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Grant Research Guide and Tools

Identifying funders that align with your mission and goals is key to successful grant seeking.

This is the seventh article in a series on grant writing. Read the introduction to the entire series.

Funder research is often the first step toward developing a grant seeking strategy. It will help you delineate a roadmap and timeline to pursue potential funders. You must be committed to devoting time, effort, and deliberation toward this research. With time and practice, you will get to know your local funders and even national funders who will fund in your area.

Researching Grants

Much of an organization’s success in grant seeking is tied to identifying and applying to the right funders. It is important to put the work into finding funders that have both an affinity for your work and the capacity to support your organization or project.

Affinity means that a funder has similar goals and interests to your organization and that it has potential to entertain a funder-grantee relationship with your organization. It is important to find aligned funders so that you can apply for funding to support the mission and programs of your organization. Do not make the mistake of “chasing” grant dollars, as you will find the tail is wagging the dog.

To assess each funder’s affinity, conduct diligent research into the funder’s website and collateral materials (e.g., annual report, IRS Form 990) and review examples of past grants. Key considerations:

  • Does the funder provide grants in New Mexico? If you cannot find examples of past awards here, be sure to pause and determine whether New Mexico is ineligible. Or, if eligible via the guidelines, determine if past awards show that New Mexico might be a competitive geographic location. Do they fund in neighboring states, for example? Or, is it a long-shot for a New Mexico organization to receive funding?
  • What are the funder’s stated giving areas and priorities? Look for additional guidelines that may be associated with each specific giving area (e.g., one program area might award grants nationally, while another is focused locally). Review the guidelines for each focus area; there may be different deadline dates or application processes.
  • Is the funder willing to review proposals and/or accept unsolicited requests? While some funders have an open application cycle or make grants after issuing an RFP, others might not accept any unsolicited requests for funding. If unsolicited requests are accepted, are there any preliminary application steps such as a mandatory meeting to attend or a required letter of interest? Is there a deadline to adhere to? If a funder does not accept unsolicited requests, you may want to look elsewhere, unless you can determine a logical introduction point to that funder. For example, explore your board’s affiliations or relationships. The more aligned a funder is with your work, the more you will want to look for a way to connect.
  • What is the grant award turn-around time, and does the timing make sense for your organization? It can take funders anywhere from a few days to many months to make funding decisions. Look for award timing information in the guidelines to make sure the timing fits with your funding needs.

Capacity indicates typical grant award ranges and the total amount of money a funder is able to distribute. You can find this information on the funder’s website, or by researching its giving history using the IRS tax form 990 (accessible via Guidestar). The first page of the 990 gives a total amount of contributions and grants for the prior year and the current year. Toward the middle or end of the document there is often a listing of individual grant awards. It is helpful to do a keyword search for “grants” to locate the grant award listing. Assess total giving capacity and award distribution. Also, review the awarded organizations – are they diverse or does the funder tend to award the same organizations annually? If you have not applied before, it is optimal to find a potential funder who has a large capacity to give and makes awards to numerous, diverse organizations.

Remember that the funding landscape changes with time. Funders alter their giving priorities or geographic focus. As you research potential funding sources, be sure to always review the most recent website or other available guidelines.

Research Tools

There are many grant search engines/databases available. The typical approach to using a search engine is to enter grant seeking criteria that are specific to your organization or program (e.g., focus area, geography, type of funding needed, etc.) into fields and the search engine will generate a list of potentially compatible funders. Often times search results yield long lists. These lists are just the starting points for research. Funders still need to be reviewed thoroughly for affinity and capacity, and this takes time. Remember to do your due diligence and check each funder’s website and/or Form 990 and other important materials. 

Before subscribing to a search engine platform, it is important to assess your organization’s grant seeking needs and capacity to pay for a tool. Have you tried free tools first? Will you have time to use a paid search engine to make it worth the cost? Will you use the search engine throughout the entire subscription timeframe? Once you start exploring these questions and embark on your research, you will find a search engine that will meet your needs. Below is a listing of reputable search engines.

Free Grant Research Engines
Resource What they provide Where to look
Center for Non-Profit Excellence Houses the New Mexico Grantmaker Database, a searchable database Website to search and apply for Federal grants
Guidestar List of nonprofits and pertinent information. A good place to look up a funder's Form 990.
Share NM Works with several New Mexico funders to post grant guidelines and acts as an application portal
The Grant Plant A searchable listing of grants available for New Mexico nonprofits arranged by focus area and deadline


Paid Grant Research Engines
Resource What they provide Where to look (Costs as of March 2018)
Foundation Center A comprehensive database of foundations and donors worldwide. You can search foundations, grants, and companies. You can narrow your search through a number of search criteria.  $124.92/month for an annual plan, also available free at the ABQ Library Main Branch with a library card.
Foundation Search Users work with FoundationSearch staff to generate listings of grantmakers. Also offers a “Best Prospects” tool that ranks prospects and gives suggestions on who is best to approach. It provides an integrated contact management tool to help users approach funders.

Cost not published; contact for a walkthrough of services and pricing

GrantSelect A database of grantmakers and grant opportunities, including foundations, research institutes, and Federal government listings.

Standard plan - $150/quarter
Professional plan - $495/year

GrantStation Searchable grant database that can be narrowed through various criteria. Also offers projects and resources to mentor organizations through the grant-seeking process.


Instrumentl A database of grantmakers that provides automated, continuous grant search results based on project descriptions that the user has submitted. Also includes grant tracking tools to help manage funding matches.

$75 per month billed annually
$82 per month, month-to-month

NOZA A searchable database of charitable donations. Users are able to enter a grantmaker and find grantees and awarded grant amounts.

Foundation grants searches are free. Access to additional searches (e.g., corporate, individual, or by recipient or cause) are $99 a month or $900 a year.

The Grants Collective The nonprofit arm of The Grant Plant. Includes a grant calendar, non-deadline driven opportunities, training, a social platform to connect with other local grant seekers and funders, and resources to make grant seeking more efficient. The tool is customized to New Mexico nonprofits.


Other Search Tools

In addition to conducting research through searchable databases, there are a number of other approaches neighborhood associations can take to help identify potential funders. These may include:

  • Contacting the NM Congressional Delegation: The Delegation will help you identify possible sources of grant support for your organization or project. This service is provided at no cost to your organization. To take advantage of this service, contact your local representative or senator’s office with a well-defined project scope. This research usually takes several weeks to turn around. Once you receive a packet of information, you will want to read through it carefully with grant affinity and capacity in mind.
  • Reviewing other local or national neighborhood association-related organizations to see which funders have funded them in the past. Review websites to see if news releases detail recent grant awards or if there is a listing of corporate and foundation funders online. For larger organizations, check to see if any potential funding resource lists are provided on their websites (e.g., the National Neighborhood Watch provides a listing of potential funders).
  • Signing up for related listservs, registering for email notices from funders, or subscribing to newsletters from funders or organizations that may provide leads on potential funding.