with their knowledge and speedy response times.

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FDO vs. GrantWatch vs. Instrumentl Pricing

Subscription Plan

They say you get what you pay for, but that’s not necessarily true when it comes to FDO vs. GrantWatch vs. Instrumentl. Let’s compare their different pricing structures.

Foundation Directory Online Pricing

FDO has three price tiers, and each price point goes up depending on the number of users or licenses you need.

FDO Essential

FDO Essential

For up to three users, FDO Essential costs $49.99 per month if paid on a monthly basis. A one-time annual payment is available for $33.25 a month, or $399 per year. Lock in the lowest rate of $31.58 per month for a 24-month subscription. That comes out to $379 per year.

Caveat: FDO Essential only allows users to search 111,000 funders, instead of their full database of nearly 250,000.

FDO Professional

FDO Professional is more expensive, but allows users to search more than 242,000 potential funders. Pricing for up to three users is as follows:

Caveat: FDO Essential only allows users to search 111,000 funders, instead of their full database of nearly 250,000.

With both of these pricing tiers the pricing goes up by the number of users. You save the most with their two-year plan which equates to $1,424.04 per year. The annual plan comes to $1,499.04 per year. If you go with FDO’s monthly plan, you’ll pay the most: $2,399.88 for a one-year subscription.

For large organizations, like universities or large healthcare providers, FDO offers enterprise licensing for more than 10 users. Each package is negotiated between FDO and the potential purchaser and you can contact FDO for a quote.

GrantWatch Pricing

GrantWatch Pricing

GrantWatch offers a weekly subscription fee of $18 per week or $72 per month, making it one of the less expensive options.

Monthly access costs $45, or $540 over the course of a year. Quarterly, users can subscribe for $90 per quarter, or $360 per year, making the one-time annual fee of $199 the best deal.

But remember: With no foundation profiles, and no grant tracking or management options, GrantWatch is really just a portal to find RFPs. It doesn’t provide any of the functionality of FDO, and certainly pales in comparison with Instrumentl’s tools.

Instrumentl’s Pricing

Instrumentl’s Pricing

Yes, Instrumentl is a more expensive option, but given its robust time-saving features, it's well worth it.

Instrumentl’s basic tier is $179 per month if paid in one annual fee of $2,148. It offers access for up to three users, as well as the ability to create 10 projects.

Other features include tracking grant cycles, smart grant matching, foundation profiles, automatic deadline tracking, assigning and tracking tasks, a shared document library, and the ability to pull reports and download them into either CSV or PDF formats.

The standard tier runs at $299 per month, or a one-time fee of $3,588. Likewise, it offers access for up to three users, but the number of projects available rises to 20.

Standard also offers foundation discovery, intelligently matching to good fit funders, including ones that are invitation only or don’t have a website. Along with all the features of the basic tier, the standard tier also provides advanced insight into funders, recipient profiles, and calendar integration.

Instrumentl’s professional tier costs $499 per month if purchased for an annual subscription of $5,988. The professional tier seats up to three users and allows you to create up to 50 projects as well as providing you with all the other tools offered with the standard tier.

Finally, Instrumentl also offers a custom plan for universities, hospitals, healthcare groups, and large nonprofits. The price is customized per the client’s specific needs and offers unlimited seats and unlimited projects.

In the long-run, Instrumentl users save time, need fewer subscription services for grant management, and are able to keep their teams in better alignment.

Curious? Contact Instrumentl to sign up for a no-obligation 14-day free trial.

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What Are Customers Saying About FDO, GrantWatch, and Instrumentl?


FDO Reviews

Foundation Directory Online still has its fans, but after digging through some some reviews, the general consensus is that FDO users’ biggest complaint is the price and the clunky UI of the My FDO tool.

FDO Reviews

GrantWatch Reviews

On its Facebook page, reviews of GrantWatch are primarily positive.

GrantWatch Reviews

Reviewers tout GrantWatch’s user friendliness and customer service. Other than Facebook, we found no other independent reviews of the platform.

Instrumentl Reviews

Instrumentl Reviews

Instrumentl has a myriad of positive reviews. Users agree that Instrumentl’s powerful matching algorithm, up-to-date funder database, and grant management tools make it the new “go-to” top grant platform.

Instrumentl Review

Wrapping Up: FDO vs. GrantWatch vs. Instrumentl: Which Tool is Best for You in 2024?


There you have it—our recap comparing FDO, GrantWatch, and Instrumentl.

With more than 200,000 funders and 10,000 active funding opportunities for your nonprofit, plus comprehensive grant management and tracking tools, you’ll find Instrumentl well worth the investment. Instrumentl subscribers state their productivity has soared up to 78%.

Still on the fence? Get a free no obligation 14-day trial of Instrumentl and see for yourself.

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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