Monday, January 28, 2008

Metasoft BIG Online Vs. Foundation Center's Foundation Directory Online

And what to do if your budget allows for neither ...

Awhile back the “Grants” listserv of CharityChannel, the Internet’s premier resource for nonprofit information, featured a lively debate about the merits of Metasoft’s BIG Online subscription database versus The Foundation Center’s Foundation Directory Online database. The merits of Guidestar's Grant Explorer were even touched upon.

Both programs offer their users a variety of methods to seek out foundation funders. Both obtain their information through foundations’ 990 tax forms. And, based on feedback, both BIG Online and Foundation Directory Online share an equal number of loyal fans.

However, the fact is there are many nonprofit organizations whose budgets (or executive director’s mindsets) do not allow for choosing ANY foundation prospecting tool, let alone BIG Online, which will run you thousands for a six-month (their shortest) run.

What’s a smaller nonprofit organization with limited resources to do? Is it possible to still seek out those little known national and regional foundations whose missions align with yours? Without expensive tools and connections, how will my little $250,000 annual budget children’s arts organization find foundation support to grow and create new programming?

With an internet connection, preferably high speed, some time and practice, and a number of detecting tools, even those on very limited budgets can regularly seek out foundations that will support your mission – year after year.

Your best start is a foundation directory. Almost every state, with exceptions such as Alaska and Hawaii, publish one and sometimes several. More and more these directories are moving to Internet subscription-based services – but they’re still a deal.

Now take some time to really explore these websites if you’re not already familiar with them: Note that you must register to use Guidestar but registration is free. Guidestar does offer paid subscriptions, however, there is no charge for viewing a foundation’s three most recent 990’s. This clunky little site can be a boon to the grantseeker on a budget. The Foundation Center; one of the oldest and best resources on the web. The Foundation Center offers a number of paid subscription programs – but they also offer free services. The Council on Foundations A relatively new organization devoted to 60,000 smaller United States Foundations In October of 2007, Noza began offering free foundation searches.

Between your state foundation directory and these sites, you should have enough resources to get you started on the path to funding.

Check out my book, Five Days to Foundation Funding, available at for more ideas on writing an effective, funded grant proposal on a budget!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another free resource just announced at the AFP international conference is a new 990-PF database, launched by
This database contains 990's going back to 1998, it's free, and no registration is required (same thing with NOZA's free database of 1,000,000 grant records - no registration required).