At the beginning of 2003, nearly 81 percent of the 100 largest foundations and more than 1,600 of the 59,000 independent foundations provided information on the Internet. With more private foundations and charitable organizations creating a Web presence, the opportunities to find funding sources online have increased. Many foundations are just beginning to use their Web sites in constructive ways: posting quarterly and annual reports, newsletters, grant listings, guidelines and even interactive application forms.
When referring to foundation Web sites in your funding research, first determine whether the site contains browsable listings or a searchable grants database, as this will determine how you will conduct your search. Second, find out if the organization offers an online annual report or if it offers a Form 990-PF online (the “tax return” or “information return” filed by private foundations with the IRS). Information from these sources (most significantly grants listings, which are required by law in the 990-PF) can help you quickly determine whether your organization’s needs match the giving patterns of the foundation you are interested in approaching.
In addition to grant listings, foundations use their Web sites to facilitate the application process. Some Web sites provide downloadable or printable application forms, which can be mailed, faxed or e-mailed. Some provide forms that can be completed and submitted online or interactive questionnaires that help to predetermine eligibility. For example, the Frank Stanley Beveridge Foundation site is designed to determine an organization’s grant eligibility and initiate grant applications. Beveridge, in Westfield, MA, funds multiple program areas from housing and shelter to public/society benefit. The site’s interactive survey asks questions that are based primarily on geographic location and funding purpose. If you pre-qualify, you are directed to an electronic preliminary grant proposal form and will be mailed a grant proposal abstract and guidelines.
Most foundation Web sites that make an application available also contain a great deal of information on past giving, program areas and grant program limitations. In most cases, the online application serves more as a letter of inquiry than a full proposal, but it helps the grantmaker quickly determine whether you have done your homework before submitting your proposal.
There are numerous Internet sites that help facilitate online funding research. The Foundation Center’s Web site (under “Finding Funders”) offers several search features that help identify and locate the Web sites of potential funders for, among other things, community development and housing programs. The site’s Sector Search and Grantmaker Web Sites sections offer two ways of finding potential funders that are accessible online. Both are searchable databases of more than 2,400 grantmakers with a Web presence.
Sector Search is similar to a general search engine in that it lets you search for keywords on individual Web pages. You can tailor your search to a specific grantmaker type, or you can use the Advanced Search feature for a higher degree of specificity. Sector Search also allows you to search nonprofit and government Web sites.
Grantmaker Web Sites offers annotated links to thousands of foundation Web sites and is divided into three searchable categories: private independent foundations, corporate grantmakers and grantmaking public charities. The search engine in each category allows you to search by subject and geographic keyword and assemble a preliminary list of grantmakers that may address your specific funding needs. A fourth category, community foundations, is organized alphabetically by state. The following are a few examples of the annotated links you will find for grantseekers in the community development field.
Coalition for Healthier Cities and Communities
Through its Web site, the coalition is compiling a database of people, organizations and initiatives dedicated to the sustenance of healthy communities around the nation. It contains funding and grants resources with a national focus.
Communities by Choice
The network’s Web site has a searchable resources section with information for communities, households, businesses, schools and action teams.
Hispanic Federation of New York City
The federation’s Web site offers details on its support programs for Latinos, an extensive list of links to related resources, a local arts calendar, details on publications and contact information.
Keep in mind that even though these two tools represent the most complete listing of foundations on the Web, your search will be restricted to funders with active Web sites–about 2,400 of the more than 74,000 tracked by the Foundation Center. Unlike the Center’s print directories, FC Search: The Foundation Center’s Database on CD-ROM and The Foundation Directory Online, the comprehensiveness of the Sector Search and Grantmaker Web Sites directories depends solely on the availability and breadth of the online resources themselves. Because of this, going directly to individual foundation Web sites is most useful once you have identified them as potential funders.