Digging Deep into the Foundation Directory Online

I have been conducting quite a bit of funder research lately, which has given me an opportunity to further develop my foundation research strategies. 


I’d like to share some lessons learned from digging deep into the Foundation Directory Online (FDO):


  1. Be aware of how the list of grants in the grantmaker’s profile is created.


The grants listed in a grantmaker’s profile usually pertain only to the search criteria that you entered (I have encountered anomalies). Sometimes it is beneficial to “View All” and expand the criteria to gain a more complete understanding of a grantmaker.


  1. Be careful when considering the most common grant amount.


The “Most Common Grant Amount” stated in the grantmaker’s profile pertains only to 1) the grants that match the search criteria, and 2) the mode. The mode is the value in a dataset that appears the most often. Ir there are ten grants listed, and two of them are each $1,000, and the remaining eight are each for unique amounts but all exceed $100,000, the most common grant amount will be $1,000. This can be misleading.


  1. Amount Funded vs. Grant Count vs. Grant Amount


In the search results, “Amount Funded” pertains to the amount funded within the search criteria. “Grant Count” column pertains the number of grants made within the search criteria. If the amount funded is $100,000 but the grant count is 50, the funder may have made a lot of small grants. I often look at amount funded and grant count to narrow results.


To only view grantmakers that have made grants of a certain size, for example, $10,000 or more, you can use the “Grant Amount” tool. Your results will only include grantmakers that have made single grants of at least that size within your search criteria (this is different from “amount funded!”). If the biggest grant a funder has ever made within your search criteria was $1,000, they will not appear in your results, even if they have a high grant count or amount funded. Adding this criterion will impact other information, including the Amount Funded, Grant Count, Grants list, and Most Common Grant Amount.


  1. When viewing the “What is Being Funded” bar chart, be aware of the great diversity of subcategories.


Perhaps you are searching for potential funders of a soup kitchen. “Human services” appears as the top funding category. Great! However, when you click on the bar and drill down into the graphs, you see that most funding has gone for youth development Does this mean that the grantmaker won’t ever fund basic and emergency aid again? No. But has it been a priority? No.


There is a lot to consider here when considering how to use these tools and information in your strategic grant research process.

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