Last Updated:

November 8, 2022

Is Foundation Directory Online Worth It?


Instrumentl team



October 5, 2022

For years, Foundation Directory Online (FDO) was the only game in town, standing head and shoulders above any of its competitors. But is this still true? Is Foundation Directory Online worth it when you’re looking for the best value grant discovery platform?

In this article, we’ll look at FDO’s features, price plans, and common user reviews to help you make an informed opinion about Foundation Directory Online. Let’s jump in!

What Are Some of Foundation Directory Online's Key Features?

Foundation Directory Online Key Features

Foundation Directory Online allows users to search for grants by funder interest, EIN, location, assets or giving range, or by organization name.

Users are then provided with a funder profile, including key contacts, average amount of grants made, open RFPs, and the ability to immediately link to the funder’s IRS 990 tax forms.

Charts and a heat map are also provided, as are links to funder websites (when available). This is all useful information to help users sort through grant opportunities and choose those that are the best match to their organization’s cause.

FDO offers information about

  • Private, family, and independent foundations
  • International foundations
  • Corporate foundations
  • U.S. Federal funding entities
  • Public charities

These new features are a giant step beyond the original Foundation Directory. Back when it first began, in 1956, the Foundation Directory was available as a printed resource only at public libraries, affiliated universities, or college libraries.

With the dawning of the internet, it only made sense to put the directory online.

Things changed again when the Foundation Center and Guidestar began negotiating a potential merger in 2012. The merger finally occurred in 2019 under the new brand “Candid.”

Let’s take a closer look at some of the features Foundation Directory Online offers grant seekers.

Finding new RFPs

FDO recently added a list of open RFPs to its website, but users don’t have the ability to filter by location. Additionally, while funding interests are a filtered field, common interests such as animal welfare, aren’t included. You can search broadly using its “philanthropy” filter, but it can be time-consuming to sort through several hundred open RFPs.

Grant tracking and submissions

My FDO Dashboard offers some tools to track grants, including the amount requested vs. the amount granted. All information must be added manually, which is also time-consuming. The same tool allows you to track submitted proposals.

Prospect research

My FDO Dashboard also allows users to track funding prospects, via its “Add to My FDO” button on the grantmaker profiles tools menu. You can also download search results into a spreadsheet.


FDO isn’t cloud-based, so while it allows multiple users, users cannot collaborate with others on their team. The lack of collaboration features can be time-consuming to work around and could lead to some frustration, especially in a large team environment.


While FDO allows users to export search results into a spreadsheet, there is no automatic report generation feature. The closest thing to a reporting feature is in My FDO which allows users to pull information regarding the grantmaker’s name, assessment, location, number of grant proposals submitted, the value of proposals funded, and the user’s last activity.

Other Resources

Candid, a mash-up of Guidestar and Foundation Directory Online, also publishes Philanthropy News Digest, an emailed newsletter, has a blog, and offers free and fee-based classes. These can be helpful, especially to a less experienced grant writer.

So, is Foundation Directory Online worth it? Let’s take a look at FDO pricing plans for more insight.

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Foundation Directory Online Pricing Plans Examined

Price Tag

To get the most out of the Foundation Directory Online users must have a paid subscription. FDO offers several pricing tiers, each outlined below.

Foundational Directory Online Essential

The most affordable tier is Foundation Directory Online Essential, which provides access to only 111,000 funders’ data. The fee for one user is as follows:

Foundational Directory Online Essential

The Essential level includes:

  • Access to funders’ IRS 990 tax forms
  • Suggested other funders similar to those you searched for
  • The ability to search by location, funding focus, assets, name of funder, or name of key personnel
  • Access to My FDO dashboard allowing tracking of funders, tasks, and contacts
  • Access to other Candid resources

FDO Essential is best for sole practitioners and small nonprofits.

Foundation Directory Online Professional

Foundation Directory Online Professional

The Professional version of Foundation Directory Online comes with all of the above plus many more bells and whistles, including:

  • More than 242,000 grantmaker profiles
  • Searchable 990s and 990-PFs
  • 2.2M+ recipient profiles
  • More than 1.2M contacts
  • My FDO dashboard
  • Data on nearly 2.5M grants
  • Interactive maps and charts
  • Comprehensive information on federal grants
  • Corporate foundation grant opportunities

Because of the higher fees, FDO Professional is designed for a multi-user environment of up to 10 people, such as a small college advancement services shop, or small grant writing consultancy.

With both tiers, prices go up depending on the number of users.

Foundation Directory Online Enterprise

If you have more than 10 users (think a large university with a robust prospect research team) Foundation Directory Online offers a customized Enterprise plan. 

Their website does not provide details on the pricing, but given the high price of the Professional Level plan for 10 users, one can imagine that the Enterprise version costs more. FDO Enterprise does not have additional features than Professional; it simply offers more seats. FDO may also offer Discount Codes.

What Others Have to Say About Foundation Directory Online

Foundation Directory Online Review

Online reviews from real people reveal that many people still rely on Foundation Directory Online as a good grant discovery platform.

Foundation Directory Online Reviews

For those who are fans of FDO, they state they like the:

  • Availability of RFPs
  • Ease of reviewing IRS 990 forms
  • Listing of similar funders

But others, such as the reviewer below, believe the site’s redesign has spoiled the User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX).

FDO Review

The most frequent objection to FDO is the cost, followed by the user experience, and FDO’s matching algorithms which sometimes don’t work well resulting in conflated search terms. For instance, a search for funders giving to organizations in Virginia Beach will bring up funders with the words “Virginia” or “Beach” in their entity’s title.

Is there a Better FDO Alternative? Instrumentl Examined


If you’ve read this far and you’re thinking FDO doesn’t fit your budget or lacks some of the tools you need, you might be wondering about other Foundation Directory Online alternatives.

Meet Instrumentl.

Founded in 2014, Instrumentl provides nonprofits with a seamless solution for grant discovery and research, collaborative grant management and reporting, and grant tracking—all in one place.

Instrumentl offers all of the services that FDO does, but with a user-friendly interface.

Instrumentl has information about

  • Private, family, and independent foundations
  • International foundations
  • Corporate foundations
  • U.S. Federal funding entities
  • Public charities

Plus, Instrumentl offers many more features than FDO and at a lower price point. Imagine being able to research funders, store information, and notes, be automatically reminded of upcoming deadlines, quickly pull reports, and be able to save completed proposals all in one secure place.

Here’s a breakdown of a few of Instrumentl’s top tools that let you do just that.

Finding new RFPs

Instrumentl Finding new RFPs

Instrumentl automatically searches RFPs based on information in your profile or for your specific projects thanks to its smart matching tool. Users also get email alerts of new matching opportunities.

Grant tracking and submissions by project

Instrumentl Grant tracking and submissions by project

Instrumentl allows you to create separate projects with specific search parameters.

This project feature is incredibly helpful for grant writing consultancies or sole practitioners.

It also allows you to track and manage your grant submissions and subsequent awards.

Grant management

Instrumentl Grant Management

Stay on top of reporting back to funders—and never miss a deadline again. You can quickly and easily pull a report by type, and be reminded of upcoming deadlines.

Prospect research

Instrumentl Prospect Research

Find and save your best match funders. You can easily prioritize funders by interest, funding fit, and giving amounts.

Openness to new grantees

Instrumentl Openness to New Grantees

Narrow down your funder picks by discovering how open they are to funding new organizations. This will help you be more selective about how you reach out to new funding sources and how likely they are to consider your nonprofit.


Instrumentl Collaboration

Manage and collaborate with your team with ease. By creating project milestones, you’ll create a better system of accountability and help keep your team performing at their best.

Securely store and share documents

Instrumentl Securely Store and Share Documents

No more hunting for grant proposals, reports, or attachments. Store them safely in the cloud and save time.


Instrumentl Reporting Feature

Instrumentl allows you to create a variety of reports for your board and your executive director. You can report on funders you are researching, proposals in progress, submitted proposals, won proposals, and more, making your team’s KPIs transparent.

Calendar integration

Instrumentl Calendar Integration

Instrumentl’s new integrated calendar view allows you and your team to stay on track. And Instrumentl now synchs to Salesforce, the powerful CRM used by many nonprofits.

Bottom line: Instrumentl offers much more than FDO or other alternatives to Foundation Directory Online, and at a lower price.

Wrapping Up: Is Foundation Directory Online Worth It?

Person wondering

So, is Foundation Directory Online worth it? It’s a decent tool, but there are better alternatives available.

Many nonprofits and grant writing consultants subscribe to multiple foundation research platforms—but with Instrumentl, there’s no need to. Sign up today for a free, no-obligation 14-day trial and compare the difference for yourself.

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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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