TechSoup Grant Series Week Four: Research Funders and Find Appropriate Grants

This week in our TechSoup Grant Series: One Hour a Week to Success, we will identify funders and conduct research to find an appropriate grant opportunity. Last week, you selected a grant project and did some preliminary planning, so now it’s time to hit the books, or more likely, the websites! You will use many resources in your grant research. The Web is probably the most reliable source for locating grant resources today, but there is not one directory, web site or database that will neatly list all the grants that match your specific project. Start by visiting the web sites and the print resources suggested.

Even small grants can be worth the effort as they may be easier to obtain and may fit your project scope and intent better. Local funders often give smaller grants and they many have fewer strings attached than those from larger private or government agencies. You could also apply for several small grants that in combination could provide for all the facets of a larger project. Being familiar with the different types of funding sources can help ensure that your grant proposal reaches the right audience. Grant funding is given by organizations that want to make a difference; they are looking for successful projects to support their vision. A good match occurs when you can find aligned purposes; your organization’s mission and the goals of your grant projects complement those of the funding organizations.

Grant funding can be categorized into two major sources: government or private.

GOVERNMENT GRANTS

Government grants can come from all levels of government - federal, state, or local (county, city, town, village).

Federal Government Grants

 The federal government is the largest funder in the United States. Though there are billions of grant dollars available, these can be tough applications to tackle for those new to grant work, so you might want to begin with a smaller grant from a local government, foundation, or club in your service area. Grants.gov is the single free access point for over 1,000 grant programs offered by the 26 federal grant-making agencies. All federal grant opportunities are searchable. Under "Find Grant Opportunities," use the Basic Search with the keywords applicable to your organization and project or Browse by Category under Arts, Humanities, Education (or whichever best matches your grant project or emphasis). You can sign up for an email service or RSS feed that will notify you of new grant opportunities and specify criteria such as category of funding, eligibility, or agency.

Other federal funding resources include: Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance,  Federal Register, and the TGCI Federal Register Grant Announcements. You can also visit the websites of the federal agencies directly, such as:

US Department of Education
National Library of Medicine
National Endowment for the Arts
Institute of Museum and Library Services
National Endowment for the Humanities
National Institute for Literacy

State Government Grants

State governments, with funding by federal sources and local sources, are responsible for distributing money in their jurisdictions. An example of library funding disbursed this way is the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds, distributed by the Institute for Museum and Library Services to state libraries. State libraries determine distribution of these funds based on their individual state's areas of need and priorities. LSTA funding is a primary source of library grant funding. To find out if your state library offers LSTA subgrants, state grants-in-aid, or other funding or state resources check their website; many provide applications online. If you are with an academic, special library, or a nonprofit organization, you may need to partner with a public library to be eligible.

State departments of education, state humanities, state arts and cultural services agencies are all examples of state agencies that may fund your project and have RFPs or grant opportunities available on a competitive or non-competitive basis:

Your State Department of Education
Your State Humanities Council
Your State Arts Council

Local Government Grants

Local governments that have acquired their own grants from federal or state governments may contract with other organizations such as yours to perform part of the work on their grant project. State-specific or community-specific funding directories or databases for your area will contain these local opportunities you will not find in the national directories. Check your local community foundations, United Way, and libraries for these resources. The Council of Foundation's website contains many of these listings. There is also a government office that regulates charities in each state that may be named the Charities Registrar, under the Secretary of State's office or the Department of Justice, they may have publications and guides on your state funders.

PRIVATE GRANTS

Foundations, nonprofits, businesses and corporations, clubs, and professional and trade associations are all examples of private grant sources. They may be small, with only a few mostly volunteer staff, or they may be large multimillion dollar-driven enterprises with many professional staff.

Foundations

Foundations support the specific ideals that inspired the creation of the foundation. Billions of dollars are granted annually by foundations. Very large foundations and corporations that have annual opportunities are often very competitive, so also look for local foundation opportunities by connecting with fundraising and philanthropy networks in your own region, which can be less competitive because the foundation may restrict funding to support their own communities.

There are three main kinds of foundations - independent, corporate, and community. Independent foundations are created by an individual or a family, often through endowment funds, and are the most common type of private foundation. Corporate foundations are funded and created by companies and are operated by a board of directors. Community Foundations are publicly supported foundations that operate for the benefit of a specific geographic region. Assets are received from many individual donors and diverse sources. Individual donors can establish endowed funds without the costs of starting a foundation. These institutions are governed by volunteer boards of community leaders and administered by professional staff with expertise in knowing their community's needs. Cited as one of the fastest growing sectors of philanthropy in the US, there are over 700 community foundations nationwide, with assets of approximately $35 billion, awarding grants of more than $2.6 billion.

In your search for foundations that match the needs of your organization, three organizations are helpful to your research.

  • The Foundation Center is the largest producer of directories and databases of grant-giving foundations. It provides many tools, including an "Online Librarian," print resources, and a website for finding foundation profiles, trends in grant making, and top foundations in your geographic region. Its goal is to connect nonprofits to grant makers. The Foundation's Center Cooperating Collections are more than 340 free funding information centers that provide a core collection of materials and a database published by the Foundation Center including The Foundation Directory (profiles the 10,000 biggest foundations) and topics such as arts and culture, children and youth services, education, environment and animal welfare, health, international, libraries and information services, religion, and social services.
  • The Council on Foundations, provides information about research, publications, conferences, and workshops. It offers links for community foundations, corporate foundations and giving programs, family and public foundations, and international grant makers. The mission of the organization is "to provide the opportunity, leadership and tools needed by philanthropic organizations to expand, enhance and sustain their ability to advance the common good."
  • The Grantsmanship Center maintains information about your state's foundations, community foundations, corporate giving programs, and the top 40 foundations that give in your state.
  • The Foundation Center also provides access to IRS 990 forms,  which is a great source of information to the grant seeker as it provides information about the foundation's finances, the grants it gives, and who serves as board members. Use The Foundation Center's 990 Finder or the GuideStar website.

Corporations and Businesses

Corporations and businesses sometimes create foundations or giving programs with funds generated from their profits. Some companies operate an in-house corporate giving program in addition to a foundation. Visit websites and offices of the businesses and corporations that operate in your community for information about their priorities, grant guidelines, and deadlines. Corporations operating in your area may have community giving programs, or may offer other help, such as supplies or equipment, in supporting your needs.

  • Go to the web sites of corporations that operate in your community. The link to "community" or "community relations" will lead you to information about their priorities, grant guidelines, and deadlines.
  • The National Directory of Corporate Giving is a print directory for finding funding from corporations, that provides portraits of approximately 3,000 corporate foundations and 1,000 direct giving programs with essential information such as guidelines, priorities, financial data, and recent grants awarded.
  • Grantsmanship Center Corporate Giving (banks, grocery stores, utilities, stores, etc.)

Clubs and Organizations

Clubs and organizations may have a service, civic, or skill-based focus. They usually have local chapters. Examples include the Lions Club International, Rotary International, The Association of Junior Leagues International, and Kiwanis International. These organizations often have giving programs that involve smaller gifts focused on supporting their individual communities through service, materials and financial investments.

Professional and Trade Associations

Professional associations often make grant funds available to members of the association or organization. Grants and awards are available for projects and individuals; for financing research projects, fellowships, or degrees; and for continuing education opportunities. Professional associations may have grant funding that is available only for members.

Specialized Print Directories:

  • Annual Register of Grant Support. Information Today.
  •  Big Book of Library Grant Money. American Library Association.
  • Grants for Information Technology, Grants for Arts, Culture, & the Humanities, Grants for Children & Youth, Grants for Women & Girls, Grants for Libraries and Information Services, National Guide to Funding in Arts and Culture, and the National Guide to Funding for Libraries and Information Services. Foundation Center.
  • Directory of Building and Equipment Grants: A Reference Directory Identifying Building, Renovation, and Equipment Grants Available to Nonprofit Organizations. Research Grant Guides.

Search Tips

  • Translate your project into the language used by the resources and funders: key words, subject matter, geographic area, target audience, gender, race, and any parameters that fit your interests.
  • Refine and target your search, work from general to specific
  • Learn all you can about a prospective grantor. You want a good match! Visit their website, read annual reports, success stories of previous grants, staff biographies, current guidelines. Collect all these details:
    • Basic Information: Funder name and contact information; background of key people (officers, donors, staff, trustees)
    • Grantmaking Philosophy/Program Emphasis: History of funding, mission, program interests, population focus, geographic focus, and types of support provided, recent grants.
    • Financial Information: Assets/market value, grants and typical grant size.
    • Application Process: Guidelines, forms, RFPs, preferred initial approach; and deadlines.
  • Record what you find; Keep your research organized

Library Grants Blog

A shortcut to finding library grants is available on a free website that I have co-authored since 2005 (). New grants are posted every month and include the deadline, a brief description, and a link to more information. We only include national or large regional grants, and we remove the listings once the deadlines have past.

Develop Relationships and Share Your Quest for Grants

Funder’s aren’t ATMs, they are real people, just like you and I (really! I’ve been on the funder side of things!). Contact potential funders to clarify your questions, discuss your project, and determine their interest in your project. Develop relationships with the contact people. If your project is not a match with a particular funder, ask if they know of other potential funders who would be a better match.

Tell everyone you know that you are looking for a grant and discuss your grant project, including staff, board members, and volunteers. Approach potential partners and local leaders to let them know about your search. Ask other nonprofits or libraries in your area about the grants they have received and who funded them. Talk to your relatives, your friends, and leaders in your community. Visit your chamber of commerce and community foundation, to tell them about your project. Speak at local clubs and organizations about your library projects and your search for funding. You might be very surprised at who knows about potential funding that matches your project. 

What grant sources and resources do you recommend?

Homework:

Research your grant topic at three websites and try to find a good grant match.

This week we are having a free grants webinar, join us and share what you are learning!

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