Prospecting for Funds (with help from Susan Kuyper)

Researching Prospects:

  • There are a variety of online resources, particularly
    • Foundation CenterThey have a list of collections, and they publish the Foundation Directory (which includes the IRS From 990 which every foundation has to file, and which contains a lot of useful information). The Foundation Center also publishes paper versions of its Directories and books on grantmaking. There are several libraries in Minnesota which are depositories for the Foundation Center collection—the Minneapolis main library has the best (and oldest) collection; the public libraries in Rochester, Marshall, and now Mankato also have collections. This means that, in addition to the paper copies, they have at least one librarian who knows the collection fairly well—another very useful resource! The Foundation Center has a number of directories that are worth checking out, such as

While full use of these online directories requires a subscription, you can get the paper version of these directories (and/or online access) at the libraries which have a Foundation Center collection.

    • For Federal Grants, there are a number of helpful resources, including:
      • Catalogue of Federal Domestic Assistance is a comprehensive list of everything the Federal Government has offered (grants, contracts, etc.)—including programs that are no longer funded. But it can help you anticipate awards that might be coming up but have not yet been announced (once they are announced, you usually have 60 days to respond—often with a detailed, 30-page proposal plus attachments!).
      • Federal Register: This is an online site for searching the official posting of all Federal grants and contracts (and any other activities of the government—this is not just for grants). You can go here to get the full text of guidelines for any NOFA (Notice of Funds Availability).
      •, a searchable database of federal grants for organizations (no individual grants are listed). It can be easier than trolling through the
        Federal Register.
    • The Grantsmanship Center has a lot of information on grant writing, including an interactive map displaying the top 40-50 foundations by State.
    • Internet Prospector, a free resource for grant-grubbing.
    • Guidestar, a subscription service for some things, but even their public site has some helpful information.
    • others listed by our library and by the University of Wisconsin library (which has a site just for federal funds and for grants to individuals)
  • Use your institutional resources to get a richer profile (personal networks—such as your Board members—in addition to the other resources discussed in your book, such as Philanthropy News Digest).
  • You can ask for any proposal funded by the federal government—it comes under the Freedom of Information Act.
    • The Principal Investigator will generally provide not only the proposal, but also advice (“Steal from the best.”—but remember Hans Sachs in Wagner’s Opera, The Meistersinger of Nurmburg)
    • Program Officers at the funding agency will also often help.


Steps (Rule In & Rule Out):

  • Compare their mission to yours
  • Look at prior patterns of giving (subject area, geography, type of support)
  • Look at size of gifts
  • Look for any exclusions
  • Measure your qualifications (range from small local to major national/international)
    • What is your track record?
    • Demonstrated ability to perform & manage?


Start writing the next proposal the day after mailing the previous one.


2005 A.J.Filipovitch
Revised 16 January 2009