Intro to How to Search for Grants Process Checklist:

The process behind how to search for grants typically begins with "prospect research" to find out who is most likely to give you money. As almost all research for funders is done online now, an essential first step when searching for potential funders is choosing one or more directories. Some directories are free, but most require a subscription.

"It's important to identify and research the primary sources of funding: federal, state, and local government and the private sources of funding: foundations and corporations" - Dummies 

To help refine and focus your search, identify a set of search criteria that includes relevant keywords, subject-matter, and target audience.

Research each potential funder so you can determine just how good a match your organization and the grantor will be. Matching interests is the most critical aspect of finding an excellent prospective funder. Many grants are rejected because they don't align with the funder's goals.

This 'how to search for grants' checklist should be used each time you need to search for funding for your project, activity or program.

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Complete checklist details

Complete the checklist details in the fields below. 

Identify funding needs

Identify your funding needs in the fields below.

Identify search criteria

Develop a comprehensive search criteria list in advance so you can refine and focus your search quickly.

Start by identifying the keywords/phrases you will use to search for a suitable grant opportunity.

Tip: Keyword searches are usually comprised of two components:
(1) words 
(2) operators
For words, search using a single word (e.g., water) or a phrase (containing multiple words such as water conservation).

To narrow or broaden your keyword searches, use the operators defined here

Research primary sources of funding

Use your search criteria to find 5 potential funding opportunities in the public sector (federal, state, and local government)

Search criteria: 





Tip: Visiting is the quickest way to conduct a federal funding search.

You may want to search on a weekly or monthly basis because the federal government releases new grant opportunity announcements daily.

List five of the potential primary funding sources you have found below. 

Research private sources of funding

Use your search criteria to find 5 potential funding opportunities in the private sector (foundations and corporations). 

Search criteria: 





Tip: When searching for foundation or corporate funding, the place to turn to is the Foundation Center or Foundation Directory Online.

As 90% of U.S. Foundations don't have websites, these online databases provide grant seekers, grantmakers, researchers, policymakers, the media, and the general public with up-to-date information on grant funding.

You can either subscribe to these directories (varying levels of subscriptions are available, beginning at as little as $19.95 per month) or locate a library near you that has a subscription.

List five of the potential private funding sources you have found below. 

Identify if the funding sources are right for your project

Ask yourself these questions to determine if the ten opportunities you have found are the right sources of funding:

  • 1
    Is the opportunity still open?
  • 2
    How much are they giving to your subject area
  • 3
    Who else are they are funding
  • 4
    How can you apply
  • 5
    Is your mission compatible with theirs?
  • 6
    Does your program help solve a problem they are passionate about?
  • 7
    Do you help people the funder cares about?
  • 8
    Even if the funder isn't located near you, have they given grants to other organizations in your area?

Create a shortlist

Once you have identified which of the funding sources you have found are right for you, your business or your situation, create a shortlist of the top three potential funders.

Funding opportunity 1. 
Funding opportunity 2. 
Funding opportunity 3. 

Visit each potential funders website

Get to know each funder. Visit their website, look at their annual reports, read the success stories of previous grants, look at staff biographies etc...

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Seek permission to submit a full grant request

Review each funder’s initial approach preference to find what initial contact or approach document they require.


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