032: Finding Foundation Grants Using GuideStar


032: Finding Foundation Grants Using GuideStar

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Are you getting grants from foundations? Does it feel like an uphill battle of constant rejections? Or are you not even sure where to look?

Today, we are going to look at a great resource for finding foundation grants and how to find the best-fit foundations to fund your projects; GuideStar.org.


GuideStar.org is a great resource as you will see, and it’s free to utilize most of the services.

GuideStar gathers, organizes, and distributes information about U.S nonprofits.




First, you should make sure your nonprofit is registered on GuideStar and has an updated portfolio. You might be surprised to see your nonprofit’s name listed on GuideStar, but if you have not registered it, it will look very sparse.


Why is it important to update your nonprofit’s portfolio? Well if you apply for Foundation grants, they may come to GuideStar to check out your nonprofit. If they cannot find out much information about your nonprofit and then visit a competing nonprofits portfolio that is filled out and demonstrates character, chances are they will give that award to your competition. Getting updated on GuideStar is quite easy. The platform is very user-friendly, and it will guide you through the process.

How do you find grants on GuideStar? Many foundations are also listed on GuideStar. You can easily go into the ‘Search’ page and find nonprofits and foundations based on location or category. Then (this is the magic part), you can click on the 990s over the previous three years. The beauty of searching through 990s of foundations is that you will see a clear listing of what nonprofit they gave to, how much they gave, and the type of allocation they gave. For instance, a foundation would list in their 990s that they gave $25,000 for Sports Nonprofit for scholarships.


How do you use this information?

Looking at the giving trends of a foundation via their 990s over the three previous years will give you a great idea of the following:

1) An idea if the project your nonprofit is doing or will do, would be competitive for funding from this foundation,

2) How much funding you should ask for,

3) If the foundation funds nonprofits in your geographic area, and

4) What other organizations they are funding.


Competitiveness and Funding

Let's say that after investigation, you see that the Sports Foundation mostly funds scholarships anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 in the South. If your nonprofit is located in South Carolina and give out soccer scholarships, you may be very competitive to receive funding from this Foundation. Of course, you always want to go to their website and find out what their grant application process is, but this gives a deeper and more accurate picture. 

Furthermore, the foundation may state on their grant application or website that you can request for grants up to $50,000. When you look at their 990s over the past three 
their average giving was $12,000 in grants. If this is your first time applying to this foundation, it may be wise to only request a $5,000 scholarship fund that will help 100 youth. First, you want to build a relationship with them and allow them to have time to trust you.

If you don’t spend the time to do this nerdy research, like most other nonprofits, then you will be one of 100 applicants asking for $50,000 to fund uniforms and soccer summer camps - things that they may not even fund. But if you do your homework, then you will know that they mostly fund scholarships anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000. Then your request for $5,000 for 100 soccer scholarships will be more likely to be funded.


Location, Location, Location


Geography is usually an important component in Foundation giving. Unlike many federal grants, most foundations give primarily in their favored geographic areas.  You might notice on the 990s that 70% of the time they give in the South, but then you see a grantee that was funded in Utah or Alaska. That may seem confusing, but this is actually very common as board members have the influence to give to other areas, or maybe, just maybe, a nonprofit fit their priority so well except for being in their location. If you take the time to build a relationship with these super well-matched foundations, then they may give outside of their priority area. So, it really is worth building a relationship. However, if the connection between your mission and activities and their priorities is far-reaching, then the likelihood of getting funding is very low and honestly not worth your time.


Other Nonprofits

Look at the nonprofits that receive funding from these foundation and look them up on GuideStar or online. Then find out what other grants these nonprofits are getting and from which sources. This is a very simple way to find out where nonprofits like yours are getting grants. Usually, nonprofits will publish this information on their websites, or social media accounts, so you can follow that dollar and then investigate those foundations.


That’s it! It’s simple, but it does take time. However, when you take the time to do research and find good-fit foundations it can pay off big time.

And, hey, if this type of research just isn’t for you, WEGO Grants nerds out on a regular basis and can help you. Just let me know.

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