Visualizing Funding for Libraries: How Find Grants for Your Library

Paper currency and coins

In February 2017, Foundation Center, with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, launched Visualizing Funding for Libraries, a free comprehensive database of library funding. It provides information on grants awarded to or in support of libraries by U.S. foundations. The data visualization tool is designed to help librarians and library administrators find grants to help diversify funding sources or expand innovations in programming. Library advocates, foundations, and nonprofits also can use the tool to better understand the library funding landscape.

Highlights of Visualizing Funding for Libraries

  • No sign-up or fees — this is a free service for libraries and library supporters
  • Search funding data to identify funders supporting libraries
  • Review funder profiles for basic information on contact details and giving priorities
  • Research grants given to comparable libraries
  • Access free training on the most important things libraries need to know to start grantseeking

Using a Data Map to Find Grant Opportunities

Through data mapping technology and the corresponding dataset, Visualizing Funding for Libraries enables viewers to explore foundation funding for libraries from 2006 to the present. Its five subject areas are academic, government, public libraries, archives and special collections, and school libraries and media centers.

Funding data for both grant recipients and funders is available through the map display. The tool also offers a "list" feature that lets users view and sort by funder, recipient, and grant data in table format. Additional ways to look at the data include

  • Aggregate funding data displayed as bar and trend charts
  • A "pathways" view that reveals links between library funders and similar grant recipients
  • A "constellation" view that allows users to map their networks in ways that illustrate new points of connection to the broader funding universe

Free Training

Because many libraries don't have dedicated fundraising staff, Foundation Center offers free training in the use of the tool.

Getting Started

The data tool is free to use. It can be accessed directly from the landing page. Click DATA TOOL, and you'll be redirected to a high-level overview of funding for libraries in the United States.

A map visualization of a high-level overview of funding for libraries in the United States

The best way to begin a search is to add a location and perhaps a subject term like "education" or "literacy." You could even start by searching by library type.

A map visualization of a high-level overview of funding for libraries in Minnesota

From here, you can either click into different areas of interest from the map view or switch to a list view and begin to review the funders, recipients, and grant details. Your goal is to identify funders that have demonstrated an interest in funding libraries or library projects like yours. This is how you begin to build a prospect list.

You can continue to refine your search by adding more filters, zooming in or out on a particular geography, or applying multiple subjects.

Another way to view this data is to look at trends over time by using the Charts feature. You can also view relationships between libraries and funders on the Pathways and Constellations features. For a good overview of how to best leverage those features, check out our webinar with WebJunction.

Good Funding Data Leads to Fundraising Success

All the actions above detail how to begin your fundraising "homework." While this can seem time-consuming and tedious, good research at the beginning of your fundraising plan will give you a better chance at a successful proposal when it comes time to make the request from a funder. Funding data can, and does, lead to funding success. One of Foundation Center's partners, the Johnson City County Library in Tennessee, recently used its access to funding data to secure a grant and launch a new program for seniors in the library. You can learn more about their success and the project in this brief video.

As you continue to explore the data, and professionalize your approach to private funding, you may need expanded access to more data. You can explore all of Foundation Center's trainings, data tools, and grantseeking resources at foundationcenter.org. We all have a role to play in the sustainability of our libraries. Diving into the data is the first step!

Once again, for more information on the Visualizing Funding for Libraries service, listen to my presentation in the recent WebJunction webinar.

About the Author

Kate Tkacik Kate Tkacik is director of network engagement and manager of the Funding Information Network at the Foundation Center. She is also an adjunct reference and instructional librarian at Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York. She has an MLS from Dominican University.