Identifying Potential Funding Sources
One of the most common questions in fund-raising is, "Where can I go to find a list of potential funders?" This work has been made easier by the creation of databases that contain a wealth of information about funding sources, including the expectations of the funder. These databases (such as GrantsAlert) can often be accessed in libraries, grantmaking libraries, community foundations, and other non-profit organizations.
There are also a number of databases available on the Internet that are regularly updated, as well as services that will send email updates about potential funding sources. Some of these services are free, and some charge fees that range from the nominal to the substantial.
There is enough information on the free sites to get started, and you may be able to find what you need there. Beginning with the free sites also provides an opportunity to hone search skills before using a service that costs money. As you explore the specific sites, keep an eye out for other resources. Most Internet sites include links to related sites, and these can generate some extremely useful leads. At the same time, sign up for free e-mail notifications from these sites to learn about updates as they are released.
Below are some suggestions.
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- Local Nonprofit Libraries and Centers
- Hints for Searching Databases
- Current Databases
- Tracking Potential Funders
In California, there are a number of centers dedicated to strengthening the organizational capacity and quality of services of local nonprofits. These organizations offer a wealth of training, technical assistance, and resources. In addition, most have resource libraries, or, at the very least, a listing of foundations that provide funding to the local community. In conducting research on available funding, you should first visit the Web site of your local nonprofit management organization and, if located nearby, the resource library as well. To find your local nonprofit management organization, go to http://www.genie.org for the Nonprofit Genie Web site and click on the “Links” button. Then type your area code or city name. Below is a catalog of most of the nonprofit management organizations across the state.
The Center for Nonprofit Management, http://www.cnmsocal.org, is located in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles but focuses its efforts on all of Los Angeles County. The Center for Nonprofit Management probably has the most comprehensive Nonprofit Resource Library in the State, including free access to the Foundation Center's database and complete profiles on potential funders. The library is open to anyone and has an onsite librarian who can assist in narrowing searches to identify those donors relevant to literacy. For organizations in Los Angeles, this library can be an invaluable research source. In addition to the library, the web site has links to city,
1000 N. Alameda St., #250
Los Angeles, CA 90012
With offices in San Francisco and the Silicon Valley, CompassPoint, http://www.compasspoint.org, offers a broad range of services including training, consulting, and research assistance centered on East Bay and Silicon Valley nonprofits. Although CompassPoint does not have a resource library, there are links to lists of East Bay and Silicon Valley Funders. For organizations located in these areas, those foundations and corporations identified could serve as the organization's initial potential funder list, saving you lots of time and energy in developing the list from scratch.
CompassPoint San Francisco
731 Market Street, Suite 200
San Francisco, CA 94103
CompassPoint Silicon Valley
(NOTE: Address Change, effective October 31, 2006)
Sobrato Center for Nonprofits
600 Valley Way, Suite A
Milpitas, CA 95035
Silicon Valley Community Foundation
1700 South El Camino Real, #300
San Mateo, CA 94402-3049
Nonprofit Management Solutions,
http://www.npsolutions.org, provides services to San Diego County with outreach
to Riverside, San Bernardino, and Imperial Counties. The Web site offers links to
a variety of practical resources for the nonprofit. Because many of these links
are not geographically specific, it may be worthwhile to check out the Web site
and click on the link for resources. The Nonprofit Management Solutions has a Resource
Library with access to the Foundation Center's database, as well as other foundation
and corporate giving directories. However, before going to the library, be sure
8265 Vickers Street
San Diego, CA 92111
The Nonprofit Resource Center, http://www.nprcenter.org/ is dedicated to enhancing the management and fund-raising ability of nonprofit organizations in the Sacramento region. The Nonprofit Resource Center does not have a Resource Library, but it has a funding link that lists funding opportunities for the Sacramento Region. The list is not expansive and should be augmented with additional research.
828 I Street
(2nd Floor Sacramento Public Library)
Sacramento, CA 95814-2589
The Volunteer Center Orange County, http://www.volunteercenter.org is committed to developing the professional capacity of nonprofit organizations and encouraging volunteerism in Orange County. The Volunteer Center operates the Nonprofit Resource Center Library, which is the only library of its kind in Orange County. The library has a large collection of materials on topics such as nonprofit management, board development, and fund-raising, as well as online foundation directories and print materials on foundation-giving to nonprofit organizations. A reservation is advised to use the computer for online searches. The Volunteer Center of Orange County also produces a Guide to Funders in Southern California. At $75.00 annually, this online guide may be a useful alternative to the Foundation Center’s directories for those nonprofits located in Southern California.
1901 E. Fourth Street
Santa Ana, CA 92705
With a network of more than 500 community-based organizations in the greater Long Beach area, the Long Beach Nonprofit Partnership (LBNP), http://www.lbnp.org, offers vital referral and consulting services, educational seminars and workshops, and networking opportunities to local nonprofits. LBNP also operates an extensive resource library with numerous books and periodicals on nonprofit management, as well as a CD-ROM from the Foundation Center with an exhaustive listing of foundation and corporate resources. To use the library, contact LBNP.
3635 Atlantic Avenue
Long Beach, CA 90807
Originally launched by the Santa Barbara Foundation, the Nonprofit Support Center (NSC), http://www.nscsb.org, offers regional training and consulting and houses a resource library for nonprofits in the Santa Barbara Region. Only members of the Nonprofit Support Center can access the Resource Library. The Foundation Center’s extensive database can also be accessed at the Santa Maria satellite office.
Santa Barbara Office
5638 Hollister Ave., Suite 200
Santa Barbara, CA 93117
Santa Maria Office
120 East Jones Street, Suite 100
Santa Maria, CA 93454
Marin Nexus (formerly MCA Volunteer Center) provides management assistance programs including seminars on fund-raising, nonprofit management, and board responsibilities for Marin County’s 140 nonprofit organizations. Although there is not a listing of potential funders on the Web site, http://www.marinnexus.org, it does offer a Resource Library.
650 Las Gallinas
San Rafael, CA 94903
The Resource Center for Nonprofit Management, http://www.nonprofitresource.org, has an array of resources for nonprofits in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, from networking roundtables to training and technical assistance. The Resource Center also has a resource library filled with books, periodicals, audio cassettes, and videos on nonprofit management and fund-raising and is equipped with computers and the Foundation Center’s CD-ROM directory of more than 60,000 foundations and corporate charities.
2060 University Ave. #201
Riverside, CA 92507
The League of California Community Foundations at http://www.lccf.org
When beginning to search a database for potential funding sources, you need to balance specificity with flexibility. Few foundations and corporations specifically fund literacy, especially for adults. However, you may be able to fund an aspect of your program (e.g., parental empowerment) by working with a funder who is interested in related topics (such as family issues). You can always try to package your agency in a way that might attract new funders. At the same time, funders recognize when a request for funding is an obvious stretch for an agency desperate for funds. In looking for funds, cast a wide net, but don’t forget what it is your program or agency does.
Databases allow you to search by many variables, including interest area, types of support, or geographic location.
- Begin by searching by program type
Begin the search by identifying all of those foundations and corporations that fund adult literacy. The list will be small, but you should start with these foundations, because they most closely relate to your mission. In successive searches, try variations such as adult education, community-based education, family literacy, etc. Sometimes the vocabulary the funder uses may differ from your own, so don’t be surprised when a search for health literacy program includes a family literacy program that didn’t appear in a family literacy search. A search for “education” would result in too many citations and would need to be whittled down to a manageable size by focusing on some of the variables listed below.
- Search by geographic focus
Although some federal programs and foundations provide grants regardless of location, the majority of grants are tied to a specific location. Corporations tend to favor locations where they have stores or production facilities, and foundations usually have specific communities they support. Identifying the location requirements for grants early in the search process prevents you from spending more time than necessary looking at a funder that will not provide money to your area.
- Search by Type of Support
Many times, a funder will specify what its funds can and cannot be used for. Funders often state that they will not fund administrative costs, physical plant expenses, or money for software or hardware. Funds tied to direct service or program improvement are more common than those more tied to structural issues. This is not always the case, however.
- Average Grant Size Search
When putting a list of potential funders together, you need to determine and take into account average grant size. Generally speaking, it is a good idea to apply for every possible source of funding. However, some organizations with limited staff are unable to apply for everything, especially if there is an extensive application process. Some organizations set a floor, a minimum dollar amount that grants must meet before the organization will apply (e.g., $10,000). For these organizations, it is best to focus on those foundations and corporations that offer larger grants. The downside to concentrating on these sources is that they generally are extremely competitive.
Below are lists of current database, organized by type of funding.
- GrantsAlert: http://www.grantsalert.com/
Government Information: Federal
- Department of Education:
The US Department of Education is the central source of governmental funding for literacy programs. Most of the funds are distributed at the state level through the California Department of Education. However, occasionally the U.S. Department of Education will solicit RFPs for demonstration grants, which are awarded nationally on a competitive basis.
- Grants.gov: http://www.Grants.gov
Searchable site for over 900 programs offered by 26 Federal grant-making agencies
- Outreach and Technical Assistance Network (OTAN): http://www.otan.us/
Government Information: State of California
- Get Grants: http://www.Getgrants.ca.gov
Identify grant programs within State of California agencies and departments through a single search, without being required to know the name of the responsible entity.
- California Department of Education: http://www.cde.ca.gov/fg/fo/
Government Information: Local
While exploring local options, also look to your local political representatives’ Web sites. They will often have funding opportunities listed along with other information that impacts their constituents and communities. Some might also have a notification system set up.
- Chronicle of Philanthropy:
Most nonprofits are probably familiar with The Chronicle of Philanthropy , a bi-monthly newspaper devoted to n onprofit management and those involved in philanthropy. A nonprofit organization seeking funding should definitely subscribe to the Chronicle, also available online at http://www.philanthropy.com. The Chronicle also produces a Guide to Grants, which is an online data base of all foundations and corporate charities listed in the Chronicle since 1995.
- The Foundation Center:
The Foundation Center is an excellent resource for grant seekers. The Web site has a wealth of information about philanthropy in addition to its renowned online foundation directory. Its RFP Bulletin is a weekly notice about a wide range of funding opportunities, some of which might be useful and relevant. To subscribe, go to http://www.foundationcenter.org/newsletters/index.jhtml
- Foundations On-Line:
The Northern California Community Foundation developed this Web site, which has several links to assist with online fund-raising. In addition, this Web site has a free online foundation directory. Although not nearly as extensive as the Foundation Center directory, this directory does not require a subscription. The directory lists most of the major Northern California funders, as well as some foundations in other parts of California.
- The Funders Directory: http://www.compasspoint.org/funders/index.php
- GuideStar: http://www.guidestar.org
GuideStar is a nonprofit organization , a leading source of information about nonprofit organizations, compiling and distributing programmatic and financial data about more than 850,000 charitable organizations
Foundation Search is a for-profit organization that offers a comprehensive listing of more than 4.5 million grants and 70,000 foundations. It also includes a database of more than 400,000 foundation directors and officers and a comprehensive database of 8,000 newly created foundations.
- IWave: http://www.iwave.com
IWave offers detailed research on corporations, charitable foundations, and individuals. This database is also available through the Los Angeles Public Library.
- Wealth: http://www.wealthid.com
Wealth ID identifies major and planned gift prospects.
- WealthEngine: http://www.wealthengine.com
WealthEngine reviews larger donor/prospect files to isolate the most financially advantageous prospects.
As you begin to get leads for possible grants, you need to be concerned about which grants you will actually try to go after. Here are several suggestions to keep in mind as you are looking at requests for proposals (RFPs).
- Study the section on eligibility. It is not always clear whether an organization is eligible for funding on its own. Sometimes, the only way an organization can qualify is by partnering with another entity. Eliminate any RFP if you are unsure of your eligibility.
- Because governmental proposals are quite lengthy and require a number of attachments, make sure the due date for government RFPs is at least four to six weeks away. If it is earlier than a month away, consider not attempting to write a proposal for the grant.
- Determine how competitive the grant may be based on the amount of funding or number of grants available. Eliminate any potential sources that seem overly competitive, especially if the guidelines are not an exact fit with your project.
- Study the RFP and decide whether the guidelines are a close enough fit with your project. If the project seems far outside of the realm of what the agency will fund, eliminate that potential funder from the list.
An Actual Federal RFP
The following is an actual federal RFP:
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services; Overview
Information; Special Demonstration Programs--Model Transitional
Rehabilitation Services for Youth and Young Adults With Disabilities;
Notice Inviting Applications for New Awards for Fiscal Year (FY) 2004
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 84.235S.
Applications Available: July 19, 2004.
Deadline for Transmittal of Applications: August 19, 2004.
Eligible Applicants: Public or nonprofit agencies or organizations, including institutions of higher education,
for-profit organizations, State vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies, community rehabilitation programs,
and Indian tribes or tribal organizations.
Estimated Available Funds: $2,000,000.
Estimated Range of Awards: $200,000-$300,000.
Estimated Average Size of Awards: $250,000
Estimated Number of Awards: 8.
Note: The Department is not bound by any estimates in this notice.
Project Period: Up to 60 months.
This RFP provides key information about the due date, eligibility, the size of the grants, and how many awards are expected to be made. Notice that this RFP was due on August 19, even though applications only became available on July 19 th. Because this does not provide for the suggested six weeks of preparation, it would probably be difficult unless you have a template ready. The grant’s size is relatively large, and the number of estimated awards is low, so the competition will be fierce. By reviewing the size of the grant, the number of recipients, and the eligible entities, you can get a good sense of whether your organization is in a strong enough position to have a chance of succeeding.
As you work in the library or surf the Net, it’s helpful to keep track of the potential funders you have identified. Use the Chart of Potential Funders template.