In this post we’ll look at the issue of finding funders, a.k.a people with the great wads ‘o cash (that phrase from my Blackadder-watching days), as that seems to be the biggest obstacle for many people. But with the advent of the internet, it really isn’t too onerous.
First, if your project is a large, multi-year one, you might consider a federal grant and search Grants.gov, (the U.S. federal site for all things grants/ contracts). As you can imagine, the search function on this government site is less than stellar. Here’s another tact with the feds: if you know your content area is specific to science/math/technology/engineering, go straight to the source of primary funding for STEM—National Science Foundation. If you’re in the humanities, or arts, go to National Endowment for the Humanities/ National Endowment for the Arts. In other words, go directly to the agency website in your content area. (Some top ones: Dept. of Education, Dept. of Labor, National Institute of Health, Health Resources and Services Administration, US Environmental Protection Agency).
The Feds have a lot of money to dispense every year, but they also have very particular eligibility guidelines, and applications are long and arduous (see my post on this matter). So, unless you are working for a very large nonprofit or government agency, you probably should spend time looking at private foundations rather than government agencies.
How do you find your local / regional philanthropic organizations? Start with your local reference librarian. Many libraries subscribe to foundation databases which you can use to do your searches. If you can’t get to a library, or your library doesn’t have such a subscription, I would recommend you look at The Foundation Center and the National Center for Charitable Statistics. The Foundation Center is pretty sophisticated, NCCS’s not as much, but you can certainly find funders in your geographic/ content area (tip: use the NTEE code “T” to get private grant-making foundations rather than all 501(c)3’s in your state). NCCS also doesn’t have direct links to funder websites, so you’ll have to do that step yourselves. And for either search-site, you can be an over-achiever and look at the foundations’ 990 forms from IRS to see who they gave to and in what amount.
Well kiddos, this should get you started!