The quest to find new sources of grant funds is kind of like being a match-maker. Grantors tend to be very specific in their focus. They often like to give to a specific kind of cause in a limited geographic area. Many restrict their gifts to certain types of requests like capital equipment, programs, or operating support.
Find a goldmine (also known as a grantor database)
The first thing you need if you are looking to expand your list of grant sources is a good database like the Foundation Directory Online managed by Foundation Center. While not cheap, this database will more than pay for itself by providing high quality information about the organizations that you'll be asking to support your cause.
The Foundation Directory Online has profiles on hundreds of thousands of grant making organizations. It provides information on the size of grants they make, what organizations they grant to, and what geographic areas they serve. The search interface enables you to filter through this database and look for grantors that might be a match for your organization.
Ask your friends.
You can also try to find new grant opportunities in your donor database. A small but very meaningful percentage of your current donors will have a family foundation, private foundation, or company foundation. This source can be very fruitful, because they have already proved their fondness for your mission by giving.
So how do you find these grantors? The best way is to invest in a wealth screening tool like Wealth Engine, IWave, DonorSearch, etc. These tools will enable to discover which of your donors are connected to a foundation. You can either screen donors individually (start with your most generous donors first because it's time-consuming) or do what's called a batch screening. The batch screening will take a list of your donors and their information and create a report on ALL of the donors.
If you discover that one of your current donors is connected to a foundation, reach out to them and ask them for permission to submit a grant application. Since they are already investing in what you do, they will likely be receptive to the idea of giving at a higher level.
Look at your neighbors.
Many companies, especially large public companies, have "Community Relations Departments" that have an associated company foundation. They will typically grant funds in areas where the company maintains a presence, and they see it as a part of being a good corporate citizen.
The kinds of projects these corporations will vary depending on their business focus. Big tech companies frequently support STEM education, for instance. Many will support human services or basic human needs. One note of caution: corporations typically will not fund religious activities. This doesn't mean that you're necessarily ruled out. A Catholic School could potentially submit a successful grant for STEM education.
The key for tapping Corporate Foundations is having a good match with their funding priorities. These gifts are usually managed by the local human resources managers for the company, who tend to be more receptive to personal contacts than professional foundation staff.
Build a grant calendar - and work it.
Using information from the grantor database, your donor database, and your local business directory, begin to build your grant calendar. Not every grantor has a submission deadline, so start with those that do and fill in empty spaces with others that do not.
Now that you have a list of potential donors, you will begin the process of attempting to acquire them as new donors. This means building a professional looking grant proposal according to the their required application process. Work through your calendar and submit to all of the grantors on your list. You'll hear back from many of them and receive either a check or a rejection letter. Some won't respond at all. That's ok.
Grant writers have different opinions as to whether you should try to contact foundation prior to submitting a grant request. In my experience, it isn't strictly necessary. I do think that having a personal relationship with grantors can potentially increase your success rate with grants, but smaller foundations that don't have professional staff are often difficult or impossible to reach. So if you're an extrovert and love to make new friends, go for it. But if you are a grant writer because you're an introvert and talking to new people terrifies you, don't worry. It won't make or break your grant program.
Go to the source - Pray.
The final source to help you find new grants is prayer. Let's face it, God knows where all the money is and He can move the hearts of the people who are responsible for giving it away. Some of my biggest grants have come from incoming calls. Sincere prayer should be at the foundation of your work as a grant writer (and all other kinds of fundraising as well.)
Need some new ideas on how to fundraise? Check out The Fundraiser’s Playbook and find the fundraising strategy that will work best for you!