by Mandy Pearce
While watching an episode of House of Cards, Season 3, on Netflix this past week, I was drawn to the image of one of the main characters, Francis Underwood, trying to ‘balance an egg’. It made me think about the many components of grant writing and how daunting some of those tasks can seem. Much like balancing an egg.
Grant research is one of the main components of grant writing and stuck out to me as difficult for many people, especially a novice grant writer. Much like balancing an egg, grant research can seem overwhelming at first. But, with a little practice, some guidance and persistence, grant research is very doable.
A big part of helping others is making my experiences available to them in a way that allows them to save some time and energy in acquiring the same skills. This week I want to share the best tools I can for beginner grant writers and researchers. There are a lot of things that go in to preparing for grant research. One things I can tell you for sure is to always know what you need before you being your research.
The following questions will create basic research criteria for a program, project or organization:
- What is the geographic focus of the program, project or organization?
- Where will the program/project have an impact?
- What is the field of interest the grant will support (STEM, mental health, historic preservation, immigration, etc.?)
- What type of support is needed? (general operating, construction, equipment, technology, endowment, etc.?)
- What are the dollar amounts associated with each need?
After this list of questions is answered it will be easier to narrow down grants that fit in to these categories. One great location to begin searching for grants that are available in certain states and counties is The Grantsmanship Center. On this page you can search for the top grant making foundations, community foundations, corporate giving programs and state website homepages for each state. This is a wealth of information and will give a new writer or researcher hours of material to peruse. I suggest reading about each potential donor/foundation to begin building on your knowledge base for donors in your area.
For those that will be looking for state and federal grants, www.grants.gov is the site that will allow access to grants by departments and agencies of the federal government. This site is full of great information and you can search all departments and agencies in one location instead of having to visit each individual website.
For the Top 100 US Foundations by Total Giving, visit http://foundationcenter.org/findfunders/topfunders/top100giving.html. You can also access Top US Foundations by Asset Size, Top Corporate Grantmakers by Asset Size, Top Corporate Grantmakers by Total Giving and more on this page (look to the right side of the page when it opens)!
Another tool is Foundation Center software and this can be found throughout the country at various library locations for free. Typically there is a fee associated with using this software, but many libraries have purchased the software for people to use in their locations at no-cost. You can find a list of libraries with this software at http://foundationcenter.org/fin/. There may be additional locations, as I have recently heard of locations that are not on the website, but this is a great start to finding the resource in your area.
As you begin to find grants that you may feel are a good match to your current needs, I recommend you consider the following questions.
- Does the program/project fall within the donor’s areas of interest?
- Does the average grant size fit the need?
- Is the amount sufficient to carry out the scope of work?
This should be a good bit of information to get those new researchers busy and maybe give some more experienced development staff a few new places to look. Grant research is a skill set that is developed over time. No one starts out knowing it all or knowing how to do it all easily. Heck, I’ve been doing this for 16 years and I learn new sites, new tricks and great tools all the time! Be sure to have realistic expectations, ask for help when you need it and go explore.
There is so much information out there! There are dollars to support almost any endeavor that comes from a place of serving others and has a measureable impact. Remember, “People don’t want to fund your existence, they want to fund your impact.” – Beth Brodovsky
Please comment and let me know what additional research questions you have and your thoughts on this information.