Prospect research is the process through which non-profit organizations identify foundations, corporate groups, government agencies, and individuals who might be interested in funding their work. By looking at a funder’s previous giving, funding priorities, and giving capacity, you can determine whether or not they might be a good fit for your organization.

Prospect research is one of the most powerful tools you can employ to scale the impact of your non-profit. At some of the most successful non-profit institutions, whole departments are devoted solely to this task, helping the organization locate new donors and funding sources and continue to grow.

For the purpose of this article, we are going to dive into foundation research.

What does foundation research look like?

In many cases, foundation research can be as simple as a quick Google search. The past giving and funding priorities of foundations, corporate groups, and government agencies is publicly available through their 990s, press releases, and public online resources. With a little digging, a surprising amount of information can be found.

However, the true potential of foundation research is realized through specialized search engines which compile all the relevant information for you. Using a keyword search, you can quickly locate all the funders operating in your specific niche, making it much more efficient than organic research.

Additionally, foundation research search engines allow you to get as specific or general as you desire. Looking for funders who’ve funded projects right in your neighborhood? Foundation research search engines can do that for you. Alternatively, if you’re just starting out and looking to cast a wide net, you can execute a more general search and get a big picture view of the funding landscape in your general program area.

What are the major foundation research search engines?

There are a number of foundation search engines out there, but this blog will focus on the two major search engines that we use here at LSC: Foundation Directory Online (FDO) and Foundation Search (FS).

Foundation Search is North America’s leading source of funding information for non-profits and charities. It provides funding information, fundraising education, and consulting services to over 5,000 clients. Their database includes 120,000 foundations, representing billions of dollars in annual granting. It usefully includes tools to locate grants by type, value, year, recipient, donor and historical giving trends, and much more. 

Foundation Directory Online has over 235,000 funder profiles and information on over 1,100,000 key decision makers and leaders in the philanthropic sector. Much like Foundation Search, it includes a handful of useful tools that filter this expansive database of funder information in order to locate the best funding sources for your organization.

How does LSC approach foundation research?

The good news is that we at LSC are experts in foundation research. Not only does our team include 2 PhD researchers, but LSC is also a member of both Foundation Directory Online and Foundation Search. We have the expertise to get the most out of these search engines, using advanced search functions to identify the best matches for our clients, and ensuring that they have access to a diverse cache of potential funders.

LSC provides strategic fundraising planning sessions where we discuss the mission and the long- and short-term goals of your organization. We look at your environment, your partnerships, your comparison organizations and who their funders are, as well as second-degree connections to request introductions to foundation staff. We scour the search engines for you, sifting through the thousands of options to find the foundations with the highest chance of success for your unique organization. Next, we create a Fund Development Calendar, a spreadsheet in which we list the foundations whose missions align with yours, organized by deadline. This list is researched and gathered by our professional researchers who understand non-profit organizational development. We then review the list with you to find connections and discuss the best approach for reaching out. Our goal is to speak directly to someone at the foundation and introduce your organization and programs rather than submit a cold Letter of Inquiry (LOI) or proposal. 

There are millions of funders out there, and LSC will help you find the funder that is right for you.

LSC Success Stories

LSC has helped dozens of organizations achieve their maximum potential through comprehensive foundation research, helping them identify possible funders and scale their impacts. 

When COVID-19 struck the Bronx, We Stay/Nos Quedamos quickly pivoted to meet the most drastic issues facing their community. Together with LSC, they used Foundation Center Online to locate emergency relief funding in their borough and fund transformative community projects at a critical time.

For the past three years, Youth Ministries for Peace & Justice (YMPJ) have worked with LSC on fund development projects. During that time, YMPJ has located and developed relationships with a variety of new funders and strengthened their financial stability. With a cache of new resources accessible to them, YMPJ is now able to pursue some of their most aspirational goals and achieve impacts they never thought possible for their community.

LSC Can Help

Foundation research, when done properly, can be one of the most effective fundraising strategies in your toolkit. Often, there are perfect matches right in your neighborhood looking to fund projects exactly like yours the only problem is that you aren’t aware of each other.

Relying on Google searches, organic networking, and word of mouth can leave gaps in your organization’s funding resources. Without comprehensive research, money can be left on the table and new relationships can go undiscovered.

Unfortunately, in our industry, bandwidth is always limited, and it can be hard to devote adequate time to this sometimes tedious task. That’s where LSC can help. Our team of experienced development professionals, dedicated solely to making the most of the resources and funding that may be available to you, can be an invaluable resource for your organization. We can implement a comprehensive fund development plan; diversify your revenue base; offer strategic support for you to approach, develop, and strengthen donor relationships; and give you access to the best foundation directory databases in the business, freeing you up to focus on strengthening your organization and unlocking the potential of your mission.

Don’t leave money on the table and reach out to learn more about our Fund Development program, and maximize the impact of your organization.

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