In our semiannual State of Grantseeking survey, we regularly hear, “We apply to grantmakers we are familiar with, but do not have time to search for other funding sources for specific projects or needs.”

It’s easy to get stuck on a treadmill when it comes to grantseeking, and very difficult to expand outside our comfort zones. These tips will help you develop a larger cadre of funders for your organization without spending a lot of research time.

Go through your operating budget to see which items you can offset by finding product donations. One group sent me a list of items that they would be purchasing this year

  • New computers (3)
  • New scanner (1)
  • New corkboards (2)
  • Hanging file folders (2 boxes)
  • Copy paper (6 boxes)
  • Toner for copier/fax machine
  • Office cleaning supplies
  • New vacuum cleaner

I sent this list to Good360 and asked what, if anything, on this list they could donate (registered nonprofits pay only shipping). They had many of the office products, such as toner, file folders, corkboards, etc., and many of the cleaning supplies, including the vacuum.

Take advantage of clearinghouses such as Good360 and TechSoup for product donations that will lessen the money you need to raise each year. Because these redistribution centers are usually a simple registration and you can order what you need, procurement is easy.

Now look at your vendor list. You pay those folks for their services. These are all potential donors, or can lead you to potential donors. Spend a little time thinking about each one because it is easy to overlook good sources.

For example, one of your vendors is an insurance company. The local insurance agent may not be the right person to ask for support, because you will only get a $100 donation. You want your insurance agent to make a warm introduction to the national corporate giving office or to the company’s foundation. This sort of introduction enables building a new relationship that could eventually produce a significant contribution. If the insurance agent tells you they don’t know anyone at the corporate office (and they probably won’t), don’t be put off; ask for a letter of introduction and support that you can attach to your request. It is an easy thing for them to do, and it always makes a difference in the attention your request will receive.

Looking at your list of vendors requires a little strategic thinking, but it can pay off and it takes very little research time.

Expand the grantmakers you apply to for support, without expending much of your time, by giving this task to a volunteer or the fundraising committee. This is a great job for an individual who wants to help raise funds for your good work, when they simply aren’t cut out to do a one-on-one ask or to plan and execute a fundraising event. Be sure to guide their research. Prepare a simple project description worksheet that will keep them on track as they do their research. The project description worksheet should contain these sections:

  1. short narrative articulating the need for this project
  2. short narrative describing the program or project you need funded
  3. budget for the project (put as much detail into this as you can, including brand names)
  4. key words that include the geographic area you will cover, the type of support you need (planning money, equipment funds, program funds, etc.) and the specific areas of interest (health, public clinic, health education, etc.)

Provide the researcher with very clear guidelines to prevent wasting time by asking grantmakers that would never fund this particular project. And provide them with a reliable resource such as GrantStation or the Foundation Center, so their research is efficient.


Cynthia Adams has spent the past 40 years helping nonprofits raise the money needed for their good work. She opened GrantStation because grantseeking requires a thorough understanding of the variety and scope of grantmakers and sound knowledge of the philanthropic playing field. Her life’s work has been to level that playing field, creating an opportunity for all nonprofit organizations to access the wealth of grant opportunities across the U.S. and throughout the world.


This article is reprinted from Vol. 3, No. 1, of Nonprofit Performance Magazine. Subscribe today!
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