Four Takeaways from Introduction to Finding Grants

Introduction to Finding Grants is one of my favorite classes to teach. Usually the people attending are new to the nonprofit sector or are coming for a refresher. I love to introduce people to the world of philanthropy.  The root of the word “philanthropy” means, “humanity, benevolence, love to mankind.”  There are many kind individuals and organizations who give time and money to impact change. However, fundraising is an art and attracting that money for your organization can be extremely competitive. Below are a few of my takeaways from one of my favorite classes that may help:

1.       Foundation Grants Won’t Fund Your Whole Organization

The common myth is that foundation and corporate funding accounts for the majority of charitable giving. While it accounts for a substantial amount, in reality it is only a small portion, as can be seen from the chart below. The vast majority of private giving comes from individuals, like you and me, who give to their churches, favorite charities, and buy Girl Scout cookies. 

2016 charitable giving

2.       Individual Giving is a Very Important Funding Stream!


Individual giving increased by 3.8 percent in current dollars to $264.58 billion (3.7 percent when adjusted for inflation) over 2014 (Giving USA). There are more people giving than foundations and corporations put together.  Individuals also tend to be easier to approach since there is no set process for asking individuals for money and it’s a more personal ask. Interested in searching for individual donors? Foundation Center Midwest has Donor Search available in our library. In 2015, on average, the total amount given to charity by high net worth households was ten times more than the amount given to charity by households in the general population. (2016 U.S. Trust® Study)

3.       Motivation Matters

Different types of foundations have different factors that might motivate them to give much like individuals.

Private foundations primarily want to fulfill philanthropic goals and interests while supporting a variety of issues through an objective process. In contrast, corporate funders tend to have more than just a pure philanthropic interest.  They often give money to nonprofits to help: advance their business objectives, increase their visibility and enhance their image by giving back to the community where their employees and consumers live and work. Grantmaking public charities, like community foundations, are very visible in the communities they serve and want to assist a wide variety of issues and population groups within those communities.

 4.       Research Matters

Many foundations cite the lack of research as a main reason grant applications get rejected. Research is an essential part of grantseeking.  Always be prepared before you approach a grantmaker. You are looking to establish a match between the mission and activities of your nonprofit organization and the funding interests of who you are approaching. The ultimate goal of this match is to create a partnership between your organization and the funder or individual that can help to solve problems and address issues that you both care about.

You may be asking how you can do this research.

With the Foundation Center’s Foundation Directory Online, you can create a customized grant search based on:

  • who funds in your area of interest and the population you serve?
  • who funds in your geographic region?
  • who will provide the support you need?

And over 450 locations provide our resources for free.


Brian Schultz, Community Outreach Manger

Brian connects people who want to change the world to the resources they need to succeed. He conducts trainings and special programming designed to advance knowledge of philanthropy at every level. He also developed and manages a popular series called Rising Tide, which explores innovation for good and philanthropy’s role in catalyzing meaningful change. Brian is a Cleveland native with a strong love of the city and is committed to its social sector. 

Connect with Brian at or on Twitter @trendyBS