Last issue, I covered The Foundation Center’s Online Searchable Directory of grants, grantmakers and philanthropic information.
The Foundation Directory online is “big data” when it comes to the funding world, and the idea behind your search is to carefully mine it. The directory indexes all of the publicly available information about each foundation in terms of what each files with the IRS for their tax returns, or submits to the Foundation Directory itself. This includes raw financial numbers of grants given, the names of trustees, each foundation’s focus in terms of geography and funding priorities, and more.
Remember, in order to be able to use the full version of the online searchable directory for free, you need to go to the public libraries in Bozeman or Kalispell, or the university libraries in Billings, Butte and Missoula. If not, you will need to subscribe online at https://fconline.foundationcenter.org
When searching the Foundation Directory Online for the information you need, be as specific as you can be with your search terms. Broad searches will give you many results – like searching for “montana” or “capital expenditures” – and though shotgunning a search can be helpful in some instances in terms of the number of results, ideally, you want to get more and more specific as your searches go on. Think of your search like any other web search, like a Google search; the more specific your search, the more relevant the results.
When starting a search with the Foundation Directory, you’ll see lots of options. You could start with a search for the term “montana” in Grantmaker Location, and that will give you around 278 results of grantmakers in the state. That’s a good way to begin to get an idea of what’s available in the state. You will see that some foundations fund many types of projects, while others are restricted to scholarships or community work.
But you may also want to search for “montana” in Geographic Focus, as that will give you results for grantmakers all across the county that list Montana as a focus of some of their grantmaking.
Study each foundation’s profile; the Limitations and Fields of Interest tabs are very important, as are Types of Support and Program Areas. If you’re an individual grantseeker or working for a small organization, there’s little need to go deep into the 990 tax forms.
It’s best to keep narrowing down your search. You will get hundreds of results at first, and you want to end up with 5-10 that are possibilities for your applications. Check each foundation’s own website, too, if available, for the most recent information.
And in your actual application process, it’s a very good idea to respect a foundations’s application restrictions and not send a query letter if you’re not a very good fit; grantmakers get enough mail and email as it is, and you are respecting their wishes by being very focused and relevant in your applications.