Back to Eye on FDO

Category: "Searching FDO" (31 posts)

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. 

March 08, 2014

Announcing FDO Enhancements and New Design

As you've no doubt noticed, Foundation Directory Online has a new look! But while the site's appearance may have changed and there are some more changes "under the hood," rest assured the way you use FDO day to day remains the same.

First, here is a little of what you can expect from the new version of the site:

  • Ranked results: When you use Power Search, results are now sorted by relevance so you don’t have to sift through pages of results. You can also choose which databases you want to search. (Professional feature only.)
  • Guided search functionality: With our new and improved index filtering options, you can find the perfect search term as you type. Plus, new ways to narrow your results lets you drill down to the right list of grantmakers with fewer searches.
  • Printer-friendly grantmaker profiles bring information from our database to your desk more easily.
  • The ability to e-mail lists of grantmakers and groups of grantmaker profiles gives you more options for taking the data out of the database in the way that works for you.
  • Mobile-friendly: The FDO site is now responsive, so you can easily use the application on tablets and smart phones.
  • Secure site: FDO will now live on a secure web site for added privacy. No need to update your bookmarks; you'll go right to the new secure site.

We welcome your feedback on the new site, and we're committed to continued improvements to meet users' needs. Feel free to email us using subject line "FDO Refresh" with your feedback and questions. 

 

September 16, 2013

Introducing FDO Free

We are pleased to announce the first in a series of improvements to Foundation Directory Online, beginning with the design of the log-in page. We especially want to call your attention to the location of the log-in area, which has moved to the top right-hand corner of the log-in screen, as shown above.

We're also pleased to announce the addition of Foundation Directory Online Free to the FDO suite of fundraising products. Replacing our former Foundation Finder tool, FDO Free is a new, improved way to quickly look up basic information about foundations by name, EIN, or location. And, with FDO Free, users get a glimpse into the wealth of additional information available through Foundation Directory Online that thousands of subscribers like you rely on as their essential fundraising tool. Rest assured, this change does not affect your subscription to FDO. But, for any of your friends or colleagues interested in learning more aboutFoundation Directory Online, FDO Free is a great place to start.

In the months ahead we will be making additional improvements to FDO based on feedback from users like you. Our goal is to provide the most accurate, comprehensive fundraising information available from the source you can trust: the Foundation Center. So stay tuned for more, and please don't hesitate to share with us your comments and suggestions on how we can make Foundation Directory Online even better.

November 28, 2012

IssueLab

PubHub is now IssueLab in Foundation Directory Online Professional Power Search results and on the Publications tab on grantmaker profiles. 

Earlier this year, the Foundation Center merged the PubHub database of foundation-sponsored research reports with IssueLab, a Chicago-based online publishing forum containing an extensive and diverse body of research produced by the philanthropic sector. What that means for FDO is that now when you run a Power Search, the publication results that come back are now pulled from a much larger pool of reports, produced by a larger segment of the sector than before. 

Learn more about IssueLab and explore the new platform. You don't have to change anything about how you use FDO Professional; just use Power Search as you always have, or click the Publications tab on a foundation profile. For non-Professional-level subscribers, you can get access to these features by upgrading your subscription.

October 15, 2012

Grant Milestone

Quick update: Foundation Directory Online just passed a milestone we're pretty proud of. There are now over 3 million grants in the Search Grants database!

The full set is available for searching in FDO Platinum and Professional. Plus includes the grants from the top 10,000 foundations (determined by total giving); Premium has the grants from the top 20,000. Our indexed grants are generally of $10,000 or above, although we do have a growing number grants of $1,000 or above from the largest foundations as well. Because several hundred foundations participate in our eGrant Reporters program sending records of their grants to us directly, we're able to publish those foundations' grants even before they're available in their 900-PFs. For example, a quick search in FDO Professional just now returned over 13,000 grants from 2012 (year authorized) and another 157,000 from 2011. 

We're always working hard to add more and more grants to the database while at the same time maintaining high standards for the accuracy and quality of our data. We hope this pays off for you in your search for funding.

May 15, 2012

FDO Techniques and Strategies

Philanthropy Front and Center posted a very thorough and useful overview of some search techniques and strategies that even seasoned users maybe not have tried recently — or at all. I've reposted a long excerpt below; be sure to click through to read the rest.

Explore Connections
FDO posts affiliation information for the trustees, officers, and donors of foundations, so, in addition to searching for board and staff working within a foundation by name (which you can do as a Keyword search), you can also:

Use the Trustees, Officers, and Donors search field to enter the name of a company ("Time Warner"); college or university ("Smith College"); nonprofit or association ("Harlem Children's Zone"); or institution ("New York Public Library") to find foundations whose board members, officers, or donors are associated with a company or institution with which your organization is also connected.

Find All the Angles
Power Search, the search engine within FDO that allows simultaneous searches of Foundation Center content, connects you to news and research that can make you a savvier grantseeker. For example:

Enter a phrase like "Venture philanthropy" in Power Search.
  • Your results will list the grantmakers that the Foundation Center classifies under this descriptor and the grants awarded in this subject.
  • The same search results will also point to news that keeps you current on the topic (since your funders may know a lot about it); to books and articles to broaden your perspective; a current grant opportunity that a funder has announced; and maybe even a job or two.

This is crucial in the data-rich and competitive environment in which nonprofits vie for support.

Online and Common Grant Applications
You can search Foundation Directory Online using the keywords "online application" (in quotes) to find foundations that are working with this type of format. You can also search for foundations in your area that accept the "common grant application" (in quotes, as well), and if these are available online, FDO will provide the link. 

Read the rest of the post to learn more about location-based searching and getting the most out of the Search Grants database.

March 30, 2011

What To Do About Grantmakers That Don't Accept Applications

No doubt at some point while using Foundation Directory Online you've encountered grantmakers—maybe a frustratingly large number of them—that do not accept applications, or as it states on the FDO profile, "contribute only to pre-selected organizations."

Why are there so many of them? And why are they in the database if they won't take your grant proposal?

There are good answers to both those questions, and plenty of reasons not to be dismayed. I'd strongly encourage all FDO users to read this brief, valuable FAQ from the GrantSpace knowledge base on this very topic.

First off, you can eliminate these grantmakers from your search results in one of two ways: by checking the "Exclude grantmakers not accepting applications" box on the search screen; or by selecting  Applications Accepted: Yes in the Narrow Your Results menu on your results list. But you might not want to eliminate those funders from your search; that might be closing a door unnecessarily.

I'd encourage you to take a look at funders that strongly match your search criteria and see which ones, if any, are particularly good matches for your organization and programs. If you find one, take a look at the list of their trustees and officers on their FDO profile and see if there's a connection to be made within your network. You can also consider a letter of introduction (as long as it's not a funding request!) outlining what you do and whom you serve.

With some good research, networking, and the right approach, there's no reason you can't one day be one of these foundations' "pre-selected organizations" too.

January 31, 2011

Enhancement: New Grant Record Fields

We recently enhanced Foundation Directory Online grant records by adding three new fields: fund name; fund type; and program name. These fields, which are part of the grantmaker info section in the grant record, lets us list some further information on how the grantmaker has classified the grant.

So how does this enhancement benefit you? It bolsters the power of your grant keyword search by offering additional fields where those keywords appear. Just search for the terms that you use anyway — describing types of awards like 'donor-advised' or 'discretionary,' for example, or describing areas of interest like 'arts & culture' or 'research' — and you can potentially get more grants in your results list. Besides the fields where terms like that might currently appear — our Subject and Recipient Type codes and the Grant Description text, where available — these three new fields offer additional text that FDO searches.

This enhancement currently applies to over 102,000 grant records in the database, a number that will only grow as we add new grants. Any subscriber to a plan level that includes the grants database — Plus, Premium, Platinum, and Professional (including Power Search) — can take advantage just doing the keyword searches you're already using.

August 14, 2009

Taxonomy Tip

I've mentioned before that the Foundation Center utilizes a standardized taxonomy when indexing, for example, the giving interests of grantmakers and the purpose of grants. This taxonomy is the backbone that enables subscribers to retrieve extremely targeted lists of results. But frequently, users will contact me to make a valid point: with a taxonomy consisting of over 1,100 terms, how does one know which term is being used for a particular area of interest? For example, if you're looking for support for a job-related program, how would you know that this area of interest falls under "Employment" in our taxonomy? Here's a simple tip that I think can help:

When you're stumped, use the Keyword Search field. Let's say you're looking for a grant for a pre-school curriculum program. If you enter "pre-school" in the Keyword Search field on the Search Grantmakers Screen, you'll retrieve a list of grantmaker records containing "pre-school" anywhere in the text of their profiles. Next, open up a few of the records and take a look at the Fields of Interest section. Chances are good that "Education, early childhood education" will be listed. That's the taxonomy term that we assign to funders that support organizations working in the area of pre-school curriculum. You might need to review a few records before you detect a trend that indicates the correct term for your area of interest. Then, you can go back to the Search Grantmakers Screen and select "Education, early childhood education" from the Fields of Interest index and retrieve a targeted list of all grantmakers identified by our editorial staff as supporters of early childhood education-related programs.

If you're a Plus subscriber or higher, I also encourage you to use the Search Grants database in the same way. With over 1.7 million grant descriptions, you'll find plenty of examples showing what taxonomy term is being used for any area of interest.