I think that everyone in the grant writing business has probably asked themselves: How do I follow the money for non-profit groups getting federal grants and contracts? As a political scientist, I was trained to follow the money no matter what as a tool for determining who had the most power and clout in Washington, D.C. Now, as a grant writer, I still follow the money. I follow the money in order to understand where it is coming from and what I need to say and do to get it.
One of my most important secrets of success is to research the competitors who are also applying for the same pot of grant money. If you would like to start researching your competitors, then you need to know about the following websites.
Check out Guidestar:
You can find another non-profit organization's IRS Form 990’s on Guidestar by going here and registering to use it. Of course, you will need to use the non-profit's exact name as it appears on their Form 990. The IRS Form 990 is quite interesting because it includes a list of their largest funders along with details on how much they pay their high-level staff and, sometimes, board members. Although key information like phone numbers and addresses may sometimes be blocked out, you will still get enough basic information that a simple Google search will help you fill in the details on any cool information you discover through this remarkable service.
Check out USASpending.gov:
This website is the publicly accessible, searchable website mandated by the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 to give the American public access to information on how their tax dollars are spent. Most folks have no idea that this website even exists. Nevertheless it is a terrific way to investigate how much and what kind of federal funding your competitors are receiving from their grant campaigns. Again, you need to look up the exact name that they used when they applied for funding. This is a little tricky, but you can do it with a little persistence and imagination.
Check out annual reports to Congress:
These annual reports are a virtual cornucopia of information on grants. This data is also useful in identifying broad trends in government funding too.
Check out NonProfitFacts.com:
This website is particularly good for laying out the basic financial facts about a competitor organization without the tedious detail of reviewing the IRS 990 Form. The downside, however, is that it will not give you the names of the specific funders who give to the organization. Nevertheless, this is a good resource for getting the big picture overview of the folks you are competing with in the non-profit marketplace.