Finding Funding for Women: Web and Non-Web Resources by Elizabeth Breed

[From Feminist Collections v.25, no.2 (Winter 2004).]

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Searching for grants benefiting women begins with a basic question: Is funding being sought for an individual - for instance, for a woman starting graduate studies in pharmacy or attending a cultural preservation seminar in Italy - or for an organization - for instance, for a group starting a literacy program for immigrant women?  The answer determines the types of resources to use for the search, since grants generally are awarded either to individuals or to organizations, and grant directories, announcements, and requests for proposals are targeted accordingly.

 

If funding from foundations is sought, it is helpful to know that most U.S. foundations can give grants only to nonprofit organizations; their giving activities are restricted by the Internal Revenue Service to only those organizations with public charity status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Thus, women should be aware that they might not be eligible for foundation grants unless they are affiliated with an organization that has this status, which includes organizations whose purposes are charitable, educational, scientific, religious, literary, or cultural.

 

If a woman has institutional sponsorship - as in the case of a high school teacher looking for a professional development grant, whose school can serve as the recipient of the grant on her behalf - she may be eligible for grants as a direct recipient as well as through the sponsorship of a nonprofit institution (in this example, the school). In this case, her funding options may increase exponentially. Most universities have sponsored programs offices that facilitate the application and processing of grants - those usually designated for academic institutions only in the funding literature - for individual faculty and researchers at those institutions.

Looking for grants for women as a population group is only one of many strategies - albeit an important one - that can be used in a funding search. The ultimate goal is to fit the grant seeker's needs with the mission and stated guidelines of the funder. A funder's interests may include other priorities such as geographic restrictions, program area or field of study, types of support given, recipient type (for instance, religious-affiliated institution, recreational center, tribal library) or recipient characteristics (e.g., ethnicity, profession, organizational affiliation, disability status, parent status). This means that women and their organizations must look for grant resources organized or indexed, for instance, by a funder's geographic or recipient preferences, or by type of support.

There are also a variety of funder types: corporate and private foundations, corporations, professional and special-interest organizations, societies, unions, and institutions of higher learning such as libraries and museums, as well as federal, state, and local government sources. Directories may be all-inclusive in types of grant makers listed, or they might focus on one type, such as foundations, or exclude another, such as federal-based opportunities.

Caution: Advertisements for unclaimed government grants for human services assistance are usually phony.Most governmental aid is given to agencies, which in turn give to other governmental entities or to nonprofit organizations for human services programs. Personal, outright grants from the government to individuals for such purposes as payment of medical bills, debt relief, or a new home are almost unheard of. Those willing to look for those very rare, often eclectic personal-assistance grants for individuals should check the publication Foundation Grants to Individuals for foundations that have special permission from the IRS to give to individuals. This work, published by the Foundation Center (FC) in New York, is available in print or online format, or both, at most of the FC's Cooperating Collections, which can be found in every state throughout the U.S.; for a list of locations, see http://fdncenter.org/collections/. Although the index to the latest (2003) edition shows 203 funding opportunities under the heading "Women," only 32 are not geographically restricted. A mere 53 entries are considered in the category of "General Welfare" for women only, and only three of those are not restricted geographically: the AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund, the Steeplechase Fund (for widows of steeplechase jockeys), and the Alpha Omicron Pi Foundation (to help members of that association through financial crises). Clearly, in using this book for finding such aid as debt relief, housing assistance, etc., a woman would want to expand her search to such categories as, for example, needy Protestants, families, persons with disabilities, single parents, or other population groups into which she might fit.

Foundation grants are generally not available for financing a business; neither foundations nor most other charitable organizations make grants to for-profit enterprises. Typically, governmental assistance for businesses is in the form of special loans, tax-reduced investments, or other investment incentives. Many states' official websites provide information about business start-up and expansion opportunities. Another place to start is with a state's Department of Commerce. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) at http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov also has offices throughout the country, with multiple locations in every state, as well as Small Business Development Centers (see http://www.sba.gov/sbdc/), which have educational and advisory services. Women should check the SBA's Online Women's Business Center at http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov/financing/special/women.html and its Women Entrepreneurs site at http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov/starting_business/special/women.html. In addition, many if not most states and larger communities have women's business associations and business networks that offer support and advice. All of these can usually be found with a good Internet search. Finally, Deborah Kluge's Small, Women, & Minority-Owned Businesses at http://www.proposalwriter.com/small.html#General has a number of links to reliable and well-maintained business finance information.

The best work in print about grants for women as a population group is the Directory of Financial Aids for Women 2003-2005 (El Dorado Hills, CA: Reference Service Press), prepared biennially by Gail Ann Schlachter and R. David Weber. It is a list of 1,600 scholarships, fellowships, loans, grants, awards, and salaried internships designed primarily or exclusively for women. It also lists funding opportunities for women's organizations. The content is also available via online subscription as a series of databases called RSP Funding. Find information about this publication at http://www.rspfunding.com/catalog/item/1423171/893679.htm, and more about Reference Service Press publications at http://www.rspfunding.com/.

The Directory of Financial Aids for Women includes a variety of types of support, more often education-related than not: for example, tuition, research, travel, professional development, dissertation support, study abroad, and creative activities, among others. The funding opportunities are grouped by type of program, with indexing available by title, organization, subject, tenability of grant, residency of applicant, and deadline.The directory excludes programs that offer less than $500 per year, those open to residents in a very restricted geographic location, and those administered by individual academic institutions solely for their own students. The next biennial edition will cover the years 2005-2007 and is scheduled for release in early 2005.

 

The Annual Register of Grant Support (Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc.) includes a generous section listing fellowships and grants for and focusing on women. This directory is compiled primarily for academic scholars and researchers, and it can be invaluable to institutional program staff looking for funding prospects. The grants listed are from every type of grant support agency, both federal and non-federal, and include every variety of education-related support. The Annual Register is generally not appropriate for individuals looking for academic project funding at levels lower than graduate study.

 

Corporate and private foundations, as well as corporate giving programs, are major sources of funding for women's organizations and programs. Look for information about these sources in Foundation Center Cooperating Collections, the locations of which (again) can be found at http://fdncenter.org/collections/. Access to these collections is free to the public. One of the holdings, the National Guide to Funding for Women, lists foundations with a significant five-year history of giving to programs benefiting women; but since the last print edition was published in 1999, one would be better served by searching FC's database, FC Search, or its Web-based equivalent, Foundation Directory Online Platinum, which is described at http://fconline.fdncenter.org. As of its Fall 2003 update, FC Search included 753 foundations supporting women's programs, 463 supporting women's centers and services, 9 supporting women's studies programs, and 30 supporting girls' clubs.

 

In researching new grant prospects, it is useful to find records of grants previously awarded. An annual December publication, also by the Foundation Center, entitled Grants for Women and Girls, lists foundation grants of $10,000 or more received by organizations for women for education, career guidance vocational training, equal rights, rape prevention, shelter programs, abortion rights, athletics, arts programs, and more. Depending on the year of publication, it usually includes records of approximately 750,000 grants awarded by 750-800 of the largest 1,000 foundations. Grants for Women and Girls is not part of the core collection at every FC Cooperating Collection, but FC Search will also contain this information in the "Grants" section of the database, which in the current update includes 7,374 grants for women's and/or girls' programs. Anyone eager to try out the database to look more closely online at its features can check the online tutorials listed at the FC's Virtual Classroom site (http://fdncenter.org/learn/classroom/index.jhtml). Publication information for this database, which is available in CD and online format, is at FC's Marketplace site (http://fdncenter.org/marketplace).

 

For funding news updates, grant announcements and information on grant-making trends for women's programs, there are numerous online subscription services, particularly in the area of academic funding. These are often available as part of a subscription to a funding database such as the Community of Science and others (described later in this article), or are fee-based extra services attached to online subscriptions of journals, as in the case of the "New Grant and Research Competitions" section of the Chronicle of Higher Education (http://chronicle.merit.edu/free/grants/).

 

For subscription-free and less education-focused foundation funding news, the FC offers the online Philanthropy News Digest (PND), which includes PND News: Women at http://fdncenter.org/pnd/news/cat_women.jhtml, a site that all funding program officers in charge of women's programs should bookmark. It also includes an "Archives" search box plus a "Recent News" section of all news categories. For requests for proposals (RFPs) for women's programs, consult the FC's RFP Bulletin at http://fdncenter.org/pnd/rfp/cat_women.jhtml. The Chronicle of Philanthropy also has an online, topically arranged list of RFPs, at http://philanthropy.com/deadlines/, that includes both "Women" and "Women and Girls" as categories.

 

Locally produced, state-specific foundation directories can be useful for finding smaller, more local foundations that support women's programs. State and Local Funding Directories, an alphabetical listing by state, is available at http://fdncenter.org/learn/topical/sl_dir.html. Often these directories are indexed by areas of giving and include women as a subject term, recipient group, or program area. Local directories can sometimes supplement if not augment information found in FC Search. Some, such as Guide to Minnesota Grantmakers (Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota Council on Foundations) and Foundations in Wisconsin (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Raynor Library), are available in online format as well as in print (at http://www.mcf.org/mcf/grant/index.html and http://www.wifoundations.org respectively).

 

Fewer than ten percent of the more than 74,000 foundations listed by the FC have websites. Once a potential funding organization's name is known (e.g., through FC Search), another way to get information, particularly about the smaller or midsize local foundations, is to look up their tax returns. Guidestar, a national database of U.S. charitable organizations (http://www.guidestar.org), offers access to the returns (IRS Forms 990 or 990-EZ) filed by tax-exempt organizations with annual income of more than $25,000 - and these returns have information, for example, about grants that those foundations have awarded. The Foundation Center has a 990 PF search site at http://lnp.fdncenter.org/finder_990.html. The FC's site also offers an essay, "Demystifying the 990 PF" (at http://fdncenter.org/learn/demystify/index.html), on the value of these forms and what to look for when accessing them. It is well worth reading.

 

Women looking for funding for lesbian-centered programs and projects might find useful the directory Funders of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Programs: A Directory for Grantseekers, published in New York by Funders for Lesbian and Gay Issues and available both in print and online. For more information, see http://www.lgbtfunders.org/lgbtfunders/pubsprog.htm.

 

The Women's Funding Network, which has a website at http://www.wfnet.org/, promotes leadership and effective philanthropic practices among women's funders, including women as philanthropists and donors. It includes within its membership ninety-six foundations that support women and girls. This organization, along with the similar, Washington-based group Women & Philanthropy (http://www.womenphil.org/) and the New York-based Funders for Lesbian and Gay Issues described in the last paragraph, exist to serve their grant-making memberships. However, funders' organizations such as these have additional resources available to grant seekers in the form of information on funding trends, specific funders among their membership, proposal writing, funding announcements, funding directories, time-saving common application forms shared among multiple foundations, and other resources.

 

Many resources are available for finding grant-making organizations other than foundations. There are databases for finding every kind of sponsoring agency, particularly for education-related projects and programs. The better ones are available by subscription only, although they might be accessible to women in academic environments. These databases usually allow a user to search grants for women as a recipient group and/or as a program support category. For example, the Community of Science database (see http://www.cos.com/) includes non-science programs areas and offers a "Requirements" search field for isolating grants for women - as does Illinois Researcher Information Service (IRIS) (http://door.library.uiuc.edu/iris), with "Women" as an option under "Restrictions." IRIS also has a separate "Opportunities for Women" section under "Deadlines." SPIN (produced by InfoEd; see http://www.infoed.org) includes "Women" as a searchable field among "Applicant Types." RSP Funding (from Reference Service Press - which also publishes the Directory of Financial Aids for Women), includes a gender-search function. (RSP Funding is really a series of separate databases available as separate subscriptions depending on academic level; for more information, see http://www.rspfunding.com/products/rspdb/cdrom.html). Faculty and researchers who do not find these resources offered by their college or university's library system should also check with their institution's office of sponsored research, since that is often the campus unit that will make use of such a database.

GrantSelect (http://www.grantselect.com/) is another database that is not limited to foundations; this online, subscription-based service also lists grants to nonprofit organizations both inside and outside the academic setting. GrantSelect currently lists a total 521 funding opportunities for programs related to women. Because it also lists grants for both individuals and organizations, GrantSelect can be a valuable tool, despite not having as many search options as many other funding databases. Its content is from the following published titles from Greenwood Publishing Group (formerly Oryx Press): Directory of Biomedical and Health Care Grants, Directory of Grants in the Humanities, Directory of Research Grants, Funding Sources for Community and Economic Development, and Funding Sources for K-12 Schools and Adult Basic Education. (For more on Greenwood's publications, see http://www.greenwood.com/).

 

For locating support in the area of women's health, particularly for women from underrepresented population groups, a visit to the free online database of the OMB's Office of Minority Health might be in order (http://www.omhrc.gov/omh/q-funding11.htm). This site can be searched for "Women" or "Women's Health," and the results then combined with such "Format" choices as "Scholarship," "Fellowship," "Foundation," "Grant," "Internship," and others. It lists opportunities from non-federal and federal sources alike, for individual women grant seekers as well as organizations involved with women's issues and programs. Those programs include, for instance, combating violent crimes against women on campuses, drug abuse prevention, community planning, and public policy issues affecting women. Funding sponsors represented include the Ms. Foundation, the Chicago Foundation for Women, and the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women. Also see http://www.omhrc.gov/omhrc/funding.htm for funding announcements and links to related resources.

 

GrantsNet, available at http://www.grantsnet.org, is another subscription-free, Web-based funding database geared toward programs in the health and biomedical sciences as well as the sciences in general. GrantsNet is sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. One can access either the "Graduate and Post-Graduate" or the "Undergraduate" section and search for "Women." The database includes both individual and institutional funding opportunities.

 

Although the Internet should not be the primary informational resource used for researching funding opportunities, Grants for Individuals: Women at http://www.lib.msu.edu/harris23/grants/3women.htm is an especially good website. Maintained by Jon Harrison, librarian in charge of the Funding Center (a Foundation Center Cooperating Collection) at Michigan State University Libraries, this site includes links to specific grant makers as well as to websites listing funding opportunities for women, many of which are mentioned elsewhere in this essay. Harrison's listing of books on grants for women is more comprehensive than selective, but I would recommend only one of them for individual women (the others may be too dated): Directory of Financial Aids for Women, by Gail Ann Schlachter and R. David Weber, described in detail earlier. Harrison's site also includes opportunities for women fitting into GLBT, Minority, and Non-Traditional categories. The last is especially worth a look, since many re-entry students looking for funding are women.

 

Women scholars should know about the National Council for Research on Women (NCRW) and its "Resources: Links" at http://www.ncrw.org/resources/. It's worth delving several layers down to find information beyond that in the initial "Grants and Scholarships" category. A case in point is the page for "Funding Sources for Science Programs" (http://www.ncrw.org/resources/Fund_sci_Resources.htm), which leads to "General Funding Sources," "Funding for K-12 Education Programs," "Funding for Undergraduate Programs," "Funding for Graduate Education," and "Funding for Professional Development."

 

Some organizations deserve individual mention for their consistent dedication to women's professional and scholarly development through fellowship, grant, and awards programs. The American Association of University Women (AAUW) is one of these; for information about the AAUW's programs, including international fellowships, see http://www.aauw.org/fga/index.cfm. National federations similar to the AAUW in other countries are listed on the National Fellowships site of the International Federation of University Women (IFUW) at http://www.ifuw.org/intfell.htm. IFUW itself is another excellent source of graduate-level funding, so be sure also to check its main site at http://www.ifuw.org/.

 

The website of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) (http://www.awis.org) is another excellent checkpoint for women in the sciences, not just for finding out about the association's own grant programs, but also for the listings on the Non-AWIS Resources page at http://www.awis.org/resource/nonawis.html. In addition, women in psychology might want to take a look at the American Psychological Association's Directory of Selected Scholarships, Fellowships, and Other Financial Aid Opportunities for Women and Ethnic Minorities in Psychology and Related Fields, available in PDF format on the APA's website (http://www.apa.org/students/funding.html).

 

Women looking for funding for international programs could find the Soros Foundation's Open Society Institute a helpful sponsor. One can search the foundation's Grants, Scholarships, and Fellowships: Research website (http://www.soros.org/grants/research) for grants awarded by "Issue" (specify "Women") and "Region." On the Resource Links page (http://www.soros.org/resources/links), one can also find information about non-Soros grants (again by selecting "Women" as an issue and picking a region).

 

African women looking for education-related program funding should check the 2002-2003 Resource Guide: A Selected List of Fellowships, Scholarships, Grants and Other Training Opportunities for African Women Students/Scholars. This excellent directory from the staff of the Institute for Education of Women in Africa and the Diaspora (IEWAD) can be accessed at http://www.kubatana.net. Go to "Archive," then select "Women" (not "Funding") from the "Sector" drop-down menu, and look for the title of the guide, which is dated 12/16/02. Despite the compilation date, much of the information might still be useful.

Other Web-based listings of funding opportunities for women students, faculty, and researchers abound. Cornell University's Graduate School Fellowship Database, at http://cuinfo.cornell.edu/Student/GRFN/, is typical of many of these, offering a long list of names of funding organizations under the category "Women," although brief summaries of those organizations' fellowship programs are included. One result that reliably pops up on the first page of a Google search for "grants for women" is FundsnetServices.com's Women: Grants and Resources at http://www.fundsnetservices.com/women.htm. This is a slightly annotated listing, not just an index, of links primarily to foundation grantmakers that allegedly give to women's programs and projects (and most do). However, information on the site tends not to be documented well. Also, some of the entities linked to are for-profit dot-com business enterprises or costly grant search services, a few which either do not have funding information or lack funding information specific to women's concerns. With these cautions in mind, the site might have some use, but, like many similar Web resources, it can be time-consuming to search due to lack of annotations and careful maintenance.

 

This essay has attempted to highlight a careful selection of resources, available in a variety of formats, that provide useful information about grants for women and women's programs. To sum up, a search for funding is most likely to be successful if the seeker first identifies the intended recipient as an individual or an organization and targets the search accordingly. Second, searching for websites is not enough. A variety of other resources - books, databases, announcements, and newsletters in appropriate fields - should be consulted. Finally, a flexible approach should be taken, keeping in mind that "Women" as a population group or program area is just one variable to take into account.

 

[Elizabeth Breed is Librarian for the Grants Information Center - a Foundation Center Cooperating Library - at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Memorial Library. See the Center's website at http://grants.library.wisc.edu/]

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Mounted May 17, 2004.