Grant research

In order to conduct grant research, let’s review what a foundation is.

A foundation is a non-profit corporation or a charitable trust whose mission is to make available grants to organizations or individuals for cultural, educational, religious, scientific, or other charitable purposes.

The successful grant seeker will have completed exhaustive research in finding the right foundation.  This process might require extensive review of both print and online resources.

There are essentially three approaches to grant research.  Both print and electronic resources may be used:

  • The Subject Approach
  • The Geographic Approach
  • The Types of Support Approach

Subject Approach

Perhaps the most often-used approach as foundations will express an interest in funding subject-specific programs.  Look for those foundations that are most likely to fund your proposal.

Geographic Approach

Since foundations will often limit where they will fund projects to their region or location, you may want to include this approach as part of your overall searching strategy.

Types of Support Approach

This type of approach is usually used in conjunction with Subject or Geographic research, and should not be confused with the Subject Approach. "Subject Approaches" will list programs that foundations want to fund, whereas "Types of Support" will offer what kinds of assistance the foundations will fund.  For example, requests for funding for building/renovation, equipment, seed-money, or technical assistance would fall into the category of "Types of Support."

There are basically four considertations in conducting grant research.  You will need to research as much as you can with regard to:

  • Grantmakers
  • Companies
  • Grants
  • 990s


You first want to check to see what foundations offer the kind of assistance you’ll need.  This can be achieved by using the three approaches listed above.


You can glean information about specific companies to determine whether or not they would be a good match for your proposal.


Found out what kinds of grants have been awarded and who received them.


A "990" is a document submitted by the grant-maker to the IRS each year.  This document contains detailed information about the grant, including how much was awarded.  It provides valuable information for the grant-seeker as it breaks down the grant into its specific, component parts.

You may also want to consult these titles in the Block Business and Career Center:

The Foundation Center's Guide to Winning Proposals by Sarah Collins (2008)
Collins assembles actual grant proposals that have garnered actual money for nonprofit organizations, as a guide for newcomers to grant writing. She presents them in sections on special single-year and multi-year projects, endowment, building or renovation, general and operating support, seed money, and planning grant. She also provides examples of letters of inquiry, cover letters, and budgets. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions, Inc.

How Foundations Work book jacket

How Foundations Work: What Grantseekers Need to Know About the Many Faces of Foundations by Dennis P. McIlnay (1998)
In this groundbreaking book, Dennis McIlnay offers a unique and remarkable look inside foundations, exploring the complex workings of the mysterious and often misunderstood organizations that so often determine the success or failure of a nonprofit's fund raising ventures. Drawing on his extensive research and on insights from foundations, McIlnay gives the grantseeker an edge in the highly competitive world of foundation grants by both debunking many of the myths and misconceptions surrounding foundations and including more productive strategies for dealing with them. Structured around six perceptions of foundations—judges, editors, citizens, activists, entrepreneurs, and partners—this book provides a thorough understanding of what makes foundations tick and how this affects their interactions with nonprofits. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions, Inc.

For additional information, contact an H&R Block Business & Career Center librarian by phone, 816.701.3717, or by e-mail,