Finding new sources of grant funds is kind of like being a match-maker. Grantors tend to be very specific in their focus: they like to give to a specific kind of cause, often in a limited geographic region. 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 sources for grant funds 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.
Build a grant calendar – and work it
Using information from the grantor database, you will 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 other element to acquiring new grantors 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.)