The first thing to do prior to researching grants is to create a needs list.

Most folks that come to me for help to find foundations they can apply to don’t even have a list of what they need funding to support. Researching grants involves matching what you need with foundations that fund your area, location, cause, population, etc.

Well, a lot of people are under the impression that researching grants starts with locating foundations that want to give money away. What they don’t realize is foundations have priorities for the types of programs and projects they want to fund, as well as a history of giving which is accessible via their 990-PFs. All of this can be found while conducting research.

But, the first thing is listing what you need money for, so you can then search for the foundations that want to fund those specific things. Matching a foundation’s priorities to what your organization does is also important, but not the place to start.

If you create a list of what you need, how much it will cost, when you need the dollars in-hand, and your geographic service area, you are off to a great start for proactive and successful research.

For example, if you start with knowing you need $60K in general operating support, this is not going to get you very far and will limit your search options greatly.

If you break down your $60K need and list $25K for computer/technology upgrades for your S.T.E.M. afterschool program, $25K to increase a staff from part-time to full-time, and $10K to hire additional tutors for your growing after-school program, you can more easily find the foundations who want to support those specific items. Now you can not only look at general operating dollars, but capacity building, program development, project support, STEM initiatives, educational programming, etc. Make sense?

If you take that a step further and add the timeline of when you need dollars in-hand, research becomes even more successful!

If you need dollars in-hand in 6 months, you should know most grants (there are always exception) take between 6-9 months to acquire. From the time you find the opportunity, build a relationship with the foundation, complete an application, submit the proposal, wait for review, find out about funding, and then get a check in-hand. It’s a process. I encourage you to start research a year before you need money in-hand when at all possible. There will be times you will run across a great prospect and the proposal will be due that week. It happens. But, when possible, plan ahead.

What you DON’T want to do is chase dollars, creating programs or projects for grants you happen to run across or submit cold applications without speaking to a foundation first to gauge interest.

There is so much more we could discuss about successful grant research and we actually offer a Grant Research Package for those that want us to help do the heavy lifting. Here are some other articles that may help your grant reaearch efforts:

Grant Research Questions to Find Ideal Prospects

How to Utilize 990s in Grant Research

How to Find Community Foundations Funding Nonprofits in your Area