A Guide to the Best Free Grant Search Engines for Nonprofits

Author:

Jessica Knapp

,

CEO, Communities In Schools Pennsylvania

Reviewed by:

Published:

May 14, 2024

Last Updated:

May 14, 2024

While grants are crucial for a nonprofit’s long-term sustainability, we recognize that paying for search tools isn’t always an option for organizations due to tight budgets.

The solution? Free grant search engines.

Here’s the catch: using a free database requires time. You’ll have to manually search and verify eligibility criteria and vet each opportunity to ensure it's a good fit. For some nonprofits, this trade-off is worth it—because, as they say, time is money!

In this guide, we’re going to walk you through the top free grant search engines that are tailored to nonprofit grant professionals. We will:

  • Highlight their key features
  • And share why users love them

Ready to learn more about accessible resources that can help you find funding without breaking the bank? Let’s dive in!

Best Free Grant Search Engines

With more than 86,000 grant-making organizations in the United States alone, the sheer volume of available grants can be overwhelming.

This is where grant research tools come into play.

Grant search engines can help you streamline your grant-seeking efforts while maintaining maximum efficiency. After all, we know that time is a precious commodity for grant professionals!


While many grant databases come with a cost, we are going to share the best free grant search engines on the market. By the time we’re done, you’ll be ready to choose the option that will work best for your organization's grant prospecting needs.

Instrumentl

Summary: While not technically free, Instrumentl does provide a 14-day free trial period (no credit card required!), allowing you to explore its full range of features and benefits with no strings attached.


While we are biased (with good reason, we’d argue), we are confident that Instrumentl offers the most robust solution for grant professionals seeking to streamline their grant search and application processes.


Features and Benefits:
Instrumentl provides users with a comprehensive database of over 400,000+ funders and 15,000+ active RFPs. Our search engine is simply unmatched in terms of scope. Not only is the database huge, but it’s also constantly updated, so you’re never looking at outdated funder information.

One thing that sets Instrumentl apart from its competitors is its Smart Matching technology. You simply enter in information about your nonprofit’s funding needs (grant size, type of funder, funding use, location, etc.) and Instrumentl analyzes its entire database to match you with the best-fit opportunities.


No more scrolling through pages of grants that aren’t relevant to your organization!

Dr. Bev Browning, author of Grant Writing for Dummies, shares why she loves Instrumentl so much:

“I love the ability to create a project workspace and then sit back and watch Instrumentl do all of the sourcing work! I see that loading sign in front me, and all of a sudden - there’s like 200+ funding opportunities.”


Instrumentl also analyzes funders’ 990s forms and consolidates all of that data into one easy-to-read page. These 990 snapshots are helpful in breaking down key data that helps you determine quickly if an opportunity is worth applying for.


Why Users Love It:
Grant professionals appreciate Instrumentl for its comprehensive toolset and tailored search capabilities. The platform’s user-friendly interface and intuitive features make it super easy to navigate and utilize, even for those new to grant-seeking.

While Instrumentl is not free, its 14-day free trial allows grant professionals and their teams to experience the platform’s full potential with no strings attached.

With its robust features and customizable search options, Instrumentl undoubtedly provides a significant return on investment for grant professionals looking to maximize their time and efforts in securing funding opportunities.

Sara D., CEO at Experience Camps, shares:

“The Instrumentl platform showed an immediate ROI for our organization. What started as a trial has become a staple tool for our fundraising team.”


Grantmakers.io

Summary: Grantmakers.io is a robust platform that serves as a valuable resource for nonprofits seeking funding opportunities. With a vast database of grantmakers and active opportunities, this tool simplifies the grant search process, catering particularly to small and medium-sized organizations. Its intuitive interface and comprehensive features make it a great option for grantseekers of all levels of experience.


Why Users Like it:
If you’re a grant professional, you know how challenging it can be to sift through the data in a Form 990—they aren’t exactly riveting reading material. Grantmakers.io makes the data in this form searchable! No more scrolling through 90+ pages to find the information you need!

Grants.gov

Summary: Grants.gov stands out as the #1 centralized platform for federal grant opportunities. It’s a one-stop-shop for nonprofits and other organizations seeking funding from government agencies. With its huge scope, this tool covers a diverse range of grant types and caters to the needs of different sectors.


Why Users Like It:
The US has more than 400 government agencies and sub-agencies, many of which offer competitive grant opportunities. Rather than having to search each agency’s website for opportunities, Grants.gov streamlines all them into one place, allowing users to easily search for grants that are a good fit for their program or project.

Users also report that the search function is easy to use, and allows you to filter and search based on specific criteria, such as grant type, agency, or keyword.


Funds for NGOs

Summary: Funds for NGOs is a resource that caters specifically to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) seeking funding opportunities worldwide. This platform serves as a hub for NGOs, offering access to a huge range of funding sources, going far beyond just government grants. From international aid agencies to private foundations, Funds for NGOs covers a broad spectrum of funding opportunities tailored to the needs of NGOs operating across all regions and sectors.

You can search for grants by focus area (agriculture, arts/culture, COVID, education, etc.), or you can check out what’s new by viewing the platform’s list of latest grants.


Why Users Like It:
Nongovernmental organizations love Funds for NGOS because of its extensive coverage of international funding opportunities. Unlike some other platforms that focus primarily on domestic grants, this tool provides access to a huge array of funding sources from around the globe. This enables organizations to find funding opportunities beyond their local and national borders, expanding their reach and impact.

Philanthropy News Digest

Summary: Philanthropy News Digest offers valuable resources for nonprofits and grantseekers through its free newsletters. By subscribing to these newsletters, users gain access to a curated selection of funding opportunities, news, and resources in the philanthropic sector. This service provides a convenient way for nonprofits to stay informed about the latest funding opportunities that are relevant to their missions and initiatives.

Why Users Like It: Users love Philanthropy News Digest for its provision of high-quality resources at no direct cost (aka, for FREE!) The platform’s newsletters offer a wealth of valuable information, including:

  • Grant announcements
  • Funding trends
  • Insights from experts in the field

By leveraging these free resources, nonprofits can enhance their grant-seeking efforts without having to make significant financial investments. This accessibility makes Philanthropy News Digest a valuable asset for nonprofits of all sizes.

Community Foundation Locator by the Council on Foundations

Summary: The Community Foundation Locator by the Council on Foundations serves as a valuable tool for nonprofit organizations seeking funding opportunities from community foundations.

Community foundations are different from other types of foundations in that they are public charities dedicated to improving the lives of people in a defined geographic area. There are more than 900 community foundations across the US, so there’s a good chance that there’s one serving your community!

The Council on Foundation’s Community Foundation Locator is an interactive map tool that allows users to find community foundations in their region.


Even more, once you use the map to find your local area, you can click on any of the green dots to learn more about that specific community foundation—including the foundation’s key contact person, address, and accreditation status with the Council on Foundations. From there, you can click the name of the community foundation to get directed right to their website where you can learn more about their specific focus areas and opportunities.


Why Users Like It:
Users appreciate the Community Foundation Locator for its ability to provide targeted information about specific community foundations and their funding opportunities. Users find it especially useful that the tool provides contact information for the foundation’s key contact person.

Local Public Libraries

Summary: Many libraries provide free access to subscription-based grant databases to support the research needs of their communities. By leveraging these resources, nonprofits can access a wealth of funding opportunities and grant-related information without incurring the costs associated with individual subscriptions.

Here’s an example: the Lancaster Public Library has a section on their website detailing all of the resources they offer to nonprofits. Check it out!


Why Users Like It:
Users value local public libraries for their commitment to providing high-quality resources at no cost. This access to resources enhances the capacity of nonprofits to pursue funding opportunities and advance their missions, ultimately benefiting the communities they serve.

Your Local Government

Summary: Many local government agencies administer grant programs designed to address specific needs and priorities within their communities. These grants cover various focus areas, including economic development, public health, education, and social services.

Why Users Like It: Users appreciate their local government’s role in providing free and easy access to grant search tools and opportunities. These platforms, like the one offered by the City of Seattle, allow grant professionals to search for grants from multiple sources in one place. Users value the convenience of access to a centralized database that aggregates grant opportunities from various government agencies, foundations, and other funders.

Using AI and Technology in Grant Searches

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last several years, you’ve surely heard about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and all of the ways that it is revolutionizing work in different sectors and industries.

You might be surprised to learn that AI can play a huge role in enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of your grant-seeking efforts. In fact, AI can revolutionize your entire funding strategy!

Free AI tools can provide valuable assistance to grant professionals in the initial stages of the grant-seeking process by helping you navigate huge amounts of information to identify relevant, good-fit funding matches.

Here are a few examples:

  1. ChatGPT: You can use ChatGPT to perform keyword-based searches related to your nonprofit’s mission, programs, or focus areas. Simply provide ChatGPT with keywords or phrases, such as “education”, “college readiness”, or “community development”, and it will generate relevant grant opportunities based on your input.
  2. Google Search: While you may not think of Google as an AI tool, Google’s search engine utilizes AI algorithms to understand and deliver relevant search results. You can use Google to search for grants by entering keywords related to your organization’s mission or programs to find relevant opportunities.
  3. IBM Watson Discovery: IBM Watson Discovery is a powerful AI-powered search tool that can help you find grant opportunities for your organization. It uses natural language processing to understand your queries and delivers you with tailored results. Similar to the other AI tools, you can use Watson Discovery to search for grants by keywords or phrases related to your nonprofit’s work.

A word of wisdom: AI tools can be super helpful in streamlining your grant search process, but it’s important to remember that they are not a replacement for a human mind. Our best advice for using these tools successfully is to refine your search queries to be as specific as possible. The more detail you can provide the AI tool with, the better the results it will be able to generate for you.

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Wrapping Up

In the quest for funding, grant professionals have a wealth of free grant search engines at their disposal, each offering unique benefits and resources.

  • Grantmakers.io provides an intuitive platform tailored for small to medium-sized nonprofits.
  • Grants.gov offers comprehensive access to federal funding opportunities.
  • Funds for NGOs broadens the scope with international funding sources specific to nongovernmental organizations.
  • Philanthropy News Digest delivers curated newsletters loaded with valuable insights.

However, don’t overlook the opportunity to leverage a free trial of Instrumentl for more advanced features and tailored search capabilities.

Happy grant seeking!

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Jessica Knapp

Jessica Knapp

Jessica Knapp is the State President and Chief Executive Officer of Communities In Schools Pennsylvania, the United States' largest dropout prevention organization. She has over 10 years of experience in nonprofit operations and leadership, program development, and fundraising/resource development.

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