Are you disenchanted with Foundation Directory Online? Are you considering different grant search database providers? To help you make an informed decision, let’s look at Foundation Directory Online alternatives and what sets each of them apart.
In this article, we’ll compare Foundation Directory Online with Instrumentl, as well as seven other commonly used grant discovery platforms and see how they stack up in terms of pricing, features, types of funders listed, user friendliness, and popularity among nonprofit prospect researchers and grant writers.
Ready? Let’s jump in.
Why You Might Look for a Foundation Directory Online Alternative
Foundation Directory Online (FDO) has been around seemingly forever. Because of that, it tends to be the “go to” grant discovery resource for many nonprofits, despite a number of alternatives which have popped up in the last 15 years.
But, if you’re currently using FDO, you may have noticed its limited features, lack of collaborative tools, little grant management capabilities, clunky UX, and price point, all of which can make long-time FDO users look around for alternatives.
Below, we’ve broken down some of the top reasons FDO users might be looking for a change when it comes to grants discovery platforms.
Can Be Difficult to Identify Active Funding Opportunities
Foundation Directory Online lets you search for grantmakers and grant opportunities by organization name, funder interest, EIN, location, VIPs, and assets or giving range.
Each funder profile includes the average amount of grants made, open RFPs (if any), key contacts, and a link to each funder’s IRS 990 tax form.
However, searching for open RFPs on Foundation Directory Online can be cumbersome. FDO doesn't help you differentiate between active and inactive funding opportunities. FDO also puts the onus on its users to identify active funding opportunities that align with their specific organization and program.
This means you may have to take the time to plow through literally hundreds of funding opportunities to find one that’s the right fit for your organization. Doing so can be time-consuming and difficult.
Limited Grant Management Tools
A newer feature, My FDO Dashboard, allows users to track submitted grants by the amount requested vs. the amount received. The Dashboard also allows users to track funder prospects and download them into a spreadsheet.
While My FDO Dashboard does provide some rudimentary grant management capabilities, it doesn’t easily allow you to manage your grant pipeline across all the different stages of the grants lifecycle.
For example, FDO doesn’t provide a grants calendar to help users see the “big picture” of their grant fundraising efforts and it doesn’t automatically update users when deadlines or submission requirements change.
Lack of Collaborative Features
While FDO does offer the option to add on additional users to an account for a higher price, the actual collaboration tools are very limited. Rather than making it easy for teams to collaborate on projects, FDO makes it more difficult. For example, while each individual with access to FDO can track their own tasks, there’s no functionality to track a team’s progress.
And, with so much moving to the cloud, FDO’s lack of collaboration among team members has some grant teams looking for a cloud-based alternative for real-time coordination, whether working remote, in the office, or on the road.
Poor User Friendliness
Visually, results are quite dull and ordinary. The lack of collaboration and intuitive features means supervisors must spend additional time monitoring team performance and make assignments via spreadsheet, email, or separate grant management software.
Some users (see screenshot below) even complain that funder profiles often haven’t been properly updated, even several years since personnel changes have occurred.
Despite FDO’s claim that foundation profiles are reviewed and updated frequently, it’s not uncommon to run across outdated contact information, incorrect information about foundation interests, and even broken links to funder websites.
Instrumentl, founded in 2014, is designed specifically for nonprofit grant writing and research professionals.
Whether you’re an executive director whose other duties include grant research and writing, or a larger development shop, you’ll find Instrumentl has features not found with other Foundation Directory Online alternatives.
Within one easy to use tool, you can search and prospect for new funding sources, collaborate with others on your team, and track and manage your grant pipeline and calendar with ease.
Instrumentl offers the following user-friendly features:
Active RFPs & RFP Profiles
Foundation profiles, includingpast grantees searchable by NTEE Code and location, openness to new grantees, year after year average and median grant amounts and other details derived from IRS 990 data
Recipient profiles / reverse search allowing you to look up grantees similar to your organization and who funded them
Smart matching to RFPs*
Smart matching to foundation profiles*
Storage of prospects*
Grant calendar and tracker*
Weekly reminder emails of upcoming deadlines*
Updates if deadlines change or funding priorities have shifted*
Easy grants management*
Easy to use reporting function by download (PDF and CSV)
Ability to create and assign tasks and benchmarks
Reusable library of past application responses*
A modern, user-friendly interface*
*Not included with Foundation Directory Online
Types of Funders Listed
Instrumentl provides in-depth insights on more than 12,000 different funding opportunities, including corporate, private, family, and community foundations, as well as government funding opportunities at the state, local, and federal levels.
Instrumentl is extremely user-friendly and takes only a few minutes of instruction to master. Its intentionally intuitive features are designed to save time and streamline your organization’s grant seeking, management, and reporting functions easily.
Cloud-based Instrumentl allows teams to collaborate, easily pull reports, sync calendars, and track upcoming deadlines. Weekly, Instrumentl provides emailed updates on funders you have flagged, reminding you of upcoming deadlines, or alerting you to changes in funder interests or deadlines.
On popular review websites, Instrumentl users tout its intuitiveness, user friendliness, and management capabilities. Nonprofits of all sizes praise Instrumentl, as do grant writing consultants juggling multiple nonprofit clients.
Instrumentl offers four different types of subscriptions. Instrumentl’s Basic plan is also the most affordable at $195 a month on a monthly basis, or $179 a month for an annual plan. The Basic plan allows up to three users to create a maximum of 10 projects and includes research and basic grant management capabilities.
Instrumentl’s Standard plan is more expensive, but provides additional capabilities, including:
Up to 20 projects
Advanced Funder insights, including grant ranges, openness to new grantees, and the top ten NTEE Codes funded
Recipient profiles, allowing you to see who each funder granted money to
Calendar view allowing teams to see all upcoming deadlines to stay on track
Grant ownership clarifying who on your team is responsible for proposal creation
The Professional plan offers even more bells and whistles, including:
Up to 50 projects
Personalized support and training
Instrumentl also offers customized plans for large nonprofits with many team members or multiple development offices, such as hospitals and universities. Every custom plan provides seats for unlimited users and the creation of unlimited projects, as well as all the features of the Professional plan.
Click to find the best grants for your nonprofit from 12,000+ active opportunities.
GrantHub is Foundant Technologies’ grant management software.
GrantHub links to GrantStation’s funder search, meaning Foundant is not actually hosting the grant finding database. Some of its features include:
Funder and grant management tools
Access to GrantStation’s funder search
Links to Foundation Center 990 forms
Links to GuideStar profiles
Task tracking and reminders
Central repository for grant documents—maximum file size of 100MB, with total storage capacity of 20 GB
Dashboard and 6 pre-built reports
Licenses for up to 35 users
Unlimited live and self-paced training
Phone, email, and chat support
Since GrantHub is cloud-based, it allows for collaboration on the go. GrantHub also allows users to track deadlines and next steps.
Types of Funders Listed
Through GrantStation, GrantHub can find independent, family, community, and corporate foundations, faith-based grantmakers, corporate giving programs, and any other organization with a grantmaking program. Funders included are in the U.S., Canada, and abroad.
GrantHub subscribers give the product high praise for its ease of use and clean interface. There are some glitches, however, including the inability to download information from partner sites (FDO is one of them).
Users also like the ability to easily pull reports, and assign tasks to staff.
User reviews range from 3 stars to 5 stars, with users complaining about bugs, while liking the grant tracking and management features which helps keep them on task.
If paying by the month, an annual subscription to GrantHub will cost you $900. For greater savings, pay the full price of $795 a year, the equivalent of $66.25 per month.
Both the monthly plan and the annual plan allow up to 35 users. Larger organizations can purchase an additional block of 10 users for $150 per year. If you need more than 20 MB of storage you can purchase an additional 20MB for $150 a year.
GrantStation is one of the more popular Foundation Directory Online alternatives. That’s because a number of nonprofit associations partner with GrantStation and, if you’re a paid subscriber to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, you can also receive free access to GrantStation.
Search by specific geographic scope
Results include only grantmakers actively engaged and accepting inquiries
A personalized dashboard to save leads and plan next steps
Information on current funding priorities, geography, grant guidelines, and application deadlines
Notes that provide "insider" information on selected funders
Training and tutorials
Types of Funders Listed
GrantStation lists private foundations, corporate foundations, community foundations, and corporate contribution programs in the U.S., Canada, and abroad. They also include faith-based funders, associations, and other grant opportunities available.
The overall interface of GrantStation is dated. It only allows users to download data as a CSV and it offers no multi-user collaboration. However, it does automatically filter out funders who aren’t actively accepting applications.
Because of its relatively affordable pricing, GrantStation appears to be popular with smaller and newer nonprofits. Anyone with a full subscription to the Chronicle of Philanthropy also can sign up for free access—pretty savvy marketing move by GrantStation.
GrantStation offers quarterly, annual, and multi-year subscriptions at varying prices. An annual subscription is $699 and a two-year subscription is $1,258. GrantStation does offer multi-user packages for larger organizations, but no stated pricing tier is available.
Fluxx Grantseeker offers a modern interface, but what’s under the hood? Here are its main features:
Foundation profiles, including median giving amounts pulled from IRS 990 forms
Recipient profiles allowing for reverse lookups for organizations similar to yours
Submission tracking and grants calendering
Ability to update the status of proposals
Downloadable reports in CSV and PDF
Task assignment and tracking
Types of Funders Listed
Fluxx offers a fairly robust list of family foundations, as well as charitable foundations. It does not include governmental funders and corporate funding information is spotty.
Fluxx Grantseeker’s user interface looks nice and clean, but there are some improvements needed. Some of the information provided is sorely in need of updating—for instance, the last IRS 990 form for an active foundation being reported as of 2018.
Among smaller nonprofits, Fluxx Grantseeker is fairly popular due to its low price point and robust ability to manage grants. But many users have pointed out that the prospecting tool isn’t as reliable as that of other providers.
Fluxx Grantseeker’s pricing tiers are among the lowest available for grant management and prospecting tools, but for prospecting new funders, users must sign up for the top tier which is $39.99 per month ($479.88 annually.)
5. Metasoft Systems—FoundationSearch
Founded in 1988, Metasoft is a technology company based in British Columbia with products targeting the nonprofit market. Its BIG TM online database, along with FoundationSearch includes more than 120,000 foundations and corporate funders throughout North America.
FoundationSearch’s features include:
Searchable database of U.S. and Canadian funders
Limited multi-user collaboration
Report generator allowing saving to CSV or PDF
List of upcoming tasks
Director connections (in beta)
MyFoundation Manager—a suite of grant management tools
CFRE-approved online education (extra fee charged per course.)
Types of Funders Listed
FoundationSearch focuses on charitable foundations and some corporate foundations. It does not include government sources of funding.
FoundationSearch’s user experience is quite outdated. It does have a myriad of filters to narrow down searches; for instance, you can search by geography, funder name, average size of grant awarded, and more.
FoundationSearch is not well known to many in the nonprofit world except those working in academia. It is certainly not in the top five of foundation seeking resources. Its newly added grant management tools may help it become more popular.
Ka-ching! Foundation Search is pricey. Although it doesn’t reveal its fees online, users have stated that a six-month subscription costs upwards of $3,000 U.S.
6. Inside Philanthropy’s GrantFinder
You may have run across Inside Philanthropy as a news resource, but it also has a grantfinding tool built into each subscription package.
GrantFinder allows you to:
Research U.S. foundations with cumulative giving of more than $50,000 annually
Research well-known major donors
Access funder profiles
View contact information for over 15,000 foundation staff members
Get personalized research support
Access 56 funding guides by cause
Types of Funders Listed
Philanthropy's GrantFinder only lists foundations with a minimum of $50,000 in cumulative giving over a year. It does not list funders who make occasional gifts.
GrantFinder is quite user-friendly with a clean user interface. You can search by state, foundation name, keyword, and issue area. However, there are no grant management capabilities.
Inside Philanthropy, as a news source, is quite popular in the nonprofit world, but its GrantFinder tool seems not to be that well known. We could find no reviews of GrantFinder.
Inside Philanthropy offers three price points—a monthly plan, a quarterly plan, and an annual plan. They also offer monthly institutional plans as shown below.
GrantScape rounds out our list of the 7 best Foundation Directory Online alternatives and competitors. A product of Thompson, a division of Columbia Books & Information Services (CBIS), GrantScape is one of the newer grant finding platforms.
Search by funder name, issue, topic, and geographic area
Search by funder type (government, community foundation, etc.)
Automatic deadline reminders
Access to a personalized exportable deadline calendar
Robust filters allow users to drill down to find suitable funders
Collaborate with your team
Create custom alerts for your specific search criteria
While GrantScape has a few built-in grant management capabilities, they partner with AmpliFund, a separate grant management software platform.
Types of Funders Listed
GrantScape claims to have nearly 180,000 funding opportunities ranging from municipal, state, and federal funding, to private foundations. However, their focus is really on government grants, especially at the federal level, as well as accompanying compliance issues.
Created in 2017, GrantScape has a clean, modern interface. It does allow users to save searches and will add updated information when it’s available.
Unfortunately, since this is a newer tool, we were unable to find any reviews.
As shown above, GrantScape costs $29 per month for one user or $348 for one year, or $99 per month ($1,188 per year) for the “Pro” version which is recommended for consultants. An enterprise version is also available, but depends on the number of seats or licenses.
Is Instrumentl the Best FDO Alternative? There's Only One Way to Find Out
Instrumentl really is the very best FDO alternative. Let’s see why and you’ll immediately recognize how Instrumentl stands head and shoulders above the other FDO alternatives.
Automagical Deadline Reminders
A weekly email from Instrumentl alerts you to upcoming deadlines, meaning you will never miss one again.
Integrated Information from IRS 990 Forms
Visualizations make it easy to see where a foundation makes the most gifts and the number of awards made each year. Being able to review 990 forms helps you quickly identify best-match funders for your organization.
Intelligent Matching to RFPs and Funders
Instrumentl’s matching algorithm means your organization will automatically be matched to best-fit funders, saving you time and energy. You’ll be able to easily find funders that align with your organization’s mission or the project you’re seeking grant funding for.
Easy Collaboration & Task Management
Cloud-based Instrumentl helps you and your team stay on track and on your toes by reminding you of upcoming milestones and “to-do’s”.
Find Foundations Open to New Grantees
No more second-guessing or chasing dead-ends. Instrumentl’s data analytics help you find new funders who are the most open to hearing from new grantees.
Generate Reports in a Flash
Instrumentl’s intuitive reporting feature helps you create reports, download them easily, and keeps you and your team accountable.
Organize by Projects
Instrumentl helps you stay on track by allowing you to organize your grant searches and management by project, rather than ad hoc.
The best way to compare Instrumentl to Foundation Directory Online or any FDO alternatives is to try it yourself. Want 14 days of free access to Instrumentl? Sounds like a plan.
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Wrapping Up: 7 Best Foundation Directory Online Alternatives & Competitors
There you have it. We’ve looked closely at Foundation Directory Online and 7 of its competitors. None of them have the breadth of information, the insights, the automation, and the ability to manage the entire grant lifecycle like Instrumentl.
No matter what grant finder website you’re currently using, if you aren’t using Instrumentl, you’re missing out and spending more time and energy than you should. Visit Instrumentl today and sign up for a free 14-day no obligation trial of the best grant discovery and grant management tool on the market.