Is your organization looking for new sources of funding? Are you overwhelmed with where to start? Then look no further!
Whether you’re a nonprofit seeking program grants, or a startup seeking seed funding, there are significant sums of free money out there waiting to be picked up.
This guide describes and reviews the top grant databases available for your small business or nonprofit.
If you don’t have time to read the whole article, enter your email address and download the one-page summary here.
You might be asking, How much money is available? And that’s a great question!
Grant funding is the most popular type of free money for many businesses and nonprofits. Grants are non-repayable funds disbursed or gifted by one party (grant makers), often a government department, corporation, foundation or trust, to a recipient.
To receive a grant, some form of Grant Writing often referred to as either a proposal or an application is required. Most grants are made to fund a specific project and require some level of compliance and reporting.
Public and private trusts and foundations in the United States award over $40 billion every year, according to Foundation Center.
The following databases are designed to direct you to this money as efficiently and effectively as possible. Here are the top 6 online databases and resources to find, analyze, and apply for grant funding for your business or nonprofit.
Federal grants are issued by the United States government out of general revenue funds. Grants.gov is a comprehensive database housing all available and forecasted funding opportunities across major government agencies.
Grants Learning Center
This website includes all sorts of useful information including a Grants 101 section that summarizes what Federal grants are and how their lifecycles work. It also provides eligibility information, a directory of funding agencies and programs, and guidelines for grant reporting.
Staying up to date
The database is updated daily and currently consists of over 2,000 open funding opportunities. Aside from visiting the website regularly, users can subscribe to email notifications for news posted on the site, updates to specific opportunities, or broad summaries of new opportunities posted that day.
The site categorizes funding into major groupings (e.g., health, income security, and environment). It also identifies eligibility criteria (e.g., small business, nonprofit, and different types of government).
Other information attached to each grant includes deadline dates, estimated funding award, and links to the funding source and application.
Access: Free to everyone
When to use this source?
Ideally, you should be synced up with all federal funding opportunities at all times. Because account registration is free and requires almost no information about you or your organization, it costs nothing to stay on top of all available U.S. government grant opportunities.
Use this system to understand what types of funding government agencies are trending toward at any given time. Use the forecasted filter to plan and look for grants that may fit your mission over the next quarter or year, if not necessary yet.
The Grantsmanship Center is an organization focused on serving nonprofits with a number of services in addition to its grant database. Its stated mission is:
The site has a host of hard-copy and digital publications available for purchase, as well as articles, blog posts, and webcasts available for free.
Much of the content is related to program planning, proposal writing, and grant seeking, and the site can act an outsourced development consultant for your nonprofit.
In addition to online resources, the Grantsmanship Center has a consulting practice focused on professional development for grant-writers and development managers. General consulting is priced at $200 per hour. However, a core part of this business is focused on proposal writing, which offers a variety of services at different costs.
GrantDomain is the Grantsmanship Center’s proprietary funding database. It is comprised of foundation, corporate, and federal grants.
The federal grants database is continuously updated by examining Grants.gov, the Federal Register, and other government sites to ensure that the most recent funding opportunities are included.
The foundation grants database is more nuanced in that the Grantsmanship Center screens foundations for size and capability, and posts grants that are likely to be awarded and serviced. In their words,
The corporate giving database is focused on geographical area. You are able to search a database of over 1,200 corporations and 1,000 corporate foundations looking to fund programs in your area.
All grants can be searched based on date, program area, geography, funding agency, and other characteristics. While the site does not advertise how many grants populate its entire database, judging by its price tag, it appears to include a relatively large amount.
Access: Annual and multi-year subscriptions
GrantDomain account access costs $495 for one year, $695 for two years, or $795 for three years.
When to use this source?
Grantsmanship Center is a valuable resource that should be used if you’re a nonprofit organization with a regularly funded development department. Because it is among the pricier grant-seeking tools out there, make sure you are likely to use some of the other features, such as grant-writing help and other best-practice publications.
Consider subscribing to this database if you plan on using some of the consulting and grant-writing tools associated with the site. Because they have knowledge of each of the funders in their database, they should be more helpful in preparing applications and proposals for these specific grants.
If you’re unsure of the value they may offer, take advantage of their 30-day free trial. Browse the database and decide if it’s something you want to base your grant searching on for the next year or more.
GrantWatch is a website providing regularly updated grants and funding opportunities for nonprofits and small businesses.
GrantWatch updates its repository daily and archives grants that have gone past due. Additionally, it allows for searching based on geography (search by country or U.S. state), eligibility, award amount, and other grant details.
Enter a Grant
What makes GrantWatch somewhat unique is its crowd-sourced database. Its dedicated portal, called Enter a Grant, allows government agencies, foundations, and corporations post details of the funding opportunities directly into the database.
Combined with GrantWatch’s team of dedicated researchers regularly searching for new grants, this provides a distinctive experience for grant-seekers compared to other databases.
GrantWatch touts its customer service and even has a live chat feature where you can instant message an expert ready to help you with the service. Live customer service can be reached 9:00a.m.-7:00p.m. (EST) Monday through Thursday, and 9:00a.m.-5:00p.m. (EST) on Friday.
The grants database
As of December 2017, there are over 18,000 total grants in GrantWatch’s worldwide database, however only fewer than 3,000 are accepting applications. This is due to the site’s archiving feature which pulls back grants that have been awarded and scheduled to return in a later period. It also allows for grants to be posted for future time periods in the event they aren’t ready yet.
For organizations in the United States, the database has over 2,500 total grants, with over 400 grants currently accepting applications.
As you can see in the screenshot, the sleek interface allows for easy searching and filtering.
Small business grants database
A sister site to GrantWatch is MWBEzone offers the same features except for small businesses.
There are limitations to this database however – its focus is primarily on minority- and women-owned small businesses. That being said, it’s hard to say if most or all of the grants in this database are limited to these types of organizations only, but it’s a reasonable question to ask before purchasing a subscription to the site.
Certainly because of this tool’s specific focus, if you are a minority- or women-owned business, this site offers the same great features that GrantWatch offers, but for your small business. If you don’t qualify as either of these types of businesses, you may be better off using a different grants database to stay up to date on funding opportunities – many of these grants just might not apply to you.
GrantWatch offers four different subscription models: $18/week, $45/month, $90/quarter, and $199/year. This allows for different levels of access depending on how consistently you plan on using the tool – obviously the annual subscription is the best value if you plan to use it for a while.
When to use this source?
This seems to be one of the more comprehensive grant resources for the price. Considering the daily updates, good customer service, database accuracy, and other peripheral services, GrantWatch could pay for itself very quickly.
If you run a minority- or women-owned small business, this site could be especially useful. The specific focus could help you with tasks other than finding grants, so check out the resources page to find relevant business-related tools – most of which are free.
Foundation Center is a nonprofit organization that gathers and analyzes data that enable philanthropy to change the world. As part of this mission, one of the main features of its website is the ability to search not only grants, but funders.
Foundation Directory Online
Foundation Center’s database consists of 140,000 foundations and donors across the world, updated weekly.
Aside from its smooth interface with different searching and sorting features, what makes this tool stand out is its ability to find donors based on number of grants given and funds awarded to specific causes.
The grants database seems to focus primarily on previously awarded grants. Detailed grant information, including recipients, descriptions, and types of support, helps you determine which funders are most likely to fund your work. From this information you can tell how much to request and what to highlight in a grant proposal to ensure greater chance of success in winning the funds.
GrantSpace is a service within Foundation Center that provides easy-to-use, self-service tools and resources to help nonprofits worldwide become more viable grant applicants and build strong, sustainable organizations.
These features which are accessible for free include a comprehensive knowledge base of articles and frequently asked questions in the nonprofit industry. Sample documents and popular training courses are also listed on this site, all free of charge if you sign up for an account with GrantSpace.
This feature provides users an interface to work with the funding prospects identified in the database.
Assess how strongly your programs align with funders. Manage tasks, contacts, and notes while keeping track of progress toward your fundraising goals. No need for an outside donor management system if you want to handle everything right here.
Access: Monthly Subscriptions
The standard subscription rate of $49.99/month includes access to over 100,000 grantmaker profiles, contact information of over 500,000 key decision makers and leaders, keyword search of 990-PF forms, and access to Workspace.
The main thing missing from this is access to actual grants. For a pricier monthly rate of between $87-$200/month (depending on the length of contract), you can get these features as well as access to over 9.5 million grants and more interactive maps, charts, and search features.
When to use this source?
If your main reason for using a fundraising tool is to find open grant opportunities, then this might not be the best tool for you. Because of its focus primarily on previously awarded grants and not a currently available list, Foundation Directory Online should more be used for broader fundraising and donor management functionality.
While you won’t necessarily find open funding opportunities, you can very easily use the information in the funder database to help create industry reports, fine-tune pipelines, and create a prospect list.
If you’re a nonprofit organization looking for a resource providing more than just grants, Foundation Directory Online could be the perfect tool to help craft your donor development and fundraising strategy.
Chronicle of Philanthropy
The Chronicle of Philanthropy is an independent news organization that serves nonprofit leaders, fundraisers, and grantmakers. Aside from its regularly updated blog and newsletter, the site offers resources that all types of topics nonprofits may find useful.
The resources and data sets cover a wide range of topics from advocacy to communications to fundraising. While some of its content is free, many articles, resources, and data sets are locked under premium subscriptions.
The Chronicle offers webinars seemingly every couple weeks on all sorts of topics related to nonprofits. After briefly looking at upcoming listings, they tend to run about an hour long and cost $79.
Speakers come from outside the organization and appear to be experts in their fields.
One of the more interesting features here is the job posting area Philanthropy Careers. You can post openings you may have in your organization for a price based on the functionality you want ranging from $180 to $333 per posting.
If you or someone you know is looking for a job, this service is free to use, and each listing provides contact information and application instructions. Jobs can be searched by location, organization focus, and job type.
With a subscription to Chronicle of Philanthropy you get access to a third-party grants database called GrantStation. This is a searchable database of private grantmakers, international grantmakers, federal deadlines, and links to state funding agencies.
GrantStation has over 6,000 active grants in its database.
The database is focused on federal and state funding opportunities only. While it lists other types of private funders, open grants are primarily drawn from publicly available databases such as Grants.gov.
Access: Annual Subscriptions
The Chronicle offers annual subscriptions at either $86 per year or $146 for two years.
Interestingly, GrantStation’s website promotes its services for $699 per year or $1,258 for two years. So it is worth ensuring through the Chronicle that you will indeed get full access to GrantStation. It is definitely worth going through the Chronicle to get your subscription to GrantStation than buying it directly from them.
When to use this source?
If you are a nonprofit organization looking for more than just a grants database, this is the tool for you. Its comprehensive industry database and other tools make it a premium source for the nonprofit manager looking to excel.
In terms of strictly finding open grants, you may be better off sticking to the free federal and state databases.
Use this service if you want to search for funders based on their likelihood of granting your organization money. More than providing a database of open grants, this feature allows you to plan marketing and fundraising campaigns and focus on the areas of highest probable success.
Small Business Administration
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was created in 1953 as an independent agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation.
The SBA offers help and guidance around several different funding opportunities for your business.
The site also offers many different resources including market research and competitive analysis for planning your business, step-by-step instructions for launching your business, and advice and guidance around paying taxes, managing employees, and growing your business.
The SBA does not give grants to businesses or nonprofits directly. However, organizations conducting research and development can apply to a number of different grant opportunities through the Small Business Research Innovation Program (SBIR).
This a highly competitive program that encourages domestic small businesses to engage in Federal research and development that has the potential for commercialization. Through a competitive awards-based program, SBIR enables small businesses to explore their technological potential and provides the incentive to profit from its commercialization.
By including qualified small businesses in the nation’s R&D arena, high-tech innovation is stimulated and the entrepreneurial spirit is leveraged to meet research and development needs.
Like the SBIR, the Small Business Technology Transfer program (STTR) is another program that expands funding opportunities in the federal innovation research and development arena. Central to the program is expansion of the public/private sector partnership to include the joint venture opportunities for small businesses and nonprofit research institutions.
Both SBIR and STTR are coordinated by the SBA.
Grants associated with SBA are aggregated in a database called Federal Business Opportunities (FBO).
Searches can be conducted based on location, posting date, and agency submitting the grant. Currently there are over 26,800 active grants according to the website. All opportunities provide basic details with links to the funding agencies’ original posting pages.
Access: Free to everyone
When to use this source?
Use this source regularly to stay on top of all federal opportunities specifically focused on business funding.
If your business requires funding to support research and development, this source will be especially useful. Because account registration is free and requires almost no information about you or your organization, it costs nothing to stay on top of all available U.S. government grant opportunities.
Also use this source if you need general guidance around any of the different phases involved in launching and running your business. The large library of articles and reports are useful resources that should be consulted, especially if you lack the budget to pay for more sufficient management help.
Hopefully your nonprofit or small business finds some of these resources useful. If you’re looking for more detailed information on how to start a fundraising strategy (especially if you’re a nonprofit), check out the Ultimate Guide to Nonprofit Fundraising.
If you’re a business or nonprofit or any other type of organization looking for funding in Connecticut, check out Spera Connect’s funding database which includes almost 2,000 active grants for CT eligible organizations. It is updated daily, includes searches based on subject, eligibility, and other criteria, and allows for custom alert-based subscriptions.
At only $29.99 per month, it is certainly one of the most cost-effective options out there.