Prospecting for gold? Bring a modem, not a mule

One thing I really miss from my fund raising days is my prospect database. It was a ClarisWorks database that I made with my own two hands. It held the names and addresses of several hundred prospective funders who, I hoped, could one day be coerced into giving my organization money.

Now, some might have stopped the data collection madness with just that basic, necessary informationÐname, address, phone number. Not me. I faithfully entered the dates I made contact with the funder, who I’d sent proposals to, how much we asked for, what was granted, and any odd factsДsecretary likes cats”Ðthat might give me a jump on our competitors. It was a thing of beauty and joy. I spent weeks developing itÐeven consulting my co-workers on the screen color schema.

Finding and keeping track of your prospective donors is one of the most tedious, labor-intensive tasks of successful fund raising. But it’s crucial to do your research if you want to zero in on those most likely to fund your technology program.

We call the process prospect research. In prospect research you identify possible grant makers who are likely to give you money, and research each potential grant maker in-depth.

And guess what? You can use the internet to do that research.

Prospect Worksheet

The very first thing you want to do is know your project. You need to have a good understanding of what you want this money for before you can identify who might give it to you. Sketch out as many of the particulars as you can: how much you need, the goals and objectives of the project, and how long it will take. Then you can come up with a list of funding sources.

What are you looking for? Grant makers who have funded projects like yours in the past, who are giving the kind of money you’re looking for, and who give to people in your geographic area.

There are a lot of guidesÐboth print and electronicÐto help you narrow your search and find such “matches.” When I’m scouring a foundation directory for prospects, I keep a batch of prospect worksheets at my elbow to fill out when I spot a funder that could be a likely funding source.

On these worksheets I record the following information:

€ Name, address, telephone and fax numbers, and eMail address of contact person (usually the pro gram officer for education projects).

€ The mission of the funder and its funding areas.

€ Funding priorities (every funder has priorities, and you can usually find them in a grants directory or in the funder’s annual report).

€ Financial data: total assets, total grants paid, grant ranges/amount needed, period of funding/project (this will help you decide which funders are able to give the kind of money you’re looking for, when you need it).

€ Geographic limits (. . . if any. Fun ders often cite receiving applications from those living outside their geo graphic giving area as their number one aggravation: make sure you’re in an area where your prospective fun der gives).

€ Types of support (whether they give matching grants, in-kind donations, etc.).

€ Populations served.

€ Types of past recipients, their names and project titles (so you can call and ask if they wouldn’t mind sharing their proposal or project narrative with you).

€ Inside people to know (these might be officers, trustees, a receptionist, past recipient, etc.).

€ Application information (printed guidelines/application form, how to approach initially, deadlines, and board meeting dates).

€ The source of your information about the funder.

€ Space for notes, follow-up steps you want to take, etc.

You might want to prepare a prospect worksheet form to help you keep track of all this information. The Foundation Center has a great worksheet available on its web site that’s free to download or print out.

Identifying Prospects

The internet is fast becoming the prospect researcher’s best friend (after the program officer). If you don’t have direct internet access yourself, you absolutely should sneak down to the computer lab after school and check out all the resources available to you on the web.

One of your first stops should be The Foundation Center. In addition to providing hundreds of links to hundreds of private, corporate, and community foundation grant makers, you’ll also find a tutorial on the grant-seeking process, an introduction to proposal writing, and helpful links to nonprofit organizations.

A couple of sites on the internet give you lots of links to funders and information specifically about technology for schools. You definitely should bookmark these sites: NASA K12 Internet Initiative: Grant Info, The Annenberg/CPB’s SAMI (Science and Math Initiative) Mini-Grants Page, Pitsco’s Launch to Grants and Funding, Indiana Computer Educators (ICE), and the U.S. Department of Education’s Grants & Contracts Information.

You can also sign up for an eMail bulletin of new Department of Education initiatives and funding opportunities by sending an eMail addressed to with nothing in the body but subscribe EDInfo yourfirstname yourlastname. That is, “subscribe EDInfo Clint Eastwood”.

For other federal grants programs that might fund your technology program, you can wade through the Federal Register online at the URL below, or you can order the publication by calling (202) 512-1800.

The Foundation Center publishes several print guides that might be of use: the National Guide for Funding Information Technology, the National Guide to Funding for Elementary and Secondary Education, and field-specific Grant Guides. Visit the Foundation Center web site for more information.

A customer service representative at Capitol Publications suggested three titles for education technology fund raising: Grants for School Technology, The Grantseekers Handbook of Essential Internet Sites, and Arts Education and Outreach (which lists some technology programs). Capitol also publishes newsletters that will keep you on top of new programs and fund raising opportunities. “Education Daily” and “Education Grants Alert.” Call Capitol Publications, (800) 655-5597.

Other books that will help you locate funds for school technology:

€ The Distance Learning Funding Sourcebook, by Arlene Krebs (800) 228-0810 (update available summer 1998).

€ From Here to Technology: How to Fund Hardware, Software, and More, by Barbara Hunter and published by the American Association of School Administrators, Call (888) 782-2272.

€ OnLine: Financing Strategies for Ed ucation Technology, published by the National School Board Association. Call (800) 706-6722.

€ Educator’s Internet Funding Guide, from Classroom Connect, (800) 638- 1639.

€ Obtaining Resources for Technology in Education, by David Moursund of International Society for Technology in Education. (800) 336-5191.

Foundation prospecting

Use The Foundation Center or another directory to get the scoop on corporate, individual, and community foundations. Definitely visit the web site of any prospective donor. There may be grant application guidelines available to download or print out. You’ll also find helpful information such as the kinds of projects that the organization funded in the previous year, location of its headquarters, and the names of its board members and trustees. All information that you can use to tailor your proposal to the funder.

The Foundation Center’s Grantmaker Information directory contains detailed information on most foundations that maintain an internet presence. It “Corporate Grantsmaker on the Internet” section allows you to perform keyword searches for likely prospects.

You can also find links to foundations at The Council on Foundations, Fundsnet, and The Internet Prospector, where volunteers publish their prospect research regularly on the web site and in a monthly eMailed newsletter.

The Foundation Center offers print publications that can help you find out more about private, corporate, and community foundations. The Foundation Directory covers foundations with assets of $2 million or more, or with total annual giving of $200,000 or more. This is a real fund raiser’s bible; you’ll find all the info you’ll need in it. The Guide to U.S. Foundations, Their Trustees, Officers, and Donors includes basic information on all active grant-making foundations in the U.S. The National Directory of Corporate Giving gives details on over 1,950 corporate foundations and an additional 650+ direct giving programs. Visit the Foundation Center’s web site for more info.

Grants & Funding Center at

The Foundation Center

Council on Foundations

Philanthropy News Digest


The Internet Prospector

Federal Register

NASA K12 Internet Initiative: Grant Info

The Annenberg/CPB’s SAMI (Science and Math Initiative) Mini-Grants Page

Pitsco’s Launch to Grants and Funding

Indiana Computer Educators (ICE)

U.S. Department of Education: Grants & Contracts

eSchool News Staff

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