The fastest way to find grant opportunities is to use a grant database. There is a time and place for Google searching, but it is a huge time-suck and simply ineffective to find grants that way exclusively. A database can do in seconds what could take you days; and visually, it's a much easier way to organize your grant opportunities and keep track of them.
There are several grant databases to choose from and depending on the needs of your organization, not all will align well with your unique needs. We also know that you are the change-makers and may not have time in your schedule of creating relevant and helpful changes to research each individual grant database.
No single database is one-size-fits-all. We’ve taken the time to test out several grant databases to give you a clear picture of the strengths and weaknesses of each one so you don’t have to.
To save you time, we have pulled to the top our favorite grant database, Instrumentl. Use the discount code LGW to get $50 off your first month of Instrumentl here.. Otherwise, clicking on each database title will take you directly to their site for more information. Enjoy reading about the ten databases we researched for you!
- Foundation Directory Online
- The Catholic Funding Guide
- Grant Forward
- Grant Select
- Grant Watch
Moreover, we’ve coordinated with the team behind Instrumentl and can assure you that they have your best interest in mind. Beyond that, the design is clear, the process is extremely user-friendly, and we personally love the deadline reminders (please tell us we’re not the only ones who need a kick in the pants every once in a while!).
Specific features of Instrumentl include:
- Intelligent matching (tailored matches of foundations and grant opportunities)
- New Match Alerts (new matching opportunities delivered to your inbox weekly)
- 990's & Foundation profiles (in depth foundation profiles and 990 data at your fingertips—Instrumentl actually reads and pulls the most relevant information from the 990 to easily display helpful data)
- Deadline tracking (automatic upcoming deadline reminders)
- Reports to share your progress with board members or staff
- Tasks (create and manage all your grant-related tasks in one place)
- Document library (all your grant documents stored, organized, and easily accessible)
- Ability to easily organize multiple prospect lists with option to include notes on each prospect
- Grants sourced from corporate funders, federal governments, state governments, private foundations, community foundations, and clubs and societies
- Instrumentl’s pricing can be found here. Update Instrumentl pricing. Instrumentl plans start at $162/monthly or $149/month when paid annually. Higher tier plans are also available which support more projects in your account.
We know that Instrumentl is a fair amount of cash, but for the superb tracking system and all the other relevant tools, Instrumentl is the best database we’ve found for its value. It’s well-designed and easy to use. (Plus, members of the Grant Wrting Unicorn Collective get an exclusive deal on pricing!)
How does Instrumentl compare to other grant tools out there?
Instrumentl is the institutional fundraising platform that brings grant prospecting, tracking and management to one
place. Most other grant tools out there are only capable of doing one or two of these three components to
The Instrumentl team has created helpful product comparison pages to other commonly used grant tools here:
- Instrumentl vs. Foundation Directory Online
- Instrumentl vs. Fluxx
- Instrumentl vs. FoundationSearch
- Instrumentl vs. GrantHub
- Instrumentl vs. GrantStation
- Instrumentl vs. GrantWatch
- Instrumentl vs. Grantfinder
One of the strongest aspects of Instrumentl is you can learn it in under an hour. The same cannot be said for a number of the aforementioned alternatives. Nonprofits and grant writing consultants often choose Instrumentl for its superior user experience, intuitive and helpful data insights, along with all-in-one grants functionality.
Foundation Directory Online
When we were scouring Google for grant databases, this is one of the most popular ones we found. Foundation Directory Online (FDO) has three different subscription levels: FDO Essential ($31.58- $49.99/month), FDO Professional ($118.67- $199.99/month), and FDO Enterprise (quote given upon request). Funder profiles are offered along with recipient profiles (only available with FDO Professional) and Private Foundation (PF)- 990's when available.
With over 225,000+ expanded grant-maker profiles available with FDO Professional and 108,000+ expanded profiles with FDO Essential, Foundational Directory Online is a decent option for a grant database.
The Catholic Funding Guide
A few of our LearnGrantWriting students use the Catholic Funding Guide but mentioned the database leaves much to be desired.
The search functionality is pretty basic, although the system does offer funder profiles. This database is fairly limiting in terms of the type of funding it hosts. Most of the grants fall within a range of grant-making sources including faith-based agencies, such as those under the sponsorship of the U.S. Bishops, religious orders, the Vatican, Catholic healthcare systems, fraternal groups, and international Catholic funding agencies.
You can get a new One-Year Subscription for $145 to The Catholic Funding Guide, and renewals for $130 annually. To order a subscription visit their partner site, FADICA, here.
Overall, we found the database to be a bit outdated in terms of design, and significantly limited in regard to tools within the system and ease of operation for the user.
GrantScape offers federal, state, local, and foundation grant sources. There are over 180,000 grantors and approximately 8,795 available grants housed within the database.
While they don't have a free trial for their grant database. They do have a free-trial on their post-funding resources, including the Grants Compliance Expert.
We took a few screenshots to give you a look at what the database visually looks like.
This is the initial screen to begin filtering your grant search.
This image shows further filtering options to narrow your search including geography, category, etc.
This is what the search results look like. There are also more filtering options available on the left hand side of the screen.
Example of a funder profile with contact details and further information about the grantor.
This is a capture of the user’s dashboard—a home base of sorts for your grant search. Users are able to save grants and also have the option to set up deadline reminders.
Overall, we found GrantScape to be a reasonably affordable option and we like the resources available within the dashboard function. If you'd like more information, here’s a 30-minute demo of the database.
GrantStation is a little bit different as the grant database is only one of the services provided by the organization. GrantStation offers nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and government agencies the opportunity to identify potential funding sources for their programs or projects as well as resources to mentor these organizations through the grant-seeking process. They educate through their blog, newsletter, webinars, conferences, and a development tool to help grant professionals create a development plan for their career.
Full membership access allows members the opportunity to utilize all the online grant-seeking tools they offer, including the GrantStation grant database. The full membership is a bit pricey and is broken down as follows: one year: $699, two years: $1,258 (save 10%), three years: $1,782 (save 15%—the best deal), and one quarter: $219.
Funding agency profiles are available with detailed primary contact information, current funding priorities, geographic scope, grant guidelines, application deadlines, and notes that provide "insider" information on selected funders.
GrantStation features grants from private, corporate, and community foundations, corporate contribution programs, and a number of faith-based funders, association grant programs, and other grant programs. Federal grants are pulled from grants.gov and for those in Canada, GrantStation provides a page for each province listing the agencies with grant programs.
We appreciate that this database considers Canadians as we know that many of our students are from Canada or work with Canadian organizations. However, the database was still a bit clunky to use and didn’t have a great tracking system for saving grants or the option to set task/deadline reminders.
Pro tip: a 1-year subscription ($110) to The Chronicle of Philanthropy will give you access to GrantStation’s grant database.
190,000+ grants exist within the Grant Forward database. This database covers the whole ecosystem of funding including grants, sponsors, pre-solicitations, and the funded awards. Subscribers can also receive an early heads-up when opportunities are being prepared, and are informed of what projects, topics, and organizations get funded.
Additional features of Grant Forward include the option to exclude grants (to exclude a grant from your search), view history (to mark grants that you have viewed), filter include/exclude enhancement (to set include/exclude of filters easily), editing publications in profiles (to add/delete/edit publications to tailor your researcher profiles), and keyword search for profiles (to search researcher profiles by any keywords).
The subscription cost per year ranges from $1,100-4,400 and is determined both by funding size and the population of your organization (students and employees).
Request a free trial here. You have one month or longer to determine if Grant Forward is a good match for you/your organization.
We liked the extra features of Grant Forward and the simplistic, easy to use layout, although we still felt it was a bit pricey for what subscribers receive.
Grant Select offers three different subscription options depending on how long you wish to subscribe and whether it’s an individual or institutional subscription. Individual subscriptions have two options including Standard at $150 per month, or Professional at $495 annually. If you’re interested in an Institution subscription, contact them for quote.
Detailed grant records include contact information, sponsor name and address, subject terms for related searches, and type of sponsor (Federal agency, foundation, research institute, etc.). When available, the records also include deadline date(s), restrictions on who may apply, lists of previous awards, amount(s) of grant or award, Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) number, populations encouraged to apply (e.g., women, minorities, disabled), RFA and PA numbers for NIH grants, and program numbers for NSF grants.
Of note is that the free trial subscriptions are open only to faculty, staff and administrators at academic institutions or libraries. To request a trial, contact the sales staff, who will discuss terms, provide a quote, and send you access information.
We also took a few screenshots to give you an insider look into the database:
Quick search view where you begin your grant search.
Advanced search includes filters for geographic location, program type, sponsor type, deadline, etc.
A detailed grant record to provide your further information on the funding agency.
As a whole, GrantSelect is a fairly robust grant database. We appreciate when the company is able to include all of the extra bits of information to compose a complete grant record—it’s just such good information to know.
Grant Watch is one of the more affordable databases we reviewed. Prices are $18/week, $45/month, $90/quarter, or $199/annual.
Within the database, grants available include foundation, corporate, state, city, and federal funding sources. Over 23,000 grants are available in Grant Watch for nonprofits, small businesses, and individuals.
Detailed grant information is provided and includes eligibility and geographic focus, pre-application and workshop information, description of the grant program, funding amounts and number of awards, funding source, contact details, and links to grant applications.
While the information subscribers have access to within each grant record is extremely helpful, the trickiest part for us was finding relevant grants. The screenshot below highlights the limited filters available in the search function.
All in all, Grant Watch might be more affordable, but subscribers are missing out on quality features and helpful functionality in finding applicable grants.
The National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations (NAVSO) is a nonprofit organization exclusively focused on transforming the veteran services marketplace to improve the lives of veterans and military families.
The greatest advantage to NAVSO is the Foundation Map created by Candid which features a map view, chart view, list view, and constellation view. Charts show funding trends and allow for comparisons of funding by subject areas over time. Constellations visualize funding relationships. The blue bubbles represent foundations and the red bubbles represent grant recipients. The map view displays blue bubbles of foundations and red bubbles of recipients with aggregate data. List view lets you see and sort foundations, recipients, and grants in a table. See screenshots below for visuals.
The Advanced Search function allows subscribers to type in a particular location or subject area to find foundations or recipients in that region and/or which work on specific issues. Additional filters allow users to sort by organization name, grant amount, grant years, population group, type of support, and keyword.
NAVSO membership is $42/month billed annually (a 15% discount), or $49 for a monthly subscription.
Overall, NAVSO isn’t super intuitive and is a bit confusing to navigate. Furthermore, its data-set is limited in focus towards services and funding for active military/veterans and their families.
Pivot is a grant database designed for a researcher. Anyone from corporate to academia (faculty, staff researchers, and graduate students) can benefit from using it. However, you must be affiliated with an institution that subscribes to Pivot in order to create an account.
Subscribers can search for a funding opportunity and instantly view matching faculty from inside or outside their institution. Conversely, a search for a scholar will link to matching funding opportunities
Pivot also enables you to add internal deadlines for critical funding opportunities and sends weekly updates on saved searches. Additionally, subscribers can receive alerts whenever new matching opportunities are posted that match their saved searches and create groups for sharing funding opportunities on an ongoing basis.
Pivot is only available to professionals whose affiliated institution subscribes to the database which is fairly limiting. To help with learning the system, their YouTube channel is packed with useful tutorials.
In conclusion, we know that you need to do what is best for you, but we can’t help but offer a glowing recommendation of Instrumentl. We have used lots of other databases and found them to be clunky and generally more expensive than Instrumentl. We could spend even more time and detail explaining our history of examining other databases, but much of the value we offer you is having filtered through those resources to land on what we think is the best resource for nonprofits. We think your best bet is Instrumentl.
Which grant database does your organization use? Let us know here!
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