Is there a single, stand-alone grant discovery platform serving grant writers and nonprofit fundraising teams?
In this article, we’ll compare three of the top grant platforms available: FoundationSearch, GrantWatch, and Instrumentl. We’ll look at each platform’s features in depth, as well as pricing structures and user reviews to help you make the most informed choice for your organization.
FoundationSearch vs. GrantWatch vs. Instrumentl Features
Key to making a successful choice of any type of software as a service (SAAS) tool is evaluating their features and overall user experience.
Let’s compare how FoundationSearch, GrantWatch, and Instrumentl stack up in terms of the ability to search for open RFPs and potential new funders, helping you track your grant research, streamlining and managing your grants pipeline, collaborating with your team and/or remote workers, and more.
We’ll discover that not all grant discovery platforms are created equal—and which stand out from the crowd.
Finding RFPs and Funders
FoundationSearch Finding RFPs and Funders:
FoundationSearch boasts its BIG (™) Online database of approximately 120,000 private, corporate, and government funding sources, which is fairly comprehensive. What makes FoundationSearch a little different is that it’s based in Canada, and so it also features Canadian funding opportunities, as well as those in the U.S.
However, there’s no algorithm available to quickly match your nonprofit to newly opened RFPs or foundation profiles. That means you could potentially miss out on some great opportunities.
GrantWatch Finding RFPs and Funders:
GrantWatch’s strong suit is letting members search for active RFPs. However, its search capabilities are limited, since its database claims to list 28,820 active grant opportunities, awards, and archived grants. GrantWatch also lists RFPs for small businesses seeking start-up funding.
GrantWatch also does not offer foundation profiles, meaning more research will be needed to get to the bottom of what a funder’s true interests are, the average amount granted, and other necessary information to properly vet the opportunity. Nor does GrantWatch allow users to view recipient profiles.
Instrumentl Finding RFPs and Funders:
Instrumentl offers a comprehensive and up-to-date database featuring detailed information on private foundations, corporate funders, and government funding opportunities at the local, state, and federal levels.
Funder profiles are quite detailed and offer insights into areas of interest, geographic preferences, history and mission, a list of key people, openness to new applicants, and much more.
Instrumentl also makes it easy for you and your team to find open RFPs corresponding with your organization’s mission via its Smart Matching tool.
With access to Instrumentl, you can create a project and then search for funders who share your organization’s interests or cause. Instrumentl will then identify best-fit funders and continue to automatically update you with new discoveries and/or RFPs.
Add to that Instrumentl’s intuitive and user-friendly interface and you’ll not only find new funding sources, but also save time.
Tracking Prospect Research and Submissions
FoundationSearch Tracking Prospect Research and Submissions:
FoundationSearch recently rolled out a built-in contact manager component that allows users to track grant submissions and letters of inquiry. But it doesn’t currently provide reminders of upcoming deadlines or funder changes of interest,
FoundationSearch apparently has a new feature, “My Best Prospect”, in beta testing but it doesn’t appear to have gone live yet. They claim the feature uses an algorithm to generate a prospect list for your organization.
GrantWatch Tracking Prospect Research and Submissions:
GrantWatch doesn’t claim to be a grant management tool, and for good reason. It contains no tracking features. That means users will need to find another solution to manage each grant opportunity through its lifecycle.
Instrumentl Tracking Prospect Research and Submissions:
What makes Instrumentl unique (among other things) is its full array of tracking and management tools.
Within Instrumentl’s interface, you can store each prospect along with any notes you’ve made. You can track your proposal submissions and keep an eye on your grant calendar. Instrumentl keeps you up-to-date with deadline reminders, as well as if any changes have occurred such as a funder changing their priorities or their deadlines. No more missed deadlines or late grant reports!
Collaboration and Reporting
FoundationSearch Collaboration and Reporting:
FoundationSearch offers some limited collaborative and reporting tools, such as assigning tasks and the ability to generate funding reports in either PDF or CSV formats.
One collaborative tool it's missing is the ability to create a centralized document library for the grant writing team to use as a convenient, easy-to-access resource.
GrantWatch Collaboration and Reporting:
GrantWatch unfortunately offers no collaborative or reporting tools. That means managing your team and pulling reports for your board or clients will be more time-consuming.
Instrumentl Collaboration and Reporting:
One of the key differentiators of Instrumentl is its thoughtfully built-in collaborative tools, allowing both remote and on-site teams to work together, assign tasks, and easily pull reports.
Plus, Instrumentl also allows you to create a shared library for often-used items like your organization’s IRS 990 letter, your board list, campaign collateral, and more.
Add to that Instrumentl’s intuitive, user-friendly, and modern interface and it’s easy to see why more and more fundraising professionals and consultants are making the switch to Instrumentl.
Click to find the best grants for your nonprofit from 12,000+ active opportunities.
FoundationSearch vs. GrantWatch vs. Instrumentl Pricing
Whether you change your grant discovery platform, or keep the same one, you always have to make a case for each budget line item. So, it’s important to see how FoundationSearch, GrantWatch and Instrumentl stack up in terms of price. Let’s take a look.
FoundationSearch’s website plays it very low-key and doesn’t reveal any information about pricing. They ask for potential customers to contact them instead.
But, thanks to the internet, some minor sleuthing turned up an actual proposal from Metasoft to the Village of Fruitvale, British Columbia from 2010.
Back then, the Village’s proposal was for a five-year contract of $6,995 for three users. Pricing has undoubtedly gone up since then.
GrantWatch’s fee schedule is much more affordable, with weekly access coming in at $18. Monthly access costs $45, or $540 over the course of a year. Or, users can subscribe for $90 per quarter, or $360 per year. That makes the one-time annual fee of $199 the best value for price-conscious nonprofits.
But keep this in mind: GrantWatch has no foundation profiles, no collaborative features, and no grant management tools. It’s really an online database of RFPs that also offers newsletters and a news feed of grants-related stories.
Instrumentl offers four flexible pricing tiers designed for medium and enterprise-level organizations, as well as for consultants and grant writing agencies.
The most affordable is the Basic tier which runs $179 if purchased as an annual membership at $2,148. This allows for three licenses and the creation of up to 10 projects.
The Standard plan is $3,588 for a year, or $299 per month. Besides all the features of the Basic plan, the Standard plan allows you to create up to 20 projects, and includes:
Advanced funder insights, including openness to new grantees, where they give, grant ranges, and giving by cause
Creation of a centralized calendar
Instrumentl’s Professional plan, designed for larger nonprofits, runs $5,988 per year or $499 per month. Again, the subscription must be paid for at once to secure this rate. This tier includes the creation of up to 50 projects. Additional features at this pricing level include:
Personalized support and training
Integration with Salesforce
Calendar integration with Outlook, Google, and iCal calendars
And, for very large enterprise accounts (think large universities, medical facilities, and the like) Instrumentl’s team will work with you to create a custom plan to meet your organization’s needs.
What Are Customers Saying About FoundationSearch, GrantWatch, and Instrumentl?
No matter how fantastic a grant discovery platform sounds, end-users are the ones who put up with any software idiosyncrasies every workday. So it’s important to listen well to what customers say about all three of these grant discovery alternatives.
What Customers Are Saying About FoundationSearch
We couldn’t find any independent reviews for Metasoft Systems or FoundationSearch, but the glowing testimonials they have posted on their website make everything sound terrific. Members especially rave about their customer service.
What Customers Are Saying About GrantWatch
Reddit once again provides insights, this time into GrantWatch. In its r/entrepreneurridealong forum, a gentleman weighed in about his experience with GrantWatch as he sought start-up money for his young business. For him, GrantWatch wasn’t the right solution.
But others disagree. GrantWatch is unusual because it includes resources for small businesses, as well as nonprofits, and many people working for or with smaller nonprofits love it.
What Customers Are Saying About Instrumentl
Users of Instrumentl sing its praises and many state they are grateful for its time-saving features.
We promise Instrumentl did not write this glowing (and verified) review. But we have to admit: five out of five stars on an independent review did make us smile.
And these reviews, although excellent, don’t touch on Instrumentl’s other resources, including live webinars, on-demand classes, an informational blog, white papers, and more, all designed to help you perfect your grantsmanship skills. Nor did it call out our world-class customer service.
Wrapping Up: FoundationSearch vs. GrantWatch vs. Instrumentl: Which Tool is Best for You in 2023?
Picking the best grants discovery platform isn’t the same as throwing spaghetti against a wall to see what sticks. You need to find something that meets your needs and solves your issues. (That’s why software is often called a “solution.”)
Sure, FoundationSearch provides a solid tool with a sizable database. GrantWatch is affordable. But neither of them offer the 24/7 funding and RFP search capabilities of Instrumentl coupled with a comprehensive grant management interface perfect for teams on the move.
If you’re ready to take your fundraising to the next level, take advantage of Instrumentl’s free 14-day trial. We believe once you’ve experienced the Instrumentl difference, you’ll be convinced.
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