For anyone whose work is supported by grant funding, the pressure to secure additional funding to continue the work you are doing looms constantly overhead. As I learned while interviewing Safe Schools/Healthy Students (SS/HS) grantees with colleagues for Stories of Sustainability, even the strongest grant models—those that plan for sustainability from day one by establishing partnerships and building capacity—may still benefit from funding dollars as their grant funding comes to an ends or to jump-start new initiatives.
But finding funding sources—especially online—can be a difficult and time-consuming task. Every day the Internet becomes increasingly cluttered with outdated content, which includes pages about funding opportunities that no longer exist.
As a former search specialist (someone who actually earned a living by finding and promoting content online via keywords), I was humbled by the hours I spent scanning grant databases and search engines for funding opportunities to include in the SS/HS newsletter. To prevent further frustration, I took a step back and thought strategically about more efficient ways to find grants and funding online, including refining search results and using social media.
Below are some practices I’ve developed that can save you time and, more importantly, help you find the right funding opportunities to sustain needed programming in your community.
Twitter. If you are not a Tweeter, rest assured. You don’t need a Twitter account to take advantage of Twitter’s search feature. Think of Twitter as a hub of “what is happening right now”—where you can learn about grant announcements as they happen. Just go to Twitter.com and type funding-related keywords into the toolbar, located on the top right of your screen. I did a search for “grant funding youth” and immediately saw several tweets alerting me to grant announcements and upcoming deadlines:
Google Search Tools. If you aren’t familiar with Google’s search tools, I highly recommend that you get acquainted. Located just beneath Google’s search bar, these search tools allow you to limit your results to specific date ranges and locations. Choosing to display only results about funding opportunities created in the past week or month allows you to eliminate those from years prior. Further refining your search by location may also help you locate grants specific to your community.
Negative Keywords. One of my favorite tricks of the search engine trade is the use of negative keywords to weed out irrelevant search results. Searches including keywords such as “grants” and “schools” often result in reports from local news outlets on those who have already been awarded funding—which is not likely to be helpful for those seeking grants. In the example below, by adding “awarded” and “announced” (past-tense words) as negative keywords, I attempted to eliminate content that reported on past events. Combined with results from the “past week,” notice all the search results revealing current grant opportunities:
Once you find a setting that works well for you, most search engines have a feature that will alert you when new content is added that matches your criteria. (If you use Google, for example, check out Google Alerts.)
LinkedIn Groups. LinkedIn Groups are a great way to connect with professionals in your line of work. In these groups, members participate in conversations by posing questions, sharing documents and research, and posting other useful industry-related information. The group “K-12 Education Grants,” for example, contains several postings about education-related grants. Unlike Twitter, you do need to sign up for an account to use most of LinkedIn’s features.
Sign Up/Opt In. Most sites also have an option to sign up for newsletters, which in my experience, often contain announcements of funding opportunities. If you are interested in federal grants, having daily updates sent to you from Grants.gov, or other grant databases, can save you a lot of groundwork. Keep in mind, though, that emails can be easily overlooked and may end up in your junk mail—so don’t rely on this method alone.
Feeds. If you aren’t already, consider using a feed. The biggest advantage of feeds is that they allow you to easily view content as soon as it is updated. You can choose the websites that have content or funding opportunities you are interested in and then scan the headlines of multiple sites’ new content all in one place. If you are looking for a feed application, I personally like FeedReader.
Deciding what websites to sign up for and add to your feeds should be specific to your industry and interests. The following websites may be useful to a broad range of grant and funding seekers:
- Federal Register Office
- The Foundation Center
- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Grant Database
How else do you find funding opportunities online? I’d love to hear about it! Please share any useful tips and tricks by commenting below*.
*Email addresses will be kept confidential