Foundation Directory Online vs. GrantWatch: In-Depth Analysis & Review

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November 8, 2022

Last Updated:

November 23, 2022

When it comes to supercharging your grants program, a solid grant discovery platform is a must.

This article compares Foundation Directory Online vs. GrantWatch, two nonprofit tools serving grants professionals. Let’s compare and see which is the best value grant discovery platform—which has the best features, pricing, and user reviews— to help your nonprofit find the best-fit funding opportunities and RFPs.

Let’s dive in!

Foundation Directory Online vs. GrantWatch Features Compared


Foundation Directory Online is the “old dog” of grant discovery platforms. Originally published in book form and available only in libraries, the advent of the internet pushed the old Foundation Directory online. With that roll-out, FDO became more accessible and began offering subscription access.

GrantWatch was founded in 2010 by a retired special education teacher from New York City who supplemented her salary by writing grant proposals on the side. Since that time, thanks largely to savvy marketing, GrantWatch has grown in popularity.

So how do these two grant discovery platforms compare? Let’s take a look at some of their different features below.

Finding New RFPs & Funders

FDO Finding New RFPs and Funders Features:

Foundation Directory Online offers a huge database of foundation profiles. Users can search by geographic focus, interests, VIP names, and more. Below is a screenshot of a foundation profile provided by FDO for the well-known Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

FDO Finding New RFPs and Funders Features

This profile is from FDO’s Essential subscription level which provides a database of only 111,000 funder profiles.

FDO’s higher priced subscription, FDO Professional, allows users to search FDO’s entire database of nearly 250,000 funders and also offers deeper insights about each funder.

Finding open RFPs is a bit more difficult with Foundation Directory Online. FDO lists some open RFPs, but without the convenience of a geographic filter. You can filter by the funder’s interests, but that still results in needing to sift through hundreds of opportunities before finding a handful of appropriate RFPs.


Bottom line: FDO is great for finding basic information about potential funders, but there are drawbacks with its ability to locate open RFPs.

GrantWatch: Finding New RFPs & Funders Features:

GrantWatch Finding New RFPs & Funders Features

If you’re searching for active RFPs, GrantWatch is a great tool because that’s its specialty. GrantWatch claims its database has more than 28,000 grant opportunities, awards, and archived grants.

That said, GrantWatch doesn’t provide foundation profiles. That means you and your team will need to spend time to research a funder’s interests, average grant amount, contacts, and other needed data points.

Neither does GrantWatch list recipient profiles. That eliminates the possibility of discovering who similar nonprofits to yours have received funding from.

Tracking Prospect Research and Submissions

FDO Tracking Prospect Research and Submission Tools:

FDO Tracking Prospect Research and Submission Tools

Recently, FDO rolled out My FDO Dashboard, which allows you to track submitted grants, including the amount requested and amount received, if any. Funder prospects can also be tracked and downloaded into a CSV.

But FDO lacks robust grant management features such as deadline reminders, deadline changes, or tools to help you manage your grants pipeline across different stages.

GrantWatch Tracking Prospect Research and Submissions Tools:

GrantWatch recently began offering a grant calendar feature, but it is not well publicized. What we could see was helpful, but not a fully optimized tool for robust grant management.

Like FDO, GrantWatch lacks features to allow you to easily manage your grants pipeline. No deadline reminders are provided, nor are updates on changes with funding focus or deadlines.

Collaboration and Reporting

Foundation Directory Online Collaboration and Reporting:

My FDO Dashboard allows users to assign tasks to other teammates. However, to access the dashboard, each user must have an individual license. Without that, My FDO Dashboard is essentially useless for collaboration.

The Dashboard does allow users to pull reports into a PDF.

GrantsWatch Collaboration and Reporting:

Unfortunately, GrantWatch doesn’t offer any collaborative tools. This makes managing your team more difficult and time-consuming. As far as pulling performance-based reports, you’ll have to either use a different platform or a spreadsheet.

Overall Thoughts

Foundation Directory Online Overall Thoughts:

Overall, FDO is a solid tool for uncovering foundation profiles. Its strengths are its sizable database, as well as its long-standing popularity, thanks to its longevity.

FDO features a robust search tool, as well as the ability to save grant responses, pull reports, and save grant opportunities. However, its most affordable version doesn’t offer all the possible information available, and its lack of collaborative tools is a drawback.

GrantWatch Overall Thoughts:

If you’re looking primarily for open RFPs, GrantWatch is a great grant discovery tool. However, its lack of other features, including the ability to pull reports, and the lack of robust grant management features makes it a little less useful for many nonprofit grant managers and writers.

Foundation Directory Online vs. GrantWatch Pricing Compared

Pricing comparison

Foundation Directory Online is more expensive than GrantWatch. But it’s important to see what you’re getting with each subscription. Let’s take a look.

Foundation Directory Online Pricing

FDO offers three tiers of subscription pricing. The least expensive is FDO Essential.

FDO Essential

For a single user, the monthly price for FDO is $49.99 per month. This allows you to cancel at any time. To save money, you can pay a one-time annual fee of $399, or $33.25 per month. For a two-year plan, you’ll pay $758, or $31.58 monthly.

Be aware: FDO Essential only allows subscribers to search a limited list of 111,000 funders, instead of their full database of nearly 250,000.

FDO Professional is more expensive, but also brings with it a larger database with deeper funder insights.

FDO Professional Pricing

Finally, FDO offers an Enterprise plan for large nonprofits such as universities and hospital systems. The price is negotiable by the number of licenses purchased.

GrantWatch Pricing

GrantWatch Pricing

GrantWatch's pricing is one of the less expensive grant discovery platforms, with a weekly subscription fee of just $18 per week. But add that up, and over the course of a month, you’ll be forking out $72.

Monthly access costs $45, or $540 over the course of a year. Quarterly, users can subscribe for $90 per quarter, or $360 per year, making the one-time annual fee of $199 the best deal.

But remember: With no foundation profiles, limited grant tracking, and no grant management options, GrantWatch is really just a portal to find RFPs. It doesn’t provide any of the functionality of FDO or other grant discovery platforms.

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What Are Customers Saying About Foundation Directory Online and GrantWatch?

Customer reviews

Don’t just take our word for it—let’s look at some reviews from real life FDO and GrantWatch users.

Foundation Directory Online Reviews

Most FDO users give it high marks, and much of this is due to loyalty built up over the years. (Remember, FDO used to be a publication only accessible in libraries, so it’s been around since before the internet was available.) For that reason, many take their track record as proof that an FDO subscription is worth it.

But, many fundraisers aren’t aware of FDO alternatives and competitors.

Foundation Directory Online Reviews

But, not all FDO users share such a rosy outlook. Comments about pricing, lack of intuitive features, and the time-consuming nature of finding funding opportunities and vetting them are out there.

FDO Pricing Review

GrantWatch Reviews

Like any online platform, there are always fans and critics, and GrantWatch is not immune. A recent review, posted on Reddit’s r/EntrepreneurRideAlong seems fairly unbiased.

GrantWatch Reviews Reddit

There aren’t too many independent reviews online of GrantWatch, so we visited its Facebook page. Of course, the reviews are positive, such as these.

GrantWatch Reviews Reddit

GrantWatch’s quick and responsive customer service is highly regarded by most reviewers.

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Is There a Better FDO or GrantWatch Alternative? Instrumentl Explained


Both FDO and GrantWatch have their strengths—as well as their drawbacks. Let’s compare them to Instrumentl, and see what you think.

Instrumentl is a thorough, well-designed, grant discovery and grants management platform that provides nonprofit fundraisers and grantwriters with grant and foundation discovery, project management, reporting, and team-wide collaborative tools in one comprehensive package.

Instrumentl prioritizes time-management and efficiency, combining similar tools available from other top grant discovery platforms with an easy-to-use user interface. Instrumentl also offers many training resources such as webinars, an informative blog, grant writing courses, e-books, and guides to make sure subscribers are completely prepared to find and win grants.

Below we’ll evaluate Instrumentl in the same way we compared FDO and GrantWatch.

Finding New RFPs & Funders

Instrumentl makes it easy to find new funders, as well as open RFPs. 

Instrumentl connects nonprofits with funding opportunities and active RFPs including private, foundation, and corporate grants as well as government funding opportunities, including at the state and federal levels.

The Smart Matching features takes all of the guessing out of the grant discovery process, connecting you with opportunities and funders that align with your mission, programs, and projects.

Instrumentl Finding New RFPs & Funders

Instrumentl’s foundation profiles are exceptionally detailed,and include geographic focus, interests or area of work, and annual grant averages and median grant amounts.

These funder insights help grantseekers find and apply for the funding opportunities with which they have the best alignment. Instrumentl pulls these details directly from the foundation’s 990 to ensure that the information offered is comprehensive, accurate, and of the highest-quality.

Tracking Prospect Research and Submissions

Instrumentl Tracking Prospect Research and Submissions

Instrumentl allows subscribers the ability to manage proposals throughout the entire grants lifecycle.

Can you imagine a grant management tool that alerts you to upcoming deadlines, days before the proposal is due? Imagine no more. Instrumentl is designed to keep you and your team on task and without the possibility of missing an important deadline.

Collaboration and Reporting Tools

One of the most brilliant things about Instrumentl is its innate ability to help teams collaborate efficiently.

Instrumentl’s workflow functions make prospecting for funding opportunities more efficient and collaborative.

You can create tasks or assignments related to a specific opportunity, store detailed notes, and save documents easily in a shared library. This makes it easy for everyone on your team, keeping all of the details of each proposal in one convenient place.

Instrumentl Collaboration and Reporting Tools

Instrumentl also allows nonprofit organizations to use their stored information when developing fundraising goals for the upcoming year. This makes it simple to create user-friendly reports in CSV and PDF formats.

Boost your team’s accountability and transparency with Instrumentl.

Customer Support Tools

Instrumentl is committed to offering the best possible support and assistance to each of its subscribers, offering all the tools and resources necessary to contribute to their grant writing success.

Instrumentl support and tools 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 grants strategy, their objectives, and to make certain that their experience with Instrumentl positions them to connect with the best possible grant opportunities aligning with their needs
  • Weekly 1-hour small group live trainings with Instrumentl’s customer success team for subscribers
  • Chat support for subscribers in addition to email support
  • A comprehensive Help Center to answer frequently asked questions and support users as they learn to use the tool efficiently and effectively

When it comes to the number of features offered, Instrumentl outshines its competitors. Check out this list of 8 unique things you can get with an Instrumentl subscription that you can’t find with any other best value grant discovery platform.


Instrumentl Pricing Plans

Instrumentl offers several pricing plans 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 offers a 14-day free trial.

Instrumentl also offers a guarantee for their Standard and Pro Plans ($299/month and $499/month respectively) allowing your organization to try out these levels for a month. If you decide to switch back at the end of the trial, Instrumentl will credit the unused Standard/Pro fee toward the basic subscription.

Instrumentl also offers an enterprise package for larger organizations including universities, hospitals, or national nonprofits.

Both the enterprise package and the professional plan allow users to access Instrumentl’s full capabilities, including calendar and Salesforce integrations and additional support and training.

Custom plans also offer an unlimited number of projects that can be created within the platform, in addition to an unlimited number of users who can access Instrumentl, making it perfect for larger fundraising teams working on multiple projects.

What Customers Are Saying

Instrumentl’s users simply love the streamlined and intuitive interface and all of its time-saving features, including its team coordination capabilities.

Instrumentl Reviews

Users also like that projects can be set up and then populated with a myriad of good fit funding opportunities.

Instrumentl Reviews

Also, users agree that Instrumentl goes above and beyond in customer support. Nearly all analyzed reviews noted Instrumentl’s team is committed to their mission and to creating a positive outcome for each subscriber.

Wrapping Up: Foundation Directory Online vs. GrantWatch: In-Depth Analysis & Review


So, which is the best value grants discovery platform?

Instrumentl is. It has all of the foundation resources—and more— that FDO has, as well as time-saving grant management and collaboration features that will help you and your team become more productive in no time.

Time-efficient, intuitive and user-friendly, Instrumentl really is the best value foundation discovery platform available. Instrumentl will take you and your team to the next level in your grant-seeking (and winning!) abilities.

Turbocharge your entire grants lifecycle with Instrumentl. Sign up for your free 14-day trial today and experience the difference yourself.

Instrumentl team

Instrumentl team

Instrumentl is the all-in-one grant management tool for nonprofits and consultants who want to find and win more grants without the stress of juggling grant work through disparate tools and sticky notes.

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