How to find grants
February 21, 2018 | Melissa Reams

Finding the perfect grant opportunity can make exhausted executive-level adults skip through the office. But how do you find those perfect grant opportunities? First, you have to prepare for your grant search. If you haven’t already, be sure to read Six Steps to (prepare to) Find More Grants to make sure you’re ready to start searching. Once you’re fully prepared, then you can start your search. The truth is, there are so many grants available for nonprofit organizations that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or get discouraged while you’re searching. Here are some great ways to make your search less frustrating and MUCH more productive.

Googling for Grants

Let’s be honest – most of us start our grant search with Google (or some type of search engine). Google is a powerful tool for grant searching IF you use a few tricks to make it work for you. Otherwise, you’ll end up scrolling through dozens of pages and have nothing to show for your hours of research.

Here are some of my favorite tricks for making Google work for me:

  • Delete the spaces between words. Deleting the spaces between words is one of the quickest ways to narrow your Google search, saving yourself hours of scrolling through useless results. Simply closing the spaces between your words will force Google to only produce results that include your words together, which will give you the search you really wanted.

    Check out the difference:
    current grants = 4,040,000 results
    currentgrants = 208,000 results
    open grants = 2,370,000
    results opengrants = 53,600 results

    Now you can add an additional term to find grants that might match the work your organization does. For example:

    opengrants youth = 18,000 results
    opengrants homeless = 8,890

  • Use the advanced search feature. Once you’ve done your initial search, head over to the advanced search feature to narrow your results even more.

Once you’re in the advanced search feature, make a few adjustments to create a more tailored search. In the example below, I moved “youth” down to the “any of these words” section and told Google to also find “teen” and “adolescent”. I also told Google to exclude any results that include the word “matching” to eliminate opportunities that may require the organization to match funds. By adding in the advanced search options below, I ended up with 5,800 results for youth grants that don’t require matching (that’s way more manageable than 18,000!).

  • Use Google Alerts. Once you’ve found a search that produces the results you’re looking for, head over to Google Alerts and set up an alert. Simply type in the same search terms you used to find your initial results, update the options section, and create the alert. Google will then send you an email any time a new result that matches your search is found.

Grant Search Engines

A grant search engine is a platform that allows you to search for grants with filters such as topic, population, eligibility, funding amount, type of funder, or region. There are a lot of grant search engines out there, but they all basically work the same way. Most of them require a paid subscription but many will give you a free trial. If you plan to do a lot of grant searching, I recommend you check out several of the grant search engines and sign up for the free trials so you can find the one you like the best.

Here are just a handful of search engines to check out:
GrantStation
GrantSelect
GrantWatch
eCivis
GrantForward
Instrumentl
Grants.gov

Foundation Search Engines

You can also find funding opportunities by searching for foundations. This is particularly useful if you’ve already found a foundation you’d like to learn more about or if you’re only interested in applying to local foundations in a certain region. My favorite tools for researching foundations are Foundation Directory Online and GuideStar. Both have paid subscriptions but if you use them together and don’t mind spending the extra time researching, you can find a lot of valuable information with a free account.

Let’s assume you’re looking for funders in a specific region. You would first go to Foundation Directory Online and search for foundations by location.


This is an example of what you’ll see once you search by location:

Now you can click on any of the foundations to find out a little more information. Without a paid subscription, there won’t be a lot of details but the “Purpose and Activities” section will help you quickly determine if this foundation might be a good fit for your organization.

Once I find a foundation I want to learn more about, I check to see if they have a website. If not, my first step is to head to GuideStar and search for the foundation by name. Even if a foundation has a website, it’s always a good idea to check out their GuideStar profile!

Once you find the foundation you’re looking for on GuideStar, you’ll see their profile page. If you’re lucky, the foundation will have added helpful information to their profile. This information will give you a better idea if you’re a good fit for their funding priorities.


Now you want to download the foundation’s 990. Their 990 will give you some invaluable information, including:

  • If they are accepting unsolicited proposals
  • The organizations they’ve funded in the past
  • The foundation’s officers or trustees
  • Their average grant size
  • The number of grants they typically give

Sign up for Alerts

I know you don’t want another email in your inbox but signing up for alerts will put your grant search on auto-pilot. So go ahead and sign up for newsletters and alerts from major funders in your field. Not only will you be the first to know about open grants, you’ll likely also receive helpful information that’s relevant to your field.

Congratulations! Now you’re ready to get your grant search started!

Interested in finding grants for your organization
but just don’t have the time?
Email us about our grant finding services!
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Melissa Reams

Hi! I'm Melissa, the Principal Consultant at Upstream Consulting. Learn more about how we help organizations make a bigger impact in their communities or read more about me and our other team members on our About Us page.

Published by Melissa Reams

Melissa Reams Hi! I'm Melissa, the Principal Consultant at Upstream Consulting. Learn more about how we help organizations make a bigger impact in their communities or read more about me and our other team members on our About Us page.

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