Grant Writing
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Top 5 Tips for Grant Seeking Charities – Part 1

How to Know if a Foundation is “The One” for You

If you’re a non-profit looking to find long-lasting grant love, I’ve got great news. There are a whopping 11,150 grant-giving foundations in Canada who together donate charity grants of  $7billion each year!i  

What does this mean for you, dear charity? It means over 11,000 potentially perfect partners who share your passion and purpose. A sea of opportunity to meet your true funder love connections and turn your organization’s biggest, wildest, difference-making visions into reality.   

Shift your Mindset

So, let’s flip the switch on the scarcity mindset, and focus on the abundance of potential out there. Because if you go about your search for grants the right way, your biggest challenge is going to be narrowing down the list of possible partners and focusing on those truly worthy of your good loving.   

Of course, the single best way to maximize your success of securing funding is by applying to the right foundations. The ones that tick all the boxes for your organization. But how do you know if a foundation is “the One” for you? 

If you follow the blog, you know I never throw out a question without offering a tried-and-true answer. Over the next few posts, I’ll offer the top 5 things to consider when searching for charity grants. And what better place to start than the number one thing to prioritize when narrowing down your list of potentials.  

#1. Giving Interests & Passions

The single, most important thing to look for in a potential funding partner is the alignment of passions, interests, and values between the grant-maker and your charity. Just like a successful love connection, you’re searching for a funding match made in heaven – a grantmaker that shares your charity’s interest, enthusiasm, and commitment to the cause you support.

Practically speaking? Start by narrowing down your list of potentials by charitable sector. From religion, the arts, and health care to social services, animal welfare, or the environment, all foundations have areas they like to fund – also known as interests, sectors, or programs. While most funders award grants to charities representing a variety of interests, they’ll often give larger or more frequent grants to one or two areas they’re truly passionate about.   

Where can you find this information? Some foundations have an online presence where they share the sectors they support along with their mission, values, and grantmaking guidelines. A quick look at their website will usually provide enough info for you to decide whether the funder is a good fit. Here’s the bad news: most foundations prefer to keep a low profile and don’t have much – if any – of an online presence.  

Grant Search Engines – An Essential Fundraising Tool 

What’s a charity to do? Take heart. The information is out there. It’s just extremely time-consuming to find and often misleading. That’s where a good grant search engine comes in allowing you to look up foundations based on the area of interest, giving history, location, and a host of other factors.  

My personal favorite grants database is Grant Advance because it produces user-friendly charts, graphs, and lists to help make sense of the data and determine if a grant funder is right for you. Check out the example below. 

User-friendly Pie Chart of a Canadian Foundation’s Grants Awarded by Charitable Sector 

Source: Grant Advance Solutions Inc., 2022

Bonus Tip: When you’re in Grant Advance, hover over each segment of the pie chart to see the number of grants awarded to each sector.  

A quality foundation database also reveals hidden trends behind the data – and this is so important. Like everything in life, foundations and their giving interests change over time. While a foundation may have focused its granting to one area when it was first created, it’s very likely to evolve to include other interests or shift to supporting new sectors entirely as time goes by.  

That’s why the best grant search engines use extensive data on giving history to determine a foundation’s interests, and then compile this information for users in a way that’s accessible and easy to understand.  

Million Dollar Data? 

Take the foundation above, for example. According to its CRA filings, its areas of support are social & human services, health, environment, and education. Great! If you work for a charity in any of these four areas, this foundation is a fit for you, right? It certainly looks promising. Until you take a closer look at giving history.  

A few clicks in Grant Advance shows the vast majority – over $6M – of this foundation’s grants are awarded to community charities – a sector that’s not among their list of interests. Now, if you work at a community-focused charity, this could be million-dollar information. At the very least, it’s worth exploring this funder further – and you won’t have this knowledge without using a dedicated grant search database. 

What about social & human services – a sector that’s also listed on CRA as among their interests? This area makes up $3.5M of their granting, with religion and sports & recreation falling in third and fourth.  

The bottom line? Three-quarters of the foundation’s specified interest areas – health, education, and environment – receive a relatively small amount of their grants. It’s useful information when deciding where to invest valuable time and money on grant applications.   

Hidden Trends: User-friendly Graph of a Canadian Foundation’s Grants Awarded by Charitable Sector 

Image from Grant Advance Solutions Inc.


What can you learn from this? Don’t rely solely on a foundation’s identified sectors of support, especially if the information is from the CRA database or an outdated website. A more reliable way to figure out a grantmaker’s areas of interest is by reviewing its giving history. There are exceptions, of course, such as is if you’ve spoken with the key decision-maker at the foundation directly, and they’ve expressed their interests to you – the topic of another series! 


If you already know the name of a foundation and want to look up their past grants awarded or find their contact information, another great tool is the CRA’s online searchable List of Charities database.ii Here you’ll find the same raw data grant search engines use, minus the user-friendly presentation and hidden data analysis. Still, it’s a good resource if you know what you’re looking for from the start.  

A Wish for You 

So, dear charity, I hope you realize the abundance of opportunity that exists for your amazing cause – over 11,000 foundations with hearts that care, interests to share, and money to spare. I hope you settle for nothing less than committed funding partners whose passions align with your grandest hopes and visions. And I hope you invest wisely in the resources and tools you need to ensure no time is wasted and no opportunity is missed in your worthy pursuit of world-changing, life-saving magic.  

By Laura Ralph, Fund Development Advisor
Laura is a writing wizard with more than a decade of experience in higher education and medical fundraising.



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