Summer Series – Finding Funders

Hint: Google is your ally!

The actual “writing” part of grant writing is important, but it is not the only place where time can easily get wasted. It often takes nonprofits longer to find grants to apply to than to write the proposals. Funder research is one of the most essential services that Grants Ink and similar firms provide to their clients. In fact, many clients only hire Grants Ink to do the funding research and do the grant writing on their own, which should indicate how hard this process can be. 

Most clients’ first question is where to start. For most grant writers, it starts where all other online research starts: Google. Really any major search engine will do. It sounds simplistic, but some of your best results will come up just from searching something like “grantmakers/foundations in [INSERT FIELD].” The major grantmakers in that field will usually optimize their sites to pop up early in search engine results, which will give you a sense of the prominent players in the field. 

Keep the field general and do multiple iterations. For example, if you’re trying to fund a nonprofit that provides afterschool music education to youth in Miami, search “grantmakers in music” then “grantmakers in youth” then “grantmakers in Miami” and so on. If the results seem too general, try “grantmakers in music education” or “grantmakers in education Miami.” A good exercise before starting is to brainstorm all the “buckets” or “silos” your organization fits in. What population do you serve? Where do you serve them? How do you serve them? These questions will give clues as to the best search terms to use.

When it feels like you have exhausted search engine results, it is time to turn to more specialized databases. There are several online grant databases such as Foundation Center Online, GrantWatch, OTHERS FILL IN DETAILS, but most require a paid subscription to use. If your nonprofit has the budget or intends to apply for many large grants that will offset the cost of these services, it may be a worthwhile investment. These databases can provide granular data about foundations that give insights into their grantmaking, such as geographic focus, support strategies, and funding priorities. However, you can learn a lot from free databases. 

Our favorite free databases at Grants Ink are Nonprofit Explorer by ProPublica and, both of which compile and index grantmaking records from foundation tax returns (specifically IRS Form 990). Nonprofit Explorer lets you look up a given foundation and find out if they have made their 990 forms public. makes 990 forms searchable so you can search for specific topics and types of grants across many foundations.

Another neat trick is to see if there is an umbrella grantmakers organization working around your topic, such as Grantmakers for Thriving Youth or Grantmakers for Education. These organizations will often have lists of their member organizations on their websites, which is like a pre-made list of topic-focused funders that can then be screened. The next post will cover strategies for screening potential funders. 

Extra, Extra! Did you know that Google offers grants to nonprofits in the form of FREE Emails, Google workspace and $10,000 per month of advertisements? Contact us for more info!