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Finding the Best Nonprofit Grants: Grant Research Strategies

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Learn more about how your organization can identify valuable grants for your nonprofit.


As a new nonprofit organization, securing enough funding to get your organization off the ground is one of your top priorities. If you’re looking for extra support to cover the costs of operational expenses, fundraising activities, programs, or nonprofit software, you might consider applying for a grant for additional funding.

Nonprofit grants are impactful funding opportunities, but finding and securing the best grants requires in-depth research. The following strategies will help you jumpstart your grant research process and secure the resources your nonprofit needs to thrive.

1. Determine the type of grants you’re seeking

Start by consulting your budget and reflecting on your organization’s most pressing needs. For instance, do you need to fund a specific project? Do you need cash or would you accept goods as well? Write out a list of areas and projects a grant could potentially support, starting with your top priorities.

Then, explore the following types of grants to determine which would be the best fit for your nonprofit:

  • Program grants: These grants fund a specific project or program and can only be used for that program For example, you might apply for a grant to start a free after-school program for at-risk youth.
  • Technology grants: Some grants provide funds to improve your nonprofit’s technology. For instance, you could use a grant to pay for new donor management software or a virtual event platform.
  • In-kind grants: Any grant that provides non-monetary support is considered in-kind. These grants might provide you with office supplies, construction services, free advertising space, or a service like legal advice.
  • Capital grants: If your nonprofit is launching a capital campaign to buy property, build a new facility, or create infrastructure to serve your community, you may seek out capital grants.

These grants can be provided by three main types of grantmakers: government agencies, foundations, and corporations. When researching grants from the government, make sure that they’re either federal or come from the state your nonprofit operates in — otherwise, you may not be eligible. Foundations and corporations have their own unique restrictions, so pay close attention to the requirements listed for each one.

2. Leverage online grant databases

For grantmaking organizations, a crucial part of the pre-award phase of the grants lifecycle is sharing the funding opportunity across various channels. Typically, these channels include online grant databases like and GrantStation that any nonprofit can access. Once you know what you’re looking for, explore these publicly available grant databases to find large collections of opportunities to research further.

As you explore these databases, make sure to narrow down your search using filters. You might filter results by:

  • The type of grant you’re searching for
  • Types of eligible organizations
  • Causes or cause areas
  • Location
  • Application deadline

With these filters, search relevant keywords to find grants that align with your unique purpose. For example, if your cat rescue organization needs a technology grant to better serve the community, you might search for “technology funding,” “animal shelter grants,” “animal rescue,” and “cat nonprofits.”

3. Note all eligibility requirements

After searching through grant databases, choose several relevant grant opportunities to research further. Pay close attention to the application requirements from the beginning to avoid spending too much time researching grants you may not be eligible for.

Record detailed notes about the rules and application criteria for every grant opportunity to look into. These might include:

  • Eligible organizations and cause areas: Most grantmakers require recipient organizations to be registered 501(c)(3)s, but some grants may be restricted by the type of cause you support.
  • Application requirements and deadlines: It typically takes at least two weeks to write and finalize a grant proposal, so be sure each grant you research has an application deadline that gives you enough time to prepare.
  • Grant restrictions: If you’re awarded the grant, what are the exact restrictions on the funds? Would these restrictions allow you to pay for what you need?
  • Recordkeeping and reporting requirements: To ensure you comply with grant restrictions and provide grantmakers with reports on the grant’s impact, each one has specific requirements for recording and reporting how you use the grant.

Many grantmakers use specialized software to manage their grant applications, approvals, and disbursements that may require you to take an eligibility quiz before applying for a grant. These systems may also take additional measures to verify your organization’s eligibility, such as by checking IRS databases to verify your tax-exempt status.

4. Prioritize grants that align with your purpose

Just like a sponsor needs to be relevant to your nonprofit’s cause to consider supporting you, grantmakers want to award grants to organizations that are aligned with their goals and interests. Because of this, it’s in your best interest to prioritize grants and grantmaking organizations that clearly align with your organization’s purpose.

For instance, a water conservation organization can (and should!) apply for more generic environmental grants. However, if this nonprofit finds grants or grantmaking corporations with a specific interest in providing clean water, ocean conservation, or a similar cause, they should prioritize the more clearly cause-aligned options that they have a better chance of winning.

To find out more about how aligned you are with a specific grantmaker, research their past activities and the organizations they’ve awarded grants to before. Prioritize those who have given to similar nonprofits or projects in the past.


Using these research strategies is only the beginning of the process. After finding the best grants to apply for, you’ll need to develop in-depth grant proposals and applications for each one. If you’re awarded a grant, your organization must comply with all usage and reporting requirements, too. Be prepared for every aspect of the process, and your nonprofit will be in a better position to secure and get the most out of your chosen grant.

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