Treat Grant Research Like a Jigsaw Puzzle

Researching grantmakers is an art that each individual grant professional creates a system for based on the variety of tools that they become comfortable with. Regardless of which tools you use to conduct your grant research, or whether you are focused more on government than foundation, or looking for funding to support one project or five, I find it helpful to approach grant research the way you might a jigsaw puzzle.


Step 1: Find your boundaries


When I first started teaching my daughters (who were much younger at the time!) to make jigsaw puzzles, I showed them how you can sort out the edge pieces. 


In grant research, to me that means setting your search parameters. Geography limits? Keywords to try? Specific types of funding needed?

Grant Research

Step 2: Assess what you have


When putting the jigsaw puzzle together, after you have sorted for the edge pieces, it is time to see if you can put them all together. You now have a sense of the size and orientation of the overall puzzle and can also see if there are any edge pieces missing.


In your grant research, by testing your parameters by running some initial queries you can see if you have found enough funders to consider or perhaps your criteria was too constrained and you want to expand your search.


You might also find that despite your careful sorting, you are surprised by something in your initial research and perhaps you have a new keyword or search criteria to try to ensure your boundaries for your research are complete.

Grant Research

Step 3. Complete the picture


Once you have the edge of the puzzle complete, now you can start to find, group, and connect similarly colored pieces. You can focus on key elements of the puzzle whether a mountain, an animal, or a structure.


When focusing on your grant research you fill in your picture by learning the details of specific grantmakers. Whose funding priorities align with which of your organization’s resource needs/priorities? Whose funding grant award cycles are best aligned with your upcoming project? Who will require matching funds? You might not have all the pieces in place before you start implementing your grant seeking strategy and pursuing individual deadlines. What you will usually have though are increasing clarity about each individual funder you have identified as part of the larger puzzle, and as each funder’s portion of the puzzle becomes clear, you will have enough information to reach out and start building a relationship with the grantmaker.

Grant Research


What other analogies do you have that help you think about your approach to grant research? Our team would love to hear, so let us know in the comment section below.

Looking for some additional support for your grant research efforts? Be sure to download our FREE Grant Research Toolkit.


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