Show me the money

When I begin a presentation on Grant Writing, I frequently ask audience members if they remember the famous line from the 1996 film, “Jerry Maguire.”  Cuba Gooding, Jr. plays a talented athlete and he memorably asks his agent (Tom Cruise) to “Show me the Money!”

And since you are reading an article on seeking grants, I can imagine that that is your first thought – “Who has the money and how can I get it – fast?”

Fortunately, thanks to the mostly volunteer efforts of the people who run Grantsmart, researching potential sources of funding is relatively easy.  You can start your research from any computer that has Internet access.

The Grantsmart website – has scanned, sorted and disseminates all public record tax returns for Private Foundations and Charitable Trusts in the USA.  As of July, 2006 their search-able database contains 611,494 tax returns for 103,193 foundations and trusts.  This is a massive undertaking (by Grantsmart) but for you – the Grant Seeker – it is an incredible resource!

Because the IRS has granted non-profit status to these foundations and trusts their tax returns are a matter of public record.  The specific section of the return that you want to look at is Form 990 and it is located towards the end of each tax return.

In exchange for permitting non-profit status, the government mandates that each foundation and trust actually spend a portion of their assets each year.  Generally, they must spend 5% of their assets each year or risk losing their status as a non-for-profit organization.

When you look at each Form 990 you will see which individuals or organizations received funding – and the amount of each grant – for that tax year.

Here's how to get the most out of the search-able database of Grantsmart.  I'll detail an actual search that I did this morning:

1) First I searched for all foundations in CA – California, that had assets greater than $10 million dollars.  This returned 269 tax returns – for the year 2005 – sorted in alphabetical order.

2) Once I found a few recognizable names I clicked to see the actual tax return – via the free Adobe PDF format.  I made a few notes in my records for later research.  I was looking for foundations and trusts that might fund a program for one of my clients.

3) I narrowed the search down by Zip Code.  Looking at a single Zip Code I found on 1 foundation with assets greater than $10 million for the year 2005.

4) When I lowered my threshold to foundations with assets greater than $100,000 I found 15 foundations and trusts.

When you are looking for more information about possible funders, Grantsmart is a great starting point.  Be sure to keep a notebook handy and also write down the 9-digit EIN (Employer Informant ion Number) for each foundation that you are interested in.  Having this EIN number handy will facilitate future searches.

Be sure to look at the individuals and organizations who received grants from the foundation.  You may recognize them!  If so, do additional research – what made them attractive to the foundation?  What were they able to accomplish with the grant?  Does the foundation still fund programs in this area?

Please share your questions and stories with our readers.  We want to hear from you!



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