FDO vs. GrantStation vs. Instrumentl: Which Tool is Best for You in 2023
When it comes to prospect research, grant discovery platforms like Instrumentl are vital tools to support your efforts to find new grants and RFPs. But with so many grant discovery platforms on the market, you will need to identify which one will best support your nonprofit’s specific needs.
This article will go through the features of three popular grant discovery platforms: Instrumentl vs. GrantStation vs. Foundation Directory Online. You'll understand how these top grant discovery platforms compare to each other, and identify how these tools can help you increase your nonprofit’s revenue.
Let’s get started!
FDO vs. GrantStation vs. Instrumentl Features
Evaluating the key features of each grant discovery platform will help you ultimately decide which is best for your nonprofit organization.
In the following section, we will breakdown these key features of each:
Finding Foundations and RFPs
Tracking Prospects and Submissions
Collaboration and Reporting
Before diving into these different features, here’s a quick overview of FDO, GrantStation, and Instrumentl.
FDO is managed by Candid, an information service for nonprofit organizations and nonprofit managers to access educational resources, including webinars and trainings, and published reports on philanthropic sector news and trends.
GrantStation gives grantseekers the ability to pinpoint funders and opportunities.
GrantStation also provides resources to guide individuals and organizations through the grantseeking process, such as special conferences and an online blog that publishes industry trends related to grants and the philanthropic sector.
Instrumentl is a comprehensive, high-quality fundraising platform that connects grant and foundation discovery, project tracking, reporting, and collaboration together into one convenient place.
Instrumentl prioritizes efficiency, combining similar tools available from other top grant discovery platforms with a well-designed, easy-to-use interface. Instrumentl also offers unique resources such as grant writing courses, webinars, e-books, and guides to ensure nonprofits are well prepared to successfully seek out and obtain grants.
Now let’s spend some time breaking down the different features of FDO, GrantStation, and Instrumentl.
Finding Foundations and RFPs
FDO Foundation Profiles and RFPs:
FDO offers a vast database of prospective funders and grantmakers, including private and independent foundations, corporate foundations, U.S. federal funders, public charities, and international foundations.
FDO provides accessible maps and charts to help identify giving trends by geographic area and grant size and to help guide nonprofits on where to focus their requests. Take a look at their sample foundation profile here!
In addition to the features that come along with a subscription to FDO, Candid (FDO’s parent company) offers a compendium of news, resources, and updates from the philanthropic sector titled Philanthropy News Digest. Philanthropy News Digest also publishes recently released RFPs with the ability to search their RFP database by subject and keyword and even sign up to receive RFP alerts.
However, active opportunities and RFPs are limited on FDO. While the number of opportunities is great, FDO does not have a system that readily updates funder profiles to make certain that all RFPs and grantseeking opportunities are current.
GrantStation Foundation Profiles and RFPs:
GrantStation offers a variety of limited grantmaker profiles including community foundations, private foundations, and corporate giving programs, as well as international opportunities with the ability to search for funders based on geographic region.
GrantStation’s profiles are very basic, and do not include information such as median grant amounts, year-by-year averages, or other detailed information from funders’ 990s.
GrantStation is a particularly apt grant discovery platform compared to other options for nonprofit organizations operating in Canada. GrantStation offers a comprehensive list of Canadian grantmakers organized by province, as well as a Canada specific newsletter—GrantStation Canadian Insider.
While GrantStation enables users to search through a considerable list of potential funders, it does not offer detailed descriptions of current opportunities.
GrantStation does assist nonprofits in the development of their grants programs, with tools that help analyze organizations’ grantseeking efforts. GrantStation’s Decision Matrix allows organizations to identify leads that will lead to the likeliest possibility of success through an easy to understand scoring system.
Instrumentl Foundation Profiles and RFPs:
Instrumentl’scentral focus is offering a smart matching system that connects grantseekers with opportunities and active RFPs that are best aligned with their organization’s mission, project needs, and/or objectives, making it super simple to find the best fit funders.
Instrumentl connects users with active RFPs and funding opportunities including private, foundation, and corporate grants as well as federal and state level grants.
Instrumentl’s comprehensive grants database is searchable by location and by focus area to help organizations streamline their prospect research and target opportunities that are most likely to result in success.
The foundation profiles within Instrumentl are incredibly detailed, including geographic area, category or field of work (using the funder’s NTEE codes), and year-by-year grant averages and median grant amounts—all with the intention of positioning grantseekers to apply for opportunities that best align with their organization and mission.
Instrumentl pulls these details directly from the foundation’s 990 to ensure that the information offered is comprehensive, accurate, and high-quality.
Instrumentl’s database includes focus areas across a wide range of programmatic activities including:
When it comes to user experience and finding good fit funders, Instrumentl goes the extra mile.
Tracking Prospects and Submissions
FDO Tracking Capabilities:
FDO also allows users to keep track of prospect research through the platform's My FDO tool.
Through My FDO users can access saved searches, favorites, tags, and alerts. Through the Task function, FDO allows users to manage a variety of items that are necessary to secure a given grant, including a task assignment function, deadline tracker, progress tracker, and the ability to take notes and write comments associated with the opportunity.
FDO, however, does not provide support in terms of tracking active or up to date information about grant opportunities or RFPs.
While FDO does offer comprehensive features, a nonprofit organization may find themselves spending a significant amount of time putting in additional effort and research to confirm when RFPs are active or if a foundation has any current opportunities available. When these opportunities are identified, FDO cannot provide support that would help connect users with best fit opportunities or provide updates on the status of certain RFPs and changes to organization priorities or requirements.
FDO requires users to do some leg work when it comes to the nitty gritty details. Should a foundation change its priorities or change a deadline, it is up to the applicant to find that out themselves. It is unclear how often FDO makes updates to their profiles.
GrantStation Tracking Capabilities:
GrantStation’s tracking tools are very limited.
GrantStation offers a tracking tool called “My Plan”. My Plan allows users to create projects and track basic actions within the system. Users can enter a project that they are seeking funding for and save searches assigned to each project.
While GrantStation allows users to track past searches and what they have done in the database, it does not facilitate tracking throughout the proposal process, limiting applicants in their ability to leverage the tool should they choose to move forward with an opportunity.
Moreover, GrantStation does not provide users with updates on opportunities or changes to deadlines or requirements set by the foundation, meaning users will need to keep up with tracking this information on their own.
Instrumentl Tracking Capabilities:
Instrumentl gives users the ability to track and manage proposals throughout the entire grants lifecycle, unlike other top grant discovery platforms.
Users can track proposal deadlines and create tasks or actions related to a specific opportunity. They can also store detailed notes and documents easily, keeping all the essential pieces of the proposal in one accessible place.
Instrumentl also keeps users up to date by sending email notifications whenever funders alter their deadlines or make any changes to their focus areas. This function is ideal for managing funders’ shifting priorities and deadlines.
Collaboration and Reporting
FDO Collaboration and Reporting Features:
FDO does not have extensive multi-user capabilities.
While My FDO enables users to track processes and create projects, the only collaborative function that is available in My FDO is the “tasks” feature, allowing multi-user organizations to assign and track tasks for special projects or proposals.
FDO also allows users to export projects and information tracked in My FDO into reports downloadable as PDF or CSV files.
GrantStation Collaboration and Reporting Features:
GrantStation’sinterface does not offer a variety of options for collaboration.
GrantStation allows users to export reports, however this capability is limited with reports only downloaded as CSV files.
Instrumentl Collaboration and Reporting Features:
Instrumentl offers state of the art workflow functions that make prospecting more efficient and collaborative. Instrumentl’s collaboration tools make prospecting and tracking proposals easy for the entire grants team.
The platform allows users to store notes and assign tasks to specific team members to keep the grants process moving forward and to allow for detailed project tracking.
Instrumentl also ensures that nonprofit organizations can utilize the information and data they store when developing fundraising goals for the upcoming year by making it simple to create easy-to-read reports. Reports are available in both PDF and CSV formats.
FDO Customer Support Tools:
FDO has a chat feature that allows customers to get in touch with FDO with any questions or concerns.
While it states that it is a chat feature, it functions as more of a contact form, directing users with questions to fill out the form with their name, email, and description of the issue. Once the user has filled out the form and submitted it, the dialogue initiates via email.
GrantStation Customer Support Tools:
GrantStation provides comprehensive FAQs along with how-to videos for help getting acquainted with its features. They also have a toll free number that users can call to get one-on-one assistance with troubleshooting issues.
However, their help desk services can only be accessed during business hours, Monday-Friday 9:00am-5:00pm. Any urgent issues that come up in this timeframe will have to wait.
Instrumentl: Customer Support Tools
Instrumentl’s team is committed to offering comprehensive support and assistance to users, ensuring that they have all the tools and resources necessary to contribute to the building of a robust grants program.
Instrumentl offers a variety of kinds of support and tools to help customers with their specific needs, questions, or troubleshooting problems, including:
A 30-minute onboarding call for all 14-day free trial users to discuss their grant strategy, overall objectives, and to ensure that their experience with Instrumentl positions them to connect with grant opportunities that most strongly align with their needs
Now that you have a thorough understanding of the features of FDO vs. GrantStation vs. Instrumentl, it is time to review the pricing plans for each platform.
FDO has several plans users can choose from. FDO’s most popular annual plan is FDO essential, which starts at $399/year or $758.00/two years for additional savings. These prices increase depending on the number of users your organization will need to access the platform.
For example, for a maximum of 10 users FDO essential is $3,272/year or $6,217/two years. For a more extensive plan, FDO also offers their FDO professional tier starting at $1,499/year or a monthly billing plan that starts at $199.99/month.
GrantStation offers quarterly, annual, and multi-year subscriptions. The one year plan costs $699 and the two year plan costs $1,258. The longer the subscription, the higher the discount.
Instrumentl offers several pricing plan options based on users’ specific needs. The cost of a basic plan with Instrumentl is $195/month. If users choose an annual plan, the cost is brought down to $179/month.
To help support organizations who are working to build a grants program and are still shopping around, Instrumentl also offers a 14-day free trial.
Instrumentl also offers a guarantee for their Standard and Pro Plans ($299/month and $499/month respectively) allowing organizations to try out these levels for a month and if users decide to switch back at the end of the trial, Instrumentl will credit the unused Standard/Pro time toward the basic subscription.
Instrumentl also offers a customizable option for larger organizations including hospitals, universities, and large nonprofits.
Customizable plans and professional plans, while more costly, open users up to the entire universe of Instrumentl’s capabilities, including calendar and Salesforce integrations and personalized support and training. These added supports are incredibly valuable for organizations who are looking to grow their fundraising programs and bring in more revenue, with Instrumentl providing tailored support that positions users to apply for opportunities that will have the best chance for success.
Custom plans offer an unlimited number of projects that can be created within the platform in addition to an unlimited number of users who can access the platform, making it perfect for larger fundraising teams who are working on multiple projects.
What Are Customers Saying About FDO, GrantStation, and Instrumentl?
Having now read through detailed breakdowns of FDO, GrantStation, and Instrumentl, you should be well on your way to deciding which tool is best for your organization.
But, don’t take our word for it—sometimes the best way to identify which platform is the right option is to look to customer ratings to understand exactly what users are experiencing!
Customer reviews for FDO were generally positive. Overall, customers were pleased with the search engine, praising the amount of information and details available for the many grantmaking organizations that are available on the platform.
While the customers had an overall positive experience with the platform, several reviews indicated that it is unclear how often content is updated and that the search feature can sometimes bring up too many queries, making it difficult to ascertain which information is important and which results would be best suited to the user’s needs.
Others noted that FDO is not particularly user friendly, requiring the user to go through several inputs and effort to find the answers they were looking for.
GrantStation users were most pleased with the platform’s cost effectiveness. Many also praised GrantStation’s educational tools, especially their webinars, with many users noting that they gained useful information and were eager to sign up for more.
Some users also noted that GrantStation’s interface isn’t as comprehensive as they would prefer. Others noted that it is not as useful for nonprofit organizations from rural areas, and recommended opting for a different tool for organizations who are not located in metropolitan areas. Some also noted that users would have to do some extra research to identify if a funder met their organization’s needs.
Instrumentlreceived a great deal of praise for offering a customized and easy to understand approach to prospecting and tracking.
Users also came to the consensus that Instrumentl goes above and beyond in customer support with almost all analyzed reviews noting that Instrumentl’s team is committed to their mission and to curating an effective and positive experience for each of their users.
Reviewers generally wished that basic level tiers offered more access and functionality without subscribing to the next level.
From the reviews we looked at, it seemed Instrumentl stood out from the crowd in terms of usability, prospecting tools, and customer support.
Wrapping Up: FDO vs. GrantStation vs. Instrumentl: Which Tool is Best for You in 2023?
When it comes to getting the very best value for high-quality services and resources, Instrumentl provides a variety of in-depth tools tailored to the specific needs of the user for a price that is affordable for nonprofits of varying sizes and with different capacities.
When building a grants program for your nonprofit organization, it is important to have the tools and resources necessary to identify opportunities that will help you develop robust revenue streams to support your organization's projects.