Best Practices For Grant Research

There’s a right way to do grant research and a wrong way when trying to find grant funding for your non-profit. These best practices for grant research will keep you on track and help you avoid wasting time and energy applying for the wrong grants.

Grant funding expert Marcie L. Wagner explains four simple ways to research and generate prospect lists and then refine them into your best possible prospects. Doing this additional upfront research will save you time and increase your chances of getting funded.

Grant Research: Best Practices

Many grant writers are captivated by generating Foundation Directory prospect lists and beginning the grant writing process. I say, “Whoa”. While that prospect list is a good place to start, you must remember it is just the first step in your grant writing prospect research.

What follows are the thorough and appropriate steps to prospect research done in a manner which increases your odds in winning that grant. Here they are:

1. Foundation Directory: Place you criteria in and make certain to click the button which tells them to exclude ‘unsolicited’ applications. This is your first list.

2. Review Prospect List: Review the above prospect list by looking at each funder to find out who they are making grants to. Make a list of those nonprofit organizations who have been recipients of grants from List one. This is now your second list.

3. Review Non Profit Grantees: Look at the non profits grantee’s page within the Foundation Directory and make a list of other organizations that have granted to them. You should also take the time to visit their website to see if you can download their annual report.

If so, capture even more funders who have granted to them. This process makes up your third prospect list.

You now have three prospects lists by searching the front end within the Foundation Directory through a typical search; but you have created a second and third prospect list (the second list simply leads you to developing your third prospect list) by searching the back end of the Foundation Directory.

Seek out grantee’s similar to your organization and find out who is funding them. This 1-2-3 process can all be accomplished within the Foundation Directory search features.

Now that you have two solid prospect lists which accept unsolicited grant proposals – qualify them and place them into categories of P1 (Priority One), P2 (Priority Two), and P3 (Priority Three). You can also qualify them by how closely the guidelines match your organization or by the grant deadlines.

Create a spreadsheet to assist you with the next step. Your spreadsheet should include:

  • Name of Organization
  • Contact Information
  • Guidelines
  • Grant Range
  • Deadlines
  • Application Information
  • Grant Submission Date
  • Ask Amount
  • Outcome
  • Notes

4. Contact Prospects: Now that you have your prospect lists well organized, you must contact (when allowed) your prospective funder. Remember this, what the guidelines indicate on the foundation directory are only guidelines – call the funder to discuss the guidelines to ensure they truly fit your organization before you write a grant to this organization.

This gives you an opportunity to pitch your project and the funder will be more than happy to let you know if it is something that would be of interest to them or not. If they are interested, you submit your grant or letter of intent. If they are not interested you take them off your prospect list.

One of the most common errors in grant research is taking a prospect list and blindly submitting grants to organizations on this list.

If you follow the above steps you will be better serving your non profit or clients. You will ensure that you have the most comprehensive list by searching the back end and looking at similar nonprofits and adding their funders to your initial Foundation Directory list.

Then you create your spreadsheet so you can easily track your contact with your prospects and finally you call your prospects to ensure they want to receive a grant from you and your organization or client.

About The Author

Marcie L. Wagner is the founder and principal of ML Wagner Fundraising Group. With two decades of experience in professional fundraising, grant research, grant writing, and communications. Contact Marcie at and sign up for a free consultation.

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