How Much Money Can I Ask This Foundation For? How To Determine The Size of A Grant Request


Amelie Heurteux


Customer Success Manager at Instrumentl

Reviewed by:


November 2, 2021

Last Updated:

March 20, 2024

The Executive Director is breathing down your neck, and pressure from the Board of Directors is mounting.

You have to submit a proposal for grant funding to a local foundation. But you just don’t know the right amount to ask for without lowballing yourself.

Here’s what you can do.

Use Instrumentl to pull up the historical data on the foundation to find out just how much money you should be asking for.

Our 990 snapshots analyze and break down a foundation’s past giving patterns—so you don’t have to.

In this article, you’ll learn how to determine the size of your next grant request and set your nonprofit up for the best possible chance at funding.

Let’s stop lowballing and dive in!

Grant Proposal Template for Nonprofits (+5 Tips Included)

How to Find the Past Giving History of a Foundation

It’s nerve-inducing to wonder if you’re asking for too much or too little in your grant proposal.

As uncomfortable as it might be, knowing how much to ask for can help your grant management team approach potential funders with confidence.

A great way to do this is by looking at the foundation’s actual funding history. The following steps outline exactly how you can do so using Instrumentl.

Step 1: Open Funder Insights

First things first: You’ll want to set up your 14-day free trial of Instrumentl (no credit card required to get started).

Next, navigate to your dashboard and select the “Quick Find” search bar in the upper left corner of your screen.

Type in the foundation you want to learn more about.

You can then click on the foundation under “990 Reports” in the search bar.

From here, you’ll be able to access that funder’s complete 990 report, with snapshots that break down the funder’s giving history, key people, geographic focus, and so much for.

All of this information is pulled from the foundation’s 990 reports that they file with the IRS annually—but Instrumentl crunches these numbers into easy-to-scan charts, so spotting big-picture giving trends is easy.

Step 2: Compare Grant Range and Grant Size

Next, you can scroll down to the snapshot under the “Grant Amounts” section.

From this snapshot, you’ll be able to see a breakdown of a funder’s past giving over multiple years, including:

  • Their minimum grant amounts
  • Median grant amounts
  • Average grant amounts
  • Maximum grant amounts
  • Number of grantees
  • Most common grant award amount

In the image below, we see a rather wide array of grant amounts, ranging from $2,500 to over $1 million.

Upon further investigation, you’ll notice that the median grant amount awarded by this funder is $43,889, and the average amount given is $67,324.

Additionally, be sure to pay attention to the number of grants the funder is giving out (You can see this on the Y-axis of the graph). In this particular case, it’s clear from the snapshot that the majority of the funder’s awards fall between $21K-$50K.

However, where exactly your ask falls on the spectrum should also be determined by your analysis of the funder’s past grantees (which we’ll discuss in the next step).

Instrumentl also breaks down a funder’s grant amounts by new grantees vs. repeat grantees.

As you can see from the snapshot below, the average grant size for a new grantee was almost $60,000, while the average grant size for a repeat grantee was over $250,000—that’s a huge difference!

As a new grantee, you can use this data to help you come up with a reasonable request. But that’s not all—keep reading!

Step 3: Check Out Past Grantees

Instrumentl’s 990 breakdowns also include a “Past Grantees” section where you can see who the funder has actually awarded grants to in the past.

Within this list of past grant recipients, you’ll also be able to see:

  • Where the organizations are located
  • How much they were awarded
  • What the grant money was used for

These insights are incredibly valuable as you evaluate your nonprofit’s alignment with a funder’s past giving and what sort of grant you could expect receiving.

For example, in the image below, we see that the majority of grantees for this particular funder were from California, with a few in Illinois and Texas. If you scroll down a little further, you’ll see a list of the actual grantees, their award amounts, and their funding purpose.

Finding out how much funding similar nonprofits have received from a specific funder can help your organization come up with an appropriate and effective ask.

Instead of feeling like you’re shooting in the dark, Instrumentl gives you concrete data to pull from as you consider the size of your grant request.

Step 4: Spot the Big Picture Trends

Our 990 snapshots make spotting big-picture funding trends fast.

With a funder's giving trends, You’’ refine how you conduct grant prospect research.

For example, you'll want to identify if a potential funder shows an increasing, decreasing, or a relatively stable trend in their giving.

In the image below, we see that this organization saw a hard drop in both its giving average and median grant amounts in 2020. What was going on in 2020?

Well, how could we forget? A global pandemic. Yet, we see in 2021 and 2022 an immediate return to their regular giving patterns. While not every drop can be explained away by the COVID-19 pandemic, these are the sorts of patterns you should be paying attention to.

Understanding a foundation’s giving trends can set realistic expectations for your funding request, ensuring it aligns with the funder’s typical giving range.
This strategic alignment increases your proposal's chance of success!

The Value Provided By Advanced Funder Insights

Instrumentl will save you countless hours researching a funder’s giving history. You no longer have to worry about scaring off the funder with too high of an ask nor leaving money on the table by not asking for enough.

You can look up a funder’s 990s online and crunch the numbers yourself, but doing so for a single funder—not to mention multiple at a time—would take hours.

Just listen to what Dr. Bev Browning, Author, Grant Consultant and Coach had to say about these time-saving features:

“Instrumentl does in about 20 minutes what used to take me 40 hours.”

With these tools in hand, you have all the information you need in one place to make a strategic funding request and streamline your entire grant management process.

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Wrapping Up

Your chances of securing funding are only as good as the research you’ve done.

The next time you’re faced with applying for a grant, you don’t have to worry about lowballing yourself. Instrument’s Advanced Funder Insights provide a comprehensive and inside look into a funder’s previous giving, allowing you to make an informed and strategic ask.

Sign up today for a 14 day free trial to see just how much you can transform your grant prospecting and research efforts with Instrumentl.

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Amelie Heurteux

Amelie Heurteux

Amelie Heurteux, a Customer Success Manager at Instrumentl, works day in and day out training nonprofits and grant writers how to efficiently prospect new funders and streamline their grant tracking and management processes.

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