Lesson #20 Examine Funder Databases and Lesson #21 How to Conduct a Search

Greetings from GrantLessons!

Hope you all are getting to ready to celebrate a happy Fourth of July. We are experiencing very hot days here in Reno, so I am staying in and enjoying the air conditioning. Now is a great time to ask your fellow committee members to join GrantLessons! We are now getting to an important strategy how to search for potential funders. Remember you can go to http://www.grantlessons.wordpress.com and add your email on the upper right of the screen. You will get an email from GrantLessons on Wednesday morning providing a short lesson on finding funding resources for your chapter’s philanthropic programs.

Lesson #20 – Examine Funder Databases

Each database contains variables/categories. A variable is a discrete piece of information.

Each database is set up differently and supplies different information as its output that helps in finding potential funders. There are distinct differences between each database and how they are structured and what information we are able to get from them.


After one claims their GuideStar Premium Subscription, they are able to do searches on a variety of different categories. The output is an Excel spreadsheet that captures the variables selected to include in the report. A nonprofit chapter can download 5,000 funder profiles per month. GuideStar database contains funders who accept both unsolicited applications and who only give to pre-selected charities.

The following categories are contained in the Advanced Search feature:

  • Nonprofit Search,
  • People Search, and
  • Knowledge Base Search.


While GuideStar provides an Microsoft Excel worksheet with a list, GrantStation provides a profile. GrantStation cannot be exported into Microsoft Excel.

The following categories are contained in the US Grants/US Charitable Giving feature:

  • Funder Name,
  • Advanced Search, and
  • Keyword Search.

The Advance Search feature allows searches on the following categories:

  • Geographic Focus (national or specific state),
  • Areas of Interest,
  • Target Populations, and
  • Types of Support.

Within each of the categories listed above there are subcategories to narrow the search. One needs to realize if they try to narrow the search too much they will not receive any profiles from the search.

Note the geographic focus does not allow for searching or sorting by city, however, entering the name and state into the keyword search will bring up information by city and state. However, you will find that the number of entries received will vary greatly by city.

Foundation Directory Online

Foundation Directory Online is a robust database. There are three different subscriptions which open up different database capacities.

The following categories are contained in the search capacity:

  • Power Search
  • Search Grantmakers
  • Search Corporations
  • Search Grants
  • Search 990s

In summary, each database has different search capacities and limitations. GuideStar is free, GrantStation can be purchased for $47 through the National Assistance League, and Foundation Directory Online has three different subscription plans ranging from $50 to $200 per month.

Lesson #21 – How to Conduct a Search

Each database has a different approach to how it works and provides the list or profile where the committee may find a match between their program philanthropic needs and the funders need to expend their 5% annual assets to maintain their IRS standing as a private foundation. Corporations may or may not be part of the specific database.

There are some general tips on how to conduct a search that are applicable to all searches which include:

  • Typing correctly is essential, computer programs are literal;
  • Determining how the search program works will take a little time;
  • Having patience when you start will help you in the process; and
  • Learning the difference between the following three databases will help you determine the time and cost ratio involved with each one.

GuideStar Input

Search using any of the following variables (elements):

The following search fields are available in the Nonprofit Search tab:

  • Organization Name/Location
    • City,
    • State,
    • Zip Code,
    • Metropolitan Statistical Area (very useful),
    • Affiliation Type;
  • Location Type;
  • Categories of Funding;
  • NTEE Code, The National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities, (NTEE) system is used by the IRS and NCCS to classify nonprofit organizations. It is also used by the Foundation Center to classify both grants and grant recipients (typically nonprofits or governments).
  • IRS Subsection, (generally we want to select Private Nonoperating Foundations, Assistance League chapters are considered Public Charities)
  • Financial Overview; and
  • GuideStar Exchange Level.

GuideStar Output

GuideStar exports a list of potential funders to an Excel worksheet. Each funder has the following information unless the items are reduced by unchecking the item. The following items are included:

  • Organization Name
  • EIN
  • Current Fiscal Year Start
  • Current Year End
  • Address
  • City
  • State
  • Zip
  • IRS Subsection
  • NTEE Code
  • Total Income
  • Total Liabilities
  • Total Expenses
  • Total Administrative Expenses
  • Fundraising Expenses

One can also search on People Search and Knowledge Base Search. Just go to the Advance Search and select either People Search or Knowledge Base Search. People Search is useful to see if a Director who sits on one Funder’s Board of Directors also sits on any other Funder’s Board of Directors. Knowledge Base Search provides information on many related topics related to writing applications for foundation grants and corporate contributions.

Your first search on GuideStar can be by Metropolitan Statistical Area and Private Nonoperating Foundation.

GrantStation Input

The following search fields are available at GrantStation by selecting US Grants and then U. S. Charitable Giving Database and finally Advanced Search. Simply follow the directions and check off the boxes to start a search using the following options:

Step 1: Select a Geographic Scope

  • National Funders
  • Funders with a specific geographic focus
  • Funders with both national and geographic focus


Step 2: Select Areas of Interest

  • Arts, Culture & Humanities
  • Civic Affairs
  • Community & Economic Development
  • Education
  • Environment & Animals
  • Health
  • Health: Diseases
  • Media
  • Religion & Ethics
  • Sciences/Social Sciences
  • Social Services & Issues
  • Targeted Populations

Step 3 Select a Type of Support

Under each of the above options there are subcategories that one can select to focus or narrow their search.

After selections are made, one selects Find Funders and a list of profiles returns based on the selections chosen for the search.

GrantStation Output

Each profile contains the following fields:

  • Name and Contact Information,
  • Primary Contact,
  • Geographic Scope,
  • Geographic Focus,
  • Type of Organization,
  • Total Annual Giving,
  • Grant Range,
  • Average Grant,
  • Grant Details,
  • Eligibility Requirements,
  • Application Deadlines,
  • Areas of Interest,
  • Application Procedures,
  • EIN, and
  • Last Updated.

Foundation Directory Online Input

The following search fields are available in Foundation Directory Online by selecting:

  • Grantmaker Name;
  • EIN (Employer Identification Number);
  • Grantmaker Location;
  • Fields of Interest;
  • Geographic Focus;
  • Trustees, Officers, and Donors;
  • Type of Grant Maker;
  • Total Giving, Total Assets, Year Established;
  • Keyword Search; and
  • Exclude Grantmakers not accepting applications.

Within each search field there are options which are selected to narrow the search. Being able to exclude Grantmakers not accepting applications eliminates those funders who do not want to receive unsolicited applications.

Foundation Directory Online Output

  • Background,
  • Limitations,
  • Purpose and activities,
  • Program Area(s),
  • Fields of Interest,
  • Geographic Focus,
  • Types of Support,
  • Publications,
  • Application Information,
  • Donor(s),
  • Officers and Directors,
  • Financial Data,
  • Additional Location Information, and
  • Selected Grants.

To be successful, a grant writing team needs a database to help them identify potential prospects.

Enjoy your holiday but be sure to do just one thing that brings you closer to writing applications. This work is very rewarding and be sure to have fun on the Fourth of July, I am heading up to Birch Bay, Washington for the holiday weekend, catch up with you next week. Sandie


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s