Library Grant Money on the Web: A Resource
By Bill Becker
What if a library a public, academic, school,
government, special, private/corporate, or research
library seeks corporate, foundation, individual,
or government grants? How can a professional searcher
What if the library in which you work, or one which
you service as a client, asks you to search for relevant
funding sources on its behalf? Or a fundraising staff
member of your local public library or an associated
friends group or foundation asks your assistance? How
do you find grant money for libraries on the Web?
The Role of Grant Money
More than ever, librarians must "do more with less" from
their traditional funding sources. In the case of public
libraries, municipal funding has been slashed. Public
librarians must now increase services while decreasing
budgets, looking beyond their usual sources of support
for both operating expenses and specific programs/projects
(usually for outreach or literacy).
But some librarians take exception to the expanding
role of outside grants and donations. They warn library
staff, patrons, friends, and community leaders to first
address the issue of the proper role of grant money
in the library budget. To them, each library's community
of trustees, staff, users, and friends must first determine
the limited ends for which they will seek and use grant
money, and when, under what circumstances, and for
what purposes, they will definitely NOT seek or use
Eliciting grant money seems innocuous enough. Grant
money is more money in the till, as author Steve Coffman
noted in the September 2002 issue of American Libraries.
To Coffman, public libraries should become more like
public broadcasters e.g., NPR and PBS in
terms of fundraising. That is, they should become active
outreachers and solicitors of outside money.
But, opponents argue that, at least in the case of
public libraries, outside funding invariably depreciates
government funding. Applying for grants, soliciting
donations basically obtaining gobs of outside
money could eventually drive away government
funds. According to these naysayers, libraries should
not act like NPR/PBS submitting grant proposals,
soliciting donations, fishing liberally on the outside
among patrons lest it become impossible for
them to rely on government funding later.
A former public and corporate librarian, who declined
to be named for this article, said of outside funding, "One
morning you wake up and you've got McLibrary. But it's
come at a cost to local government's 'sponsorship.'
Before long, the 'public' in 'public library' becomes
lost or obscured. Government takes its money and runs.
Now you're back to where you started. Only now you've
got individuals and corporate bigwigs in place, but
for who knows how long."
Lately, some NPR and PBS stations have dropped corporate
sponsorship, although maintaining several forms of
voluntary funding throughout their network. The same
former corporate and public librarian answers Coffman's
argument as follows: "Where NPR/PBS get their money
back is from syndicating to the different PBS stations.
They can put on a show that libraries can't, and this
makes a big difference. If someone's flipping by on
channels, they'll see it. A library hardly has that
kind of built-in audience. To make fundraising work,
a library has to find some reason, some place to scrounge
up contributors. For serious fundraising, the library
must wean itself from lesser forms like used book sales,
bake sales, etc."
Public library patrons in particular have been taught
to expect that a city will provide library or information
services, along with essential services like fire and
police. Thus, for overhead, and ongoing day-to-day
working expenses and operations, public librarians
should look to traditional sources. "You don't want
to reach a point where librarians feel that they MUST
have outside funds," said one source. "If a library
goes in applying for money competing with organizations
serving the homeless or victims of AIDS for grants that's
gotta be tough going." Thus, at least for public libraries,
grant money should primarily focus on "extras, things
that have a built-in sunset factor, activities and
programs for which it can be said 'You do it once,
it's done, and it stays done.'"
AFP, the Foundation
Center, TGCI, CNM
The chief professional association for fundraisers,
and hence for grant-seeking professionals working across
the spectrum of nonprofits, is the Association of Fundraising
Professionals (AFP), formerly the National Society
of Fund Raising Executives (NSFRE), at http://www.afpnet.org.
Afpnet.org offers sections on ethics, public policy,
publications (including AFP's online bookstore), professional
advancement, local chapters, jobs, and youth in philanthropy
(along with a member gateway/dashboard).
The AFP has also listed certain organizations and
their Web sites as among the top basic resources for
grant-seekers in public, private, and academic institutions.
Among these, one stands out in visibility and reputation:
The Foundation Center [http://www.fdncenter.org], which
publishes the revered Foundation Directory.
The Foundation Center's site is perhaps the best-known
resource for the grant-seeker or grantwriter, comprising
a grantwriting database, thorough search engine, and
potent user interface. The site is highly developed
and useful. Fee-based areas enhance its utility for
grantwriters. Some entities maintain a subscription
at the cost of several hundred dollars per year.
The Foundation Center is a good first destination
on behalf of a patron or client. The fee-based areas
certainly cost money, but the site's utility is manifest.
It is a good place for almost any searcher to start
a quest to find grantmakers. Once at the site, one
can click on links to the Web sites of foundations,
corporations, individual and family trusts, and even
those of other libraries and educational entities.
A recent search of the Foundation Directory returned
more than 1,450 foundation listings covering libraries
by type (public=451) and generally (>1,000 under
library/library science). The latter results are too
numerous to help the typical searcher, but using narrower,
more specific search terms will trim away the quantity
of results. For example, "librarians/librarianship" returned
only three results either because Foundation
Center operatives only recently added those descriptors
to the database's indexing thesaurus, or because the
descriptors were about to be dropped. The results of
the second search were as follows:
ID NO. AMER411 EI NO. 362166947
American Library Association
ID NO. CLEV021 EI NO. 341431418
Cleveland Education Fund
ID NO. GEOR048 EI NO. 510180861
Georgia Humanities Council
Georgia Endowment for the Humanities)
Other general fundraising or grantwriting sites listed
by the AFP include the Grantsmanship Center [http://www.tgci.com];
the Center for Nonprofit Management [http://www.cnmsocal.org];
the Rochester Grantmakers' Forum [http://www.grantmakers.org];
and the Taft Group [http://www.taftgroup.com].
Many resources bill themselves as guides to locating
grants. But most merely list foundations or general
fundraising sites. The Web boasts both diverse and
focused resources resources of potentially greater
or lesser use and benefit to libraries, especially
public libraries, which more routinely and urgently
seek supplemental funding, owing to their outreach,
education, and community service programs. Success
hinges, too, on the art of grantwriting; a researcher
is well advised to access a diversity of grantwriting
resources on the Web.
The Four Questions
Each grant researcher starts with four questions:
1) From what grantors (i.e., among those whose mission
more or less relates to the library's intended use
of new funds) is money available to a library or library
organization? 2) How much money is available from each?
3) What is the annual cycle of proposal submission
and program reporting deadlines? 4) What are each grantor's
requirements for submitting grant proposals?
Below are Web resources that can help answer these
queries. They are broken down into the following categories
(with examples given of each): 1) professional, "trade," or
scholarly associations supporting libraries and education;
2) federal government or federal government-related
databases/sites; 3) general fundraising organizations;
4) grantor sites foundations, corporations,
individual and family trusts; 5) recipient sites those
of other libraries and educational institutions; and
6) miscellaneous sites offering guides and lists.
The preeminent trade group for libraries and librarians,
boasting a membership of approximately 60,000, is the
American Library Association (ALA). The ALA qualifies
as both a resource organization and a funder/grantor.
The complete list of its awards, grants and scholarships
can be found at http://www.ala.org/work/awards/index.html.
Basically, assistance is granted for projects/programs
falling into five categories: diversity; continuous
learning and education; equality of access; intellectual
freedom; and literacy.
One of ALA's major divisions is the Library Administration
and Management Association (LAMA). LAMA's fundraising
and financial development section (FRFDS) can be found
A list of relevant Web sites, "Selected World Wide
Web Sites for Library Grants and Fundraising," divided
into nine categories, is at http://www.ala.org/lama/committees/frfds/resources.html.
Here one can also subscribe to the FRFDS-L listserv,
a moderated discussion list, long-established and well
known. It focuses on fundraising and resource development
issues, serving as an exchange for ideas, information,
and techniques. Topics include grantsmanship; foundation,
trust, and endowment development/administration; annual
giving/direct mail programs; and capital campaign planning-implementation.
Another important ALA listserv is the ALA Washington
Office Newsline (ALAWON). It covers a wide range of
federal government activities of relevance and moment
to librarians, including newly available grants, fellowships,
and scholarships. ALAWON's subscription page is located
Finally, an important non-ALA listserv, covering
all aspects of fundraising for fundraising professionals,
is FUNDLIST. This is an online forum for discussion
of fundraising issues maintained by Steve Hirby, director
of development at Lawrence University and administered
by Johns Hopkins University. To subscribe, send an
e-mail to email@example.com with "subscribe
fundlist yourname" in the body, leaving the subject
blank and omitting all e-mail addresses from the body.
Another "trade" association is the American Educational
Research Association (AERA), which strives to improve
the educational process by encouraging scholarly inquiry
related to education. Its mission includes innovative
AERA's grant page lies at http://www.aera.net/programs/oeri/.
AERA offers a comprehensive program of scholarly publications,
training, fellowships, and meetings to advance educational
research, disseminate knowledge, and improve education's
capacity to benefit society. It is affiliated with
U.S. Department of Education organs such as the Institute
for Educational Sciences (IES successor since
2002 to the department's Office of Educational Research
Less a professional or trade association than a special
interest group is the Texas Center for Adult Literacy
and Learning (TCALL, formerly the Texas Literacy Resource
Center, TLRC, part of Texas A&M's educational development
department). Its server's Web address is http://www-tcall.tamu.edu.
The Center has prepared and compiled a guide to grant
proposal writing that will prove useful to many librarians.
The guide covers such topics as developing proposal
ideas, grantwriting tips, and follow-ups to applications.
U.S. government agencies have long served as a source
of library funding through agencies such as the IES.
The IES Web page at http://www.ed.gov/offices/IES/ offers descriptions of grant programs and states who
may apply for them and the procedures to follow.
Another federal government source is the National
Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) [http://www.neh.fed.us/html/applying.html].
The NEH is a federal agency that supports learning
and library projects in the humanities. Its Web site
provides online grant application materials, schedules
and deadlines, and basic information as to what the
agency funds, who is eligible, and how to apply.
Other government agencies known to have assisted
libraries are the National Science Foundation (science
and technology programs) at http://www.nsf.gov/home/grants.htm and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) at http://www.arts.endow.gov.
Other federal grant-related sites include the Federal
Grants Register [http://www.tgci.com/fr/AT-fedregquery.html];
FundsNet (pay site$45/year) [http://www.fundsnetservices.com/gov01.htm];
the Federal Money Retriever (pay site$40/year)
the Internet Nonprofit Center [http://www.nonprofits.org];
and Grants Web [http://www.web.fie.com/csw/sra/resource.htm].
One example of a useful state government-related
grant site is Grants Action News [http://assembly.state.ny.us/gan].
Here, one can download a monthly newsletter from the
New York State Assembly offering sections on institutional
eligibility, funding levels, deadlines, and other information
pertaining to New York state even federal grants.
One issue offered information on consultation grants
for museums, libraries, and special projects; available
support for a documentary heritage program; available
funds for records management improvement aimed at local
government; challenge grants to fund special initiatives
in local history; and grants for state historic preservation,
as well as available grantwriting resources.
Fundraisers distinguish carefully between corporate/foundation
grantmaking on the one hand, and government grantmaking
on the other. The two channels offer two separate application
processes that usually, in turn, involve different
funding cycles. There are other distinctions, too.
The reporting requirements for government grants can
be quite burdensome. Still, government grants can be
big money sources.
General Fundraising Sites
An important online resource that helps the grant-seeking
researcher get up and running is the Evergreen State
Society's nonprofit frequently asked questions (FAQ)
The file contains research and discussions of grants/grant-seeking
from the old Usenet group SOC.ORG.NONPROFIT's FAQs
File: Grantseeking and Grantwriting. It provides answers
to FAQs encountered by the group. Professionals in
the field provide answers and typically render sound
Perhaps the best-known source of philanthropy for
librarians and liberal arts/literacy educators is the
Carnegie Corporation of New York [http://www.carnegie.org].
The corporation carries forward the legacy of Andrew
W. Carnegie, the turn-of-the-century steel magnate
who endowed scores of public libraries across the U.S.
and essentially created the "free library" system.
Carnegie continues to give sums to large municipal
and university-based libraries, including national
and university libraries in developing countries. A
search on the site's database of grants awarded since
1990, using the descriptors "library/libraries," revealed
that approximately 125 grants were made, ranging in
size from $7,500 to $1 million or more.
The beneficiaries were institutions ranging from
university libraries in New York to public central
libraries in New York, San Francisco, and Baltimore,
U.S. presidential libraries, and national and/or university
libraries in less-developed countries such as Botswana,
Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.
As with any dynamic nonprofit, Carnegie's mission
is evolving specifically into one that directly
addresses areas beyond libraries and information access,
such as education (in particular, urban school reform,
literacy, higher education, teacher education, and
the liberal arts), international peace and security,
international development, and U.S. democracy.
One of the foundations with which Carnegie works
hand in hand, especially to foster urban school reform,
is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation another
foundation fabled for its largesse to education in
general and to libraries in particular.
Gates' Microsoft Corporation realizes much of its
profit from education and the information industry.
The Gates Foundation returns Gates' exquisite wealth
to society in the name of, principally, enhancing access
to public libraries, their computers, and their networks,
including the Internet, by patrons living in low-income
and disadvantaged areas. According to information at
http://www.gatesfoundation.org, by the end of 2003,
the Gates Foundation will have funded the installation
of approximately 40,000 public access computers in
nearly10,000 libraries across all 50 states, to the
tune of $250 million. The installations include hands-on
training and ongoing technical assistance.
Gates also funds international library initiatives.
Under the banner of helping foreign libraries "improve
individual lives through information and technology," the
Foundation has supported efforts to bring public access
computers to libraries in Mexico ($30 million), Canada
($18.2 million), Chile ($9.2 million), and other countries,
as well as to 161 Native American sites domestically
($8 million). However, these programs may offer individual
libraries little direct assistance from the Foundation:
For example, in Chile, the Foundation partnered with
government, business, and more than nine Chilean nonprofits
to equip all 368 of the country's libraries with free,
unfettered Internet access.
In the late 1990s, several public libraries received
cash grants for education and community service from
the AT&T Foundation [http://www.att.com/foundation/].
AT&T offers grants to an array of nonprofit institutions
besides libraries. As another example, the Westinghouse
Charitable Giving Program also has grants for non-profits,
including libraries, especially for education and community
service. Go to http://www.westinghouse.com/E2.asp,
a page that covers the program's mission, areas of
support, guidelines, restrictions, and application
A slew of corporate grantmakers are listed at
Foundations sites tend to feature lists of recipient
institutions (recipients must be listed on a foundation's
state and federal tax returns in any case). Grantwriters
and funding researchers, armed with the name of specific
corporations, foundations, trusts, or individuals who
have recently made the news or otherwise attracted
their attention, can go to specific donors' sites to
Recipient (Library/Institute) Sites
Why go to another library's or educational institution's
site? To peel the onion, open doors within doors, expose
the successive iterations of a Chinese doll. Invariably,
the Web sites of institutions similar to one's own
reveal the source of their funds. You can determine
whether your own facility or institution should make
an application to the sources listed by the instant
recipient library or institute. That a library or institute
should list its benefactors should really come as no
surprise. It's "part of the deal" in the same
way that on university campuses, buildings and facilities
are named for the generous donors who made them possible.
A funding searcher's typical canvass of recipient
sites might be as follows: 1) go to the Foundation
Center site, doing a subject search of grantors' interests
based on the type of agency he/she represents; 2) find
the names of relevant grant-giving foundations, corporations,
and trusts; 3) go to their sites using the links to
the listed recipients of their grants; 4) once at the
agencies' sites, find yet other foundations, corporations,
and trusts relevant to their service mission and with
a proven granting history to a like agency; for whatever
reason, there are scores of potential funding sources
that may not have been listed initially after a "subject" i.e.,
mission search on the Foundation Center database. "You
can get lists and resources from agencies doing much
the same thing in the way of service to society as
yours does," said Cortney Peterson Morris, a development
associate at AbilityFirst, a non-profit for those with
disabilities located in Pasadena, California.
What about books, booklists, and bibliographies on
the Web? Flintridge's course manuals, from its grass-roots
grantwriting seminars, are found on many such lists
and are well regarded. So are the Center for Nonprofit
Management's resources and the books required for its
array of respected courses on grantwriting and fundraising.
Better-known books on research familiar to university
librarians also have a role: Seasoned grantwriters
have generally cut their teeth on them, working on
research projects undertaken much earlier, as undergraduates
or graduates in the arts and social sciences. Books
on research process and standard style guides, such
as the American Psychological Association (APA) style
manual and The Chicago Manual of Style, should
occupy due space on the bookshelves of professional
Ready, Set, Go
Clearly the Web provides a reservoir of instrumental
fundraising and grantwriting information for librarians.
At the very least, looking for money on the Web is
a great way to "productify" interstitial time between
duties and tasks. Using the Web in this way cuts down
on the grunt work necessary by all involved in garnering
supplemental funds for libraries: librarians, grantwriters,
outside fundraisers, research assistants.
As usual, however, the new technology simultaneously
throws down a gauntlet. These functionaries must scope
potential resources more thoroughly and carefully than
ever, so as not to miss the one source that can conceivably
come through big time, the diamond in the rough.
But who better than the professional searcher, in
the form of a librarian or not, to rise to this challenge,
benefiting libraries and their very deserving programs,
projects, and services for their equally deserving
user communities and constituencies?
Bill Becker has served as communications manager
at AbilityFirst, a social service agency in Pasadena,
and as marketing director of Becker& Hayes, Inc.,
a library/facility planning consulting firm. Recently
he authored National
Security, one of 40 volumes in Gale's Information Plus series. He
is a graduate of Claremont McKenna and Yale colleges.