September 23, 2015

Upcoming Database Maintenance

This week our data team is moving all of our grantmaker and grant data from one database to a new one. This change will help our editorial and other back-end processes work more smoothly and efficiently and will have no direct effect on your use of Foundation Directory Online or our other data products. 

To give the team time to do all the necessary work and to fix any behind-the-scenes bugs, we will delay the next data transfer to FDO. Typically, we push an update to FDO once a week. To accommodate this change, we will delay our next transfer for two to four weeks, depending on how quickly the system is ready to go.

What does this mean for you?

It means the content and functionality will not change at all during that period. It also means that any newly added grants, 990s, or funders will not appear in FDO until after the next transfer, so if you are subscribed to any FDO email alerts, you will not receive them in the meantime. I will update this message once the transfer occurs, after which regular weekly transfers will resume.

September 21, 2015

New and Updated FDO Search Taxonomy

New-taxonomy
Foundation Center is proud to announce a more powerful, updated set of search fields and terminology for Foundation Directory Online and all our products and services.

What's changed? We have updated many of the search terms used in FDO's search indexes to better reflect the current work of nonprofits. The process of searching FDO remains the same.

Where can I learn more? Visit Foundation Center’s Philanthropy Classification System (PCS) homepage for all details on these changes, a PCS map to explore and discover new terms to help your search, and more.

Get answers to all the Frequently Asked Questions»

January 28, 2015

Introducing Workspace

Today we're proud to launch a brand new suite of features for FDO: Workspace.

With Workspace, you finally have a place within the FDO site to work with the funding prospects you identify. Assess how strong the match is between funders and your organization and programs; manage tasks, contacts, and notes; and keep track of progress toward your fundraising goals. 

To get started, just log in to your FDO account and find the Workspace link at the very top of the screen. If you have questions, visit the Workspace FAQ section in Help.

Today is the release of the Beta version of the site, with more features coming soon. We know people will want to import and export certain content, and we're looking at even more features in the coming weeks and months, along with continued improvemnt of core FDO features as well. For now, give Workspace a try and let us know what you think! 

Join us for a live webinar on February 17, 3-4PM EST.We'll introduce Workspace, guide you through its features, and explain all its benefits.

December 15, 2014

15 Tips for 15 Years, Part 3

We’re celebrating the 15th anniversary of Foundation Directory Online (FDO) by offering 15 insider tips, secrets, favorite searches, and other hints to help you get the most out of FDO. We’re counting down from 15 to 1.

See our previous posts for tips 15-11 and 10-6. Here we’ll share the top 5 strategies.

5. Use tags to create a prospect list

If you've got a list of grants that seem promising, or you ran a grantmaker search that produced good results, you can make a prospect list and organize your prospects within FDO using tags. Use the Record Tags box to create a tag that's easy to remember and relevant to your search. For example, if you're conducting a capital campaign, you can create a "Capital" tag that you assign to each of your prospects in this category. Then, when you go into My FDO and click on the Capital tag, it will display all the prospects for your capital campaign and give you quick access to these profiles.

4. Filter your search to see only those funders that accept unsolicited proposals

You can save time and effort by checking the "Exclude grantmakers not accepting applications" box on the Search Grantmakers screen. But before you do that, keep in mind that doing so might exclude some funders that are still potential prospects. First, check out this GrantSpace article on when and how to approach those funders. Then, when conducting your searches, try searching the whole field of funders matching your criteria (leaving that checkbox unchecked). On your results list, you'll see the number of grantmakers that do and do not accept applications in the Narrow Your Results menu, so you'll know at a glance how many funders you can apply to directly and how many may require a different approach. 

3. Turn an exported spreadsheet into a grants calendar/mini-CRM tool

Whether you have a list of grantmakers from a tag that you created (see tip 5) or from a grantmaker search, check off the foundations that you are interested in as prospects and click "Export List" to save them in a spreadsheet. Once the list is downloaded, you can open it in Google Sheets, Excel, or another spreadsheet application and start personalizing it with your own content -- create columns for application deadlines, notes, last contact, next steps, etc. -- to use it as a “mini-CRM (customer relationship management)” tool.

2. Visualize grant data on maps and charts

Use the Chart Grants tool in a foundation's profile to get a better understanding of its giving priorities. FDO Professional subscribers can see a funder’s grants organized by recipient type or primary subject, including aggregate totals of dollars awarded, number of grants, and number of recipients, and then filter by year(s) awarded or drill down to more specific subject/recipient-type categories. 

The Map Grants tool offers the same functionality and access to aggregate totals, but organized geographically. Start on a U.S. map, filter by year or recipient type/subject, and then view by state. You can organize the state-level view by city, county, ZIP code, or congressional district.

1. Let us help!

Foundation Center supports your use of FDO in many ways. The customer service team is on call to help with billing and account questions and can direct you to the right place if you need additional information. The Online Librarian service is available by email or live chat to assist with FDO search strategies, answer questions about philanthropy, and point you to resources –that will help you with your grantseeking. Finally, Foundation Center free and fee-based training supports your FDO experience with classes on finding funders, planning fundraising, developing your proposal, and nonprofit management.

Not an FDO subscriber? Now’s a great time to get on board so you can use these tips: until 1/31, new monthly subscribers can buy 3 months and get 1 additional month free! Plus, you’ll get a free FDO training webinar valued at $69. Select “Special Offer” at checkout!

November 24, 2014

15 Tips for 15 Years, Part 2

6a00e54efc2f80883301bb07a1d062970d-120wiWe’re celebrating the 15th anniversary of Foundation Directory Online by offering 15 insider tips, secrets, favorite searches, and other hints to help you get the most out of FDO. We’re counting down from 15 to 1.

See our previous post for tips 15-11. Today we’ll look at the next five strategies.

10. Build customized reports with Update Central

FDO Professional's Update Central is where you can build customized reports for more detail on each month's additions and updates. Update Reports can be customized by state or states in any one of three categories: new grantmakers; high growth grantmakers; and grantmakers with recent changes. Many of our Professional subscribers use these reports to identify new funders and stay current on developments in their state. A nice feature of the “recent changes” report is that the changes are highlighted for you in the list, so you can see at a glance what’s new at those foundations and then simply click through to see the full FDO profile.

9. Stay in the know with Update Alerts

Update Central also lets you create monthly Update Alerts, useful because they contain summaries of additions and updates to our grantmaker database during the previous month in the same three categories as the Update Reports. To receive FDO Update Alerts, click the Update Central link on the home screen. These monthly alerts are useful because they remind Professional subscribers to visit FDO's Update Central to build customized reports for more detail on each month's additions and updates. 

The next few tips come from Elyse Klova, training specialist in Foundation Center’s Atlanta office and part of FDO’s product development team:

8. Find prospects quickly by searching for grants made to similar organizations.

Use "Recipient Name" field in the grants search to see what foundations have made grants to organizations that have similar missions and similar programs. Foundation fundraising isn't a zero sum game, so the fact that a foundation might be funding an organization that is similar to yours doesn't mean that they wouldn't fund yours: actually it's often the opposite. A foundation's interest in a similar organization suggests good mission and geographic fit—both good indicators that you are more likely to get a grant.

Click on the Recipient Name index to look up grants made to similar organizations. Another time-saver: with the filter, you can quickly find their name without having to scroll through the alphabetical list. Just start typing the name of the organization you have in mind to see if they're in our grant data, select the name to enter it into the field, and press "search" to see what funders have awarded grants to them. When you click on each grant to see the record, check out what the grant was given for. If the recipient type and subjects look good, click the Grantmaker tab at the top of the record to check out the funder.

7. Find out about board connections using grantmaker profiles.

Often, board connections can help build stronger relationships with prospective grantmakers. There are a number of different ways to use FDO to find out about board connections. One quick way is to copy the lists of board members from the grantmaker profiles of each of your prospects; put in a Word document, Excel Spreadsheet, or even email; and send out to your board to see if your board members have any connections. You can also reverse it and ask your board members if they have connections who they know sit on boards, and look up those connections using the Grantmaker Search index for Trustees, Officers, and Donors to see if they sit on any other boards that you may not have been aware of. 

 6. Use the Narrow Your Results menu to summarize grants data

This is one of my personal favorites. With more than 4 million grant records in our database, a grants search can often pull up thousands of results. How can you possibly process all that information? I like to look at the Narrow Results screen (to the left of your search results list) to answer a couple of questions. Because each search facet is organized from most grants to least grants, with just a glance you can see what foundations are giving the most grants, which organizations are getting the most grants, as well as the top subjects used to classify these grants (which can be helpful for doing more searches later).

We’ll be back next month with our top five! And again, we’d love to hear from you with your favorites!

Not an FDO subscriber? Now’s a great time to get on board so you can use these tips: until 11/30 1/31, new monthly subscribers can buy 3 months and get 1 additional month free! Plus, you’ll get a free FDO training webinar valued at $69. Select “Special Offer” at checkout!

October 29, 2014

15 Tips for 15 Years, Part 1

15_candlesWe’re celebrating the 15th anniversary of Foundation Directory Online (FDO) by offering 15 insider tips, secrets, favorite searches, and other hints to help you get the most out of FDO. I’ve asked Foundation Center librarians, trainers, and editors for their ideas and contributed some of my own. I’ll share them with you in a three-part blog series, starting with today’s post. You’re welcome to e-mail me for more information about any of these or to share your own.

We’re counting down from 15 to 1, starting with these five:

15. Find Corporate Funders

This one comes from online librarian and Grantspace blogger Sandy Pon:

If you’re looking for corporate funders, do a Search Grantmakers search for Type of Grantmaker: “company-sponsored foundation” OR “corporate giving program”: This will give you a list of private or public corporate funders. Also, if you’re focusing on a specific company, do a Search Grantmakers keyword search for the company’s name. Searching in  Keyword instead of the Grantmaker Name field will return more results, which could be helpful if you’re trying to get a fuller picture of a company’s philanthropic activities.

14. Get More Out of Power Search

For FDO Professional subscribers, Power Search unlocks results from across many Foundation Center sources, including research report collections, our library catalog, and nonprofit sector news. Sarah Jo Neubauer of Foundation Center San Francisco offers this advice for making the most of this feature:

I like using Power Search to capture insights on how organized philanthropy has responded to current events. For instance, searching “Obamacare” OR "affordable care act" in Power Search reveals hundreds of grants, news articles via Philanthropy News Digest, and direct access to foundation-sponsored reports and case studies via IssueLab, all in one search. Just now, I searched Ebola and was able to download results of foundations making grants to fight the Ebola outbreak.

13. The Keyword-Search Two-Step

Janice Rosenberg, senior librarian at Foundation Center Washington, DC, offers a search strategy for finding results that go beyond our “controlled vocabulary” of search-index terms:

If someone is researching a topic that does not fit neatly into one of the Fields of Interest/Subjects terms in our search indexes, I suggest starting with Search Grants and entering the term(s) in Keyword. Then, I look at the Subject terms that Foundation Center uses when indexing those grants. (Only about 5-10 records need to be reviewed to get an idea of which terms the Center uses). It's a helpful way to discover Fields of Interest/Subjects that can then be used for searching both the Grantmaker and Grants areas of FDO.

12. Navigating the FDO Search Taxonomy

Speaking of the Fields of Interest/Subject/Recipient Type search indexes, those are very long lists of terms that can be a challenge for newer users. A few months ago, we added a feature to index search to help make that process easier. Look for the mini “filter box” at the top of the index, right above the alphabet menu, and start typing your search term. This will filter the choices to matching terms, and you can then select one or more of those, saving you time from hunting through the whole list letter by letter.

11. One More Thing About Those Search Terms

Did you know there’s a complete list of all the Field of Interest/Subject/Recipient Type terms? Go to the Help section and look in the table of contents for the Complete List of Search Index Terms link (PDF). From there, Sandy Pon suggests:

Print/bookmark the full list. Mark it up! Highlight terms that describe your mission, programs, population served. Or answer these questions: 1) Who are you serving? 2) What are you doing for them? The more terms that you can use to describe your project, the more funders you’ll find in FDO.

Try these out, and we’ll be back next month with five more! And, please share your own favorite tips and techniques!

Not an FDO subscriber? Now’s a great time to get on board so you can use these tips: until 11/30 1/31, new monthly subscribers can buy 3 months and get 1 additional month free! Plus, you’ll get a free FDO training webinar valued at $69. Select “Special Offer” at checkout!

 

August 27, 2014

Why Can't I Find That Foundation?

This is a cross-post of Sandy Pon's latest from the new GrantSpace blogSandy Pon is the lead editor for GrantSpace and the GrantSpace Blog. 

One frequent question that our Ask Us team gets, often fromFoundation Directory Online (FDO) subscribers, is “Why can’t I find the the foundation I’m looking for in FDO?” Understandably, they expect to be able to find every U.S. grantmaking foundation in our database. We do, too! Here are some reasons that make this an elusive goal:

It’s not a grantmaking organization

Not surprisingly, many people quickly assume that an org with “foundation” in its name makes grants. In fact, the term “foundation” on its own has no legal definition, so any org can use it in its name.

So before you get excited about discovering a new funding prospect, search the Internet or other sources to learn about its mission and activities, including whether or not it makes grants. (Can you think of an example of an org that has “foundation” in its title, but doesn’t make grants? Hint: It’s literally right in front of you. Answer is at the end of this post.)

It’s a public charity

Private foundations file Form 990-PF, so they’re easy to detect. However, grantmaking public charities file Form 990, the same form used by most nonprofits that  don’t make grants. Thus, they are harder to find unless we learn about them from the org itself, the news, or from members of the public, like you! Several public charities are in FDO, thanks to many of you who have asked about them.  

It’s not a separate organization

Some so-called foundations are actually donor-advised funds (DAFs). DAFs are separate funds or accounts maintained, operated, and legally controlled by an exempt sponsoring organization, like a community foundation, public charity, or a charitable fund.

Increasingly, individual donors are using donor-advised funds because they can direct how funds are invested and distributed, yet they can avoid the administrative requirements, operating costs, and public disclosure requirements involved with managing a separate private foundation. (Want more info about donor-advised funds? See this Knowledge Base Article.)

It’s a new foundation that was recently formed

The first time we will hear about most new foundations is when we get their initial Form 990-PFs from the IRS, at least one year later after they are established. Even then, many new foundations don’t start awarding grants until 2-3 years after they are initially funded.

If a new foundation is formed by a company or a high-profile or newsworthy individual, or if it’s formed with roughly $5-10 million or more in assets, our FDO editors will add those new entries based on news reports, telephone calls, and any websites available, even without a 990 in hand. But generally, they need some sort of proof first; otherwise, we’d have thousands of skeleton entries with nothing more than a name. What use is that?

It’s a foundation that was formed in another country

We're gradually adding more international grantmakers to FDO, but access to their information varies with each country. Meanwhile, for non-U.S. funders not listed in FDO, search the Internet to find their websites or news articles about them, or check the grantmaker association's website for their home countries.

How does this info help you become a better grantseeker?

If you can’t find info about a foundation that you know exists, that might prompt you to do some more investigation to figure out what kind of donor it is. Knowing the type of donor can inform so many subsequent steps, from research to cultivation to making the actual ask. In our next blog post, we'll talk about the tools that we use to answer this question, so you can use them, too. Even better, most of them are free! 

- Sandy Pon

Answer: Foundation Center! Do we get a lot of people asking us for grants? Yes. Good thing we’re not a grantmaker. We use these opportune moments to show how some quick Internet research into the org's mission and activities can avoid a bad first impression.)

August 22, 2014

Where are last year’s Form 990s?

This is a cross-post of Sandy Pon's post from the new GrantSpace blog.Sandy Pon is the lead editor for GrantSpace and the GrantSpace Blog. In her 11 years with the Foundation Center, Sandy has answered thousands of questions from our visitors about nonprofit grantseeking, fundraising, and management. Her experience also includes teaching and program design.

Our Ask Us team gets this question a LOT during the summer, more often than at other times of the year. Maybe it’s because most nonprofits have likely sent in their own 990s in mid-May.

May 15 is the first due date for filing 990s if your exempt org’s fiscal year ends on Dec. 31. But your org can request an automatic 3-month extension, plus an additional 3-month extension if needed. The second extension isn’t automatic, but it’s almost always granted. This means that Nov. 15 can be the latest date to file without penalties.

The filing date is just the IRS’s receipt date that gets stamped on the 990. It’ll take several more weeks for the IRS to scan it and then send it on DVDs, along with hundreds of other 990s, to us and other orgs that put 990s online, like GuideStar and Economic Research Institute. Thus, if your foundation prospect is a Nov. 15 filer (and a lot of foundations are), you might not see its 2013 990 online until early spring 2015. In other words, 12-15 months later.

This also partially explains the delay in providing updated foundation trends at Foundation Stats. (More about this in a future post.) We’d love a direct feed from the IRS so that when it gets a 990, we would get it at the same time. Until that happens, we’ll need to rely on the batches of DVDs that we receive from IRS every few months.

What’s better than a direct feed from IRS? A direct feed from the funders themselves. A growing number of foundations report their grants electronically to the Foundation Center, which means that their grants data is available sooner for our Research team to analyze, and for you to find in a search in Foundation Directory Online (FDO), our database of grantmakers, or on Glasspockets, a Center initiative that champions philanthropic transparency in an online world.

Why should you care about 990s, anyway?

These IRS forms may be the only source available to learn about past grants, especially for small foundations. Past grants can suggest a funder’s giving preferences and help you determine how much to request from a foundation. After all, you don’t want to ask for $50,000 when the funder seems to give only $5,000 to projects like yours, and vice versa.

990s include info on board members and key staff, as well as application guidelines. They are the basis for many FDO foundation profiles. Plus, you can view them for free at several websites, including our own 990 Finder.

Want to know more? See our Knowledge Base Article, “What is Form 990 or 990-PF? How can I learn about using them?”

Why does this info help you become a better grantseeker?

Now that you know about the typical lag time in getting 990s on the Internet, you can:

Save time by not searching for the most recent 990s when the funder hasn’t even submitted them yet. Instead, set a recurring reminder to look for it 2-3 months after the usual IRS receipt date, stamped on the 990.

Explore other ways to get the latest news about foundation prospects. Do they have websites? Do they use Twitter, Facebook, newsletters, other communications channels? Subscribe to them all. If any of your prospects is a large national foundation, Glasspockets has a colorful chart that quickly shows which communications channels they use.

Does the foundation provide an online grants archive, like Robert Wood Johnson Foundation? If yes, you’re in luck since most foundations don’t even have websites. Bookmark the archive and learn how it works. It’s probably easier to read and understand than the 990s, and it’ll likely have more details. See also this free world map at Glasspockets to explore recent grants from some of the world's largest foundations.

Try Google News Alerts or similar tools to get notified whenever news about the foundation is published online. You also can subscribe to nonprofit news sources, like The Chronicle of Philanthropy or our own PND.

What other tools & tricks do you use to get the latest scoop on your donors? Share if you care...share them in our Comments area. Thanks in advance!

 

August 11, 2014

How To Be Heard By Foundations Not Accepting Unsolicited Proposals

The question of how to attract the attention of foundations that give only to preselected organizations (by some estimates, this is as many as 60 percent of all foundations) is a vexing one, and one that we hear frequently from our FDO users, library visitors, and other constituents. Personally, I hear from many FDO users who simply click the "Exclude grantmakers not accepting applications" checkbox on their searches and never see other prospects. It's an understandable choice - why sift through record after record of funders who are indicating that they don't want to hear from you? - but it can limit your possibilities. 

So what do you do? Rick Cohen writes today for Nonprofit Quarterly on just this subject in a detailed and advice-filled post, Scaling the Wall: 5 Ways to Get Unsolicited Proposals Heard. Cohen suggests that the practice is not just widespread, but growing:

Plenty of respected foundations with solid track records of excellent grantmaking have decided to close the door on unsolicited proposals, too. [...] These are respected, admired foundations, all making it clear that without an invitation, you shouldn’t come knocking. It’s as if being able to submit unsolicited proposals or LOIs has become a quaint, nostalgic practice of a bygone era.

His suggestions on increasing visibility, building relationships, researching board and staff names, sending other information besides proposals, and working for change in philanthropy can be read in more detail in the full post.

For my part, when it comes to searching FDO I'd say by all means, click that checkbox to save yourself time and effort, but when you can, try your search without it and see what other potential prospects might make your "parking lot" list - the ones you can devote some time (I know, I know: what time?) to researching further to find professional connections or other ways of getting noticed. And for more tips, please visit our Grantspace Knowledge Base article on approaching these funders. 

June 27, 2014

Foundation Research Master Class

As a subscriber to Foundation Directory Online we’re pleased to offer a special rate for our Foundation Research Master Class, an unparalleled opportunity to learn how to use FDO's tools and databases in a new and more proficient way. Subscribers at any plan level can register for the class at the special $115 rate (normally $295).

Foundation Research Master Class covers how to turn preliminary search results into a targeted list of potential funders by learning technique to refine your strategies for finding and evaluating prospects. Learn to:

  • Translate your organization's needs into funding research strategies
  • Evaluate funders to determine the best fit for your organization
  • Identify funding prospects based on your location, subject fields, and activities
  • Get an in-depth tour of Foundation Directory Online Professional to help you more effectively use your subscription
  • Develop a targeted list of foundation prospects for relationship-building and fundraising

Get information and upcoming class dates on the registration page (in order to register at the FDO Professional rate, please call customer service with your Foundation Directory Online member ID or user name using the phone number listed on the registration page).

Besides this in-depth class, you can also always find introductory information on conducting funding searches with the free Introduction to Finding Funders class. Register for the next classroom session or view a recorded webinar version on the signup page on Grantspace