June 05, 2017

FDO Guest Blog Series: Top 5 Questions About Soliciting Grants (From Harbor Compliance)

We're excited to announce a new guest blog series, brought to you by Foundation Directory Online. On a monthly basis we want to share with you insights from industry experts that we think are essential to fundraising success. Topics could include how to approach federal funding, how to talk to funders, how to diversify your funding sources, and more! 

First up? This post from Harbor Compliance, a trusted source used by 10,000+ organizations to ensure their licensing is in order. See the answers to the top 5 questions they receive around grant solicitation below, and make a plan to make sure your organization stays compliant with each grant application!

Top 5 Questions About Soliciting Grants

Did you know that applying for grant funding is considered soliciting in nearly all states? Yes, you heard us right. Before you write that grant application – or hire someone to write it for you – be sure you understand state charitable registration requirements! Below, we break down five common questions surrounding grant solicitation.


  1. Does applying for grant funding mean we are soliciting?

Forty-one states require registration for nonprofits that solicit contributions within their borders. “Soliciting” takes place in many forms: mail, email, online, special events, and more. What might surprise you is that in most states, applying for grant funding is also considered soliciting.

Generally, nonprofits are required to register prior to soliciting in most states. That means if you plan to apply for a grant, you must look at state registration requirements before you consider applying. Additionally, many grantmakers require applicants to submit proof of state registration with their request for funding. By registering properly, you not only help ensure compliance with state laws, but also demonstrate a higher sense of responsibility to the grantmaker.

  1. We apply for grant funding. Now where do we register?

Registration generally takes place where the foundation giving the grant is located, and not necessarily where your organization operates. For example, if you run a Pennsylvania nonprofit, you are probably registered with the Charities Bureau of the Pennsylvania Department of State. However, by seeking grant funding from a New York foundation, you generally must comply with the solicitation laws of New York State as well.

If applying for grants is a major part of your fundraising, it’s important to research and plan before jumping headfirst into an application:

  • Check where the grantmaker is located, and whether that state has a registration requirement.
  • See if the grantmaker has any additional compliance requirements, like a copy of your IRS determination letter or state charity license.
  • Create a plan to become compliant with applicable requirements, including foreign qualifying the nonprofit corporation and appointing a registered agent where required.

Keep in mind, most charities solicit beyond just grants. Sending mail, email newsletters, and even having a “Donate Now” button on your website can trigger registration requirements nationwide.

Proactive registration not only helps you achieve full fundraising compliance – it gives you total peace of mind, too.

  1. Does the grant amount affect the requirement to register?

In most states, the act of solicitation triggers registration – not the amount of the grant. Stick to the mantra, “If you intend to apply, you have to comply.” In some states, your organization might be exempt from filing a full registration to solicit based on your total revenue or activities. However, the grant amount may impact your need to file if it is so large that your organization no longer qualifies for an exemption. Again, it’s important to understand how state requirements apply to your organization.

Registration requirements also do not depend on whether you even receive the grant. As you probably know, merely applying for grant funding does not guarantee that you will receive it. Registering to solicit in order to apply for a grant runs a certain amount of risk and reward. However, by registering proactively, you can quickly seek out the next opportunity and be prepared when it emerges.

  1. What if we use a professional grant writer to help us?

Using a professional fundraiser or fundraising consultant in any capacity, including applying for grants, may trigger additional registration requirements for both parties. For example, in Louisiana, nonprofits are generally not required to register unless they use a professional fundraiser. In many states, professional fundraisers and fundraising consultants must also register and maintain their own licenses.

Without the proper credentials, both your nonprofit and the professional fundraiser or fundraising consultant can face penalties for noncompliance. At the same time, your nonprofit may be confronted with an inflexible deadline to become registered – or you could lose the grant opportunity altogether. Don’t let the funds you spend on a grant writer go to waste. Be sure you and your professional are compliant prior to engaging with them.

  1. What’s the best way to manage compliance?

Whether you apply for grants in one state or all 41, you must comply with various state charity registration requirements. Before you solicit, be sure to research state requirements, budget for the time and cost of registration, and take action to get registered proactively in each state where required. Once you become registered, develop a system to manage and submit your renewals on time. Ultimately, choosing compliance confirms your credibility to grantmakers and donors alike, and allows you to solicit without borders.

Keeping up with requirements across multiple states can slow you down and divert time and energy from pursuing your organization’s mission. Harbor Compliance provides full-service charitable solicitation management to accurately keep track of the research, application, monitoring, and renewal of your registrations in each state. The empowers you to focus on what matters most: meeting your nonprofit’s mission.

Contact Harbor Compliance today to strengthen your mission and fundraising efforts.


About the author:

Kim O’Brien, Editor for Harbor Compliance, brings a decade of news, public relations, and lobbying experience to help nonprofits navigate fundraising in the digital age. Headquartered in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Harbor Compliance partners with businesses and nonprofits in every state and over 25 countries to help solve the most challenging registration requirements. Harbor Compliance’s clients range from the largest organizations in the country to fast-growth startups.


May 22, 2017

FDO Now Includes Federal Grant Data

You might have noticed that there are some added terms and search functions on your FDO search page.  FDO Professional now includes profiles and information on past grants awarded for federal funders, increasing the different types of funders included in FDO Professional to four.  To include these funders in your search, simply check the “Include Government Grantmakers” box on the search page. You can also explore the profiles of over 200 grantmakers by selecting “Governmental Organization” or “Governmentally-linked Foundation” in the “Type of Grantmaker” search field. When looking at your results any federal grantmaker will be marked by a special icon so you can easily identify them, and data can go back over the last three years.

If you come across a government grantmaker that you would like to pursue for open grant application opportunities, check to see if your organization qualifies on grants.gov.  It’s important to keep in mind that while government grantmakers have a high total giving amount, this amount is usually distributed amongst many organizations on a national scale.  You’ll be able to determine the dollar amount of a grant and upcoming grant opportunities by clicking on the forecasting site listed in the grantmaker profile. 

Sometimes the turnaround time can be short from when a RFP is posted, and when grant applications are due. Try to get ahead of your peers by monitoring legislation related to your mission, as well as following government officials on social media who tend to focus on developing legislature related to you work. You may get a head start learning about a bill that is close to passing, and would result in funding allocation to your area!

NOTE: At this time FDO only contains federal grants.

You can now see LinkedIn profiles in FDO! But why is that important?

The LinkedIn feature in each grantmaker profile in FDO allows you to use your connections to key members of a grant making organization to begin conversations that might lead to more funding for your non-profit.  Maximize the impact of this feature by connecting with your colleagues, board members and peers in your field in LinkedIn so that you’ll have access to their networks. A majority of funders say they prefer to have a conversation with prospective grantees before they receive their grant proposal, so use this tool as a way to connect to the grantmaker early in the application process!

Where do I find this feature? If a staff member has a LinkedIn profile, you will see a icon next to their name in the grantmaker's profile. Simply click on the icon to be brought to their LinkedIn profile.

How else is the integration with LinkedIn helpful? It’s very common to want to click the “Exclude grantmakers not accepting applications” button when doing a search for a list of prospects, but to do so could be costing you a future funding opportunity.  With some strategizing, and with the help of your network, these funders can still be a prospective funder for your organization.   As long as the grantmaker’s giving priorities and average grant size match your organization’s needs, a conversation sparked by a mutual connection can lead to future funding opportunities!

Helpful Tip:  Make sure you are connected to your board members on LinkedIn and check to see if they have any ties to board members of prospective grantmakers.  If you find that a grantmaker would be interested in funding your organization based on their interest in your subject area and location, and you also find that they’re connected to one of your board members, discuss with your board member the best way you can reach out.  Below is an example of an outreach letter of a board member’s connection to a board member of a grant making organization:

Dear Ms. Jones:

My name is Samara Baker. My colleague/friend/relationship, Micah Harold, is a trustee on your board and suggested that I connect with you regarding your work to increase adult literacy in the Hartford area. My organization, Hartford Reads, specializes in managing successful adult volunteer tutoring programs at public libraries throughout the Hartford area. Last year, we were able to connect 575 adults in the community with tutors to help them increase their reading skills. On average, 84% of the adults we serve in reach fifth grade level their first year; 93% of those who continue services for a second year complete our program reading at the high school  level.

Given your excellent work throughout Hartford in supporting literacy programs for children, youth and adults, and your support of programs that complement our work, I was hoping we might be able to meet discuss how we may be able to partner on this issue. Please let me know at your earliest convenience if and when you might be available. I look forward to the opportunity to speak with you and learn more about your work.

Thank you,


October 19, 2016

New Visualization Feature in Select Plans

Now you can quickly identify a prospect list based on common funders with your FDO account through Funding Pathways. Pathways, a new feature added to Preferred and Professional plans, is your direct connection to foundations who have already expressed an interest in funding causes like yours, as well as to potential partners who share funding sources with you.

Simply enter the name of a nonprofit or foundation, and you’ll be able to see their recent funding activity, leading to an automatic prospect list to kick off your grant fundraising! See an example below for the Alcoa Foundation and three of their grantees:

  Pathways sample

Log into your FDO account now, and click the Pathways banner on your account homepage to start identifying collaborations and new sources of funding!

Your first Pathways visualization will prepopulate automatically starting with your organization (if available), or subject area and geographic focus.

Not a Preferred or Professional subscriber? Upgrade today to get access to this new tool by following these steps:

1. Log into your FDO account
2. Select "Account" at the top followed by "Upgrade Your Subscription" on the next page
3. Select Preferred or Professional plan

Happy fundraising!

January 29, 2016

FDO Release Notes - 1-29-2016

New Account Profile Fields

You may notice next time you log into FDO a message prompting you to update your profile information if you haven’t done so recently. We’re asking for two reasons: For one, it’s always a good idea to make sure we have up to date contact information so we can better serve your account for billing and other issues; for another, we recently added a few new fields to signups. These fields, including information on organization type, size, and subject area, help us understand our users better so we can continue to build a service that best meets the needs of its users.

Please take a moment to go into the Account area, click Update my Profile, and make sure your profile is up to date.

Upgrading to Annual Contract Plans Enabled

Last summer we began offering new subscribers the option of subscribing to an annual plan paid in monthly installments, while still maintaining the existing monthly, annual, and biannual plans as well. If you choose this new option, you are agreeing to maintain your subscription for 12 months – just like an annual subscription – making monthly payments at a lower rate than the regular monthly plan. While you are subject to a penalty fee if you cancel early, that fee will never be more than three months’ payments in total.

We have now added that plan as an option available as an upgrade option for existing subscribers. If you are interested in moving your monthly subscription to this new annual contract plan, simply go to your Account area and select Upgrade. You will get information on the contract plan, pricing, and the early-termination penalty. You will have access to all the same features and data in your current plan; only your payment terms will change.

As always, please keep an eye on this blog for information on new FDO releases as well as search techniques and other valuable fundraising tips.

January 13, 2016

Update Central Announcement

Update Central is currently undergoing significant system maintenance and bug fixing. 

Owing to this, Update Central emails and state reports are unavailable and the data in the monthly table is not being updated. Please check back next month (February 2016) when this work should be complete. We apologize for any inconvenience in the meantime.

Update Central is an FDO feature available to Professional subscribers that allows you to see new grantmakers, grantmakers with recent changes to their profiles, and high-growth grantmakers. Users can see monthly totals for those funders, create an alert to receive the monthly totals by email, and run reports to see funders for the above categories by state.

December 09, 2015

FDO Release Notes - 12-9-15

We will post occasional — usually every three weeks — release notes in this space collecting new features, recent fixes, and other changes. 

What's New/Changed

We have added a preview of grantmaker's giving data to all subscription plan levels. Pointing a mouse over a grantmaker's name on the results screen will reveal a window showing total assets and giving, the funder's URL, top three subject areas funding according to available grant data, high and low grant dollar amounts, and links to news items from Philanthropy News Digest. All grant data used is from the last five years of grants authorized. Fields will only appear if data is available, as not all funders will have linked news items or tabulated grant data to pull from.

All search results screens have been slightly redesigned: the Saved Search option now appears with the search criteria; New and Modify Search buttons are more prominently displayed; and the "Search Within" fields has been renamed "Add Keyword" and moved to the Narrow Your Results field along with the other available search refinements.


Fixed issues with billing subscription upgrades and with the subscription confirmation screen loading properly.


Data updates have resumed after eight weeks of being held static for testing and troubleshooting the new Foundation Center database. Updates of grantmaker, company, grant, and 990 will continue weekly.

December 04, 2015

FDO Subscriber Holiday Celebration in Washington DC

Attention Washington, DC-area nonprofit professionals: Foundation Center and Loeb & Loeb would like to invite you to a holiday reception to thank you for being a part of our communities! Please join us on Monday, December 14th to connect with social sector peers and enjoy an evening of cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and giveaways at Acadiana.

Mingle with Foundation Center staff and the attorneys in the Nonprofits and Exempt Organizations Practice at Loeb & Loeb to gain expertise on growing your nonprofit and fostering social innovation within your communities. Ask us about essential fundraising and legal resources for your organization.

Only a few seats left — reserve your spot today! RSVP for you and your guest to ensure admission.

November 12, 2015

Special Event for Bay Area FDO Subscribers

For many organizations, a capital campaign is the largest fundraising endeavor they will ever undertake. 

For Foundation Directory Online subscribers and their guests near our San Francisco office, get the scoop on recent giving trends that affect capital campaigns and learn secrets to running a successful campaign for your organization from expert Marilyn Bancel, Principal of The Oram Group, a consultant to philanthropic organizations.

The evening will begin with a networking happy hour where you can connect with Marilyn, Foundation Center staff, and other social sector peers!

In this session you will learn:

  • What is a capital campaign?
  • What does a capital campaign need to succeed?
  • What are the recent trends in giving that most affect capital campaigns?

Register here!

Thursday, December 3, 2015 from 5:30PM to 8:00PM (PST)

Foundation Center - 312 Sutter Street. 2nd Floor. San Francisco, CA 94108 -View Map

October 26, 2015

FDO Release Notes - 10-26-15

We will post occasional - usually biweekly - release notes in this space collecting new features, recent fixes, and other changes. 

What's New/Changed

The default sort order for grantmaker searches is now Total Giving, from highest to lowest (was previously alphabetical). Company search (Pro only) remains alphabetical; grant searches are now Year Authorized, most recent first; and 990 searches are year, most recent first.

The site will "remember" any change to the sort options on any search screen, so if you prefer another sort option, simply set it once and the site will use it for future searches. 


Fixed an issue where irregular site traffic caused error messages on searches and slow site performance.

Password security improvements.


Database update transfers remain paused while new databases undergoes testing.