This topic is an overview of Foundation Grants to Individuals Online. It assumes a basic understanding of operating systems and a good working knowledge of the web and web browsers.

The items in this topic will provide you with answers to any preliminary questions you have regarding first-time use.

Using Help

Help is available to you at any point in your research session. Simply click the Help link at the top of any screen for instant answers to questions you may have about funding research in general or for more specific technical questions related to Foundation Grants to Individuals Online.

General questions about the Foundation Center and the contents of Foundation Grants to Individuals Online are covered in this topic under About the Foundation Center and About Foundation Grants to Individuals Online.

Specific technical help can be found throughout the help area. We suggest that first-time users review the following sections, which provide helpful explanations and examples for getting started doing funding research:

  • Searching — Basic. Provides guidance to users who are new to the database or to those who want to become familiar with the system and its basic functionality. This section explains the components of the search screens and provides links to a number of basic sample searches.
  • The Parts of a Foundation Record. Lists and explains each part of a foundation record.


Help Conventions

We've established consistent typesetting conventions for this help file in order to make the explanations concise and easy to follow.

  • Initial Caps. Used to identify screen objects and controls. (Example: "Click the Clear Search button to clear prior search criteria.")
  • Italics. Used to identify text entered into or displayed in a text field. (Example: "Type Ford Foundation in the Foundation Name search field.") Also used for emphasis.
  • Boldface. Used for emphasis.
  • Greater than sign ( > ). Used to describe a sequence of user events. (Example: "Click File > Print to access the Print Options dialog box.")


Logging In

Your User Name is not case sensitive but your Password is.

Keep in mind that the system will automatically log you off if your connection remains inactive for more than 60 minutes. To re-login, simply go to the Login Screen, retype your User Name and Password and click Log In.

If you've forgotten your user name or password, or for other questions about your login information, follow the instructions in the Troubleshooting Guide.

Important: Your password belongs only to you and should be kept confidential. If you have subscribed on behalf of a library or other public institution, you must personally access the subscription prior to permitting access by the patron, without disclosing the subscriber's password to the patron. If at any time you think somebody else is using your password to access the service, contact our Customer Service department immediately by e-mail:, or by phone: 1-800-424-9836.


Logging Out

It's important to remember you should always log out when you're through with your research session.

To log out of the system: Click Log Out at the upper right corner of your screen.

Note: If you exit without logging out and re-login on another computer, you may receive an error message stating that you are already on the system. Go back to the computer you were working on originally and click Log Out, or wait a few minutes until the system logs you out automatically.


Security Statement

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To protect your credit card transaction, the Foundation Center uses VeriSign, industry-standard encryption software.

Moreover, the Foundation Center does not give out, sell, exchange, rent, or market e-mail addresses to third parties.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call our Customer Service department at 1-800-424-9836, or send an e-mail to


Glossary of Terms

The following list, arranged alphabetically, includes common terms used by grantmakers and grantseekers. For terms not listed here, please see the Types of Support definitions list.

501(c)(3): The section of the Internal Revenue code that defines nonprofit, charitable (as broadly defined), tax-exempt organizations; 501(c)(3) organizations are further defined as public charities, private operating foundations, and private non-operating foundations. (See also Operating Foundation; Private Foundation; Public Charity.)

Accredited Institution: An entity that meets specific standards for educational programs as determined by regional or national associations.

ACT: A test created by the American College Testing Program, or ACT, which some colleges require students to take.

Annual Report: A voluntary report issued by a grantmaker that provides financial data and descriptions of grantmaking activities. Annual reports vary in format from simple documents listing the year's grants to detailed publications that provide substantial information about the grantmaking program.

Assets: The total amount of capital or principal—money, stocks, bonds, real estate, or other resources—controlled by the grantmaker. Generally, assets are invested and the income is used to make grants.

Beneficiary: In philanthropic terms, the donee or grantee receiving funds from a grantmaker is the beneficiary.

Class Rank: In secondary education, student rank based on GPA or grades relative to other students in the class.

Community Foundation: A 501(c)(3) organization that makes grants for charitable purposes in a specific community or region. Funds are usually derived from many donors and held in an independently administered endowment; income earned by the endowment is then used to make grants. Although a few community foundations might be classified by the IRS as private foundations, most are classified as public charities eligible for maximum income tax-deductible contributions from the general public. (See also 501(c)(3); Public Charity.)

Community Fund: An organized community program that makes annual appeals to the general public for funds that are usually not retained in an endowment but are used for the ongoing operational support of local social and health service agencies. (See also Federated Giving Program.)

Company-Sponsored Foundation (also referred to as Corporate Foundation): A private foundation with grant funds primarily derived from the contributions of a for-profit business organization. The company-sponsored foundation might maintain close ties with the donor company, but it is an independent organization with its own endowment and is subject to the same rules and regulations as other private foundations. (See also Private Foundation.)

Cooperative Venture: A joint effort between or among two or more grantmakers (including foundations, corporations, and government agencies). Partners might share in funding responsibilities or contribute information and technical resources.

Corporate Giving Program: A grantmaking program established and administered within a for-profit business organization. Corporate giving programs do not have separate endowments, and their annual grant totals are generally more directly related to current profits. They are not subject to the same reporting requirements as private foundations. Some companies make charitable contributions through both a corporate giving program and a company-sponsored foundation.

Curriculum Vitae: In academia, a document providing a summary of an individual's accomplishments, including employment, education, research, published work, awards, professional memberships, and other biographical information.

Distribution Committee: The board responsible for making grant decisions. For community foundations, it is intended to be broadly representative of the community served by the foundation.

Donee: The recipient of a grant. (Also known as the grantee or beneficiary.)

Donor: The individual or organization that makes a grant or contribution. (Also known as the grantor.)

Expenditures: Total disbursements made by the grantmaker, including grants and non-grant expenses.

Family Foundation: An independent private foundation with funds derived from members of a single family. Family members often serve as officers or board members of the foundation and have a significant role in grantmaking decisions. (See also Operating Foundation; Private Foundation; Public Charity.)

Federated Giving Program: A joint fundraising effort usually administered by a nonprofit "umbrella" organization that in turn distributes contributed funds to several nonprofit agencies. The United Way and community chests or funds, the United Jewish Appeal and other religious appeals, the United Negro College Fund, and joint arts councils are examples of federated giving programs. (See also Community Fund.)

Financial Aid Form (FAF): Many private universities require this form, which is more detailed and requires a processing fee, in addition to the Free Application for Student Aid. (See also Free Application for Student Aid.)

Fiscal Agent/Sponsor: A nonprofit organization with 501(c)(3) status that has agreed to receive and administer a grant for an individual not affiliated with a nonprofit organization or a group without 501(c)(3) status. The check is sent to the fiscal agent (also known as a fiscal sponsor) and then disbursed to the applicant, minus a small administrative fee, usually between 5 percent and 7 percent of the grant.

Form 990: The annual information return that all public charities (as distinct from private foundations) must submit to the IRS each year and that is also filed with appropriate state officials. The form requires information on the charity's assets, income, operating expenses, contributions and grants, paid staff and salaries, program funding areas, grantmaking guidelines and restrictions, and grant application procedures.

Form 990-PF: The annual information return that all private foundations (as distinct from public charities) must submit to the IRS each year and that is also filed with appropriate state officials. The form requires information on the foundation's assets, income, operating expenses, contributions and grants, paid staff and salaries, program funding areas, grantmaking guidelines and restrictions, and grant application procedures.

Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA): A form commonly used to apply for U.S. government financial aid. Colleges and many non-institutional programs will use the data on this form to determine entitlement for financial aid (see also Financial Aid Form.)

General Purpose Foundation: An independent private foundation that awards grants in many different fields of interest. (See also Special Purpose Foundation.)

Independent Foundation: A grantmaking organization usually classified by the IRS as a private foundation. Independent foundations might also be known as family foundations, general purpose foundations, special purpose foundations, or private non-operating foundations. The Foundation Center defines independent foundations and company-sponsored foundations separately; however, federal law normally classifies both as private, non-operating foundations subject to the same rules and requirements. (See also Private Foundation.)

Letter of Recommendation: A letter written by a teacher, school administrator, or professional in a relevant field that indicates the quality of an applicant's abilities or character.

Operating Foundation: A 501(c)(3) organization classified by the IRS as a private foundation whose primary purpose is to operate research, social welfare, or other programs determined by its governing body or establishment charter. Some grants might be made, but the sum is generally small relative to the funds used for the foundation's own programs. (See also 501(c)(3).)

Payout Requirement: The minimum amount that private foundations are required to expend for charitable purposes (including grants and, within certain limits, the administrative cost of making grants). In general, a private foundation must meet or exceed an annual payout requirement of five percent of the average market value of the foundation's assets.

Pell Grants: Federally-funded educational grants awarded almost exclusively to individuals who have not yet earned a bachelor's degree. Awards are based upon financial need, and the maximum award rarely exceeds $4,000.

Permanent Resident: A non-U.S. citizen who has gained this status from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Preliminary Student Aptitude Test (PSAT): A standardized test, often taken during the junior year of high school, that prepares the student for the Student Aptitude Test (SAT). (See also Student Apptitude Test).

Private Foundation: A nongovernmental, nonprofit organization with funds (usually from a single source, such as an individual, family, or corporation) and programs managed by its own trustees or directors. Foundations are established to maintain or aid social, educational, religious, or other charitable activities serving the common welfare, primarily through the making of grants. "Private foundation" also means an organization that is tax-exempt under code section 501(c)(3) and is classified by the IRS as a private foundation as defined in the code. The code definition usually, but not always, identifies a foundation with the characteristics first described. (See also 501(c)(3); Public Charity.)

Program Officer: A staff member of a grantmaker who reviews grant proposals and processes applications for the board of trustees. Only a small percentage of grantmakers have program officers.

Proposal: A written application, often with supporting documents, submitted to a grantmaker to request a contribution. Preferred procedures and formats vary. Consult published guidelines.

Public Charity: In general, an organization that is tax-exempt under code section 501(c) and is classified by the IRS as a public charity and not a private foundation. Public charities generally derive their funding or support primarily from the general public in carrying out their social, educational, religious, or other charitable activities serving the common welfare. Some public charities engage in grantmaking activities, although most engage in direct service or other tax-exempt activities. Public charities are eligible for maximum income tax-deductible contributions from the public and are not subject to the same rules and restrictions as private foundations. Some are also referred to as "public foundations" or "publicly supported organizations" and might use the term "foundation" in their names. (See also 501(c)(3); Private Foundation.)

Qualifying Distributions: Total disbursements made by the foundation to satisfy the annual payout requirement. These can include grants, reasonable administrative expenses, set-asides, loans and program-related investments, and amounts paid to acquire assets used directly in carrying out exempt purposes.

Renewable: Scholarships or grants that may be renewed by the recipient, either automatically or through a reapplication process.

Resident: Usually, an individual qualifies for legal residency in a state by living there for a certain length of time. Criteria vary by state.

Résumé: A one- to two-page document providing a summary of an individual's accomplishments, including employment, education, research positions, and other biographical information.

RFP: Request For Proposals. When the government or a private grantmaker initiates a new grant program, it may issue an RFP to agencies that might be qualified to participate. The RFP lists project specifications and application procedures. Although many private grantmakers issue RFPs, most prefer to consider proposals that are initiated by applicants.

Seminary: An institution of higher education that offers religious training, usually to prepare the individual for ministry, priesthood, or rabbinate.

Set-Asides: Total funds set aside by the foundation for a specific purpose or project that are counted as qualifying distributions toward the annual payout requirement. Amounts for the project must be paid within five years of the first set-aside.

Special Purpose Foundation: A private foundation that focuses its grantmaking activities in one or a few special areas of interest. For example, a foundation might only award grants in the area of cancer research or child development. (See also General Purpose Foundation.)

Student Aid Report (SAR): The SAR is generated when students submit the FAFSA to College Scholarship Services. This report calculates the amount of money the study and/or the student's family should be able to contribute toward educational expenses. Both the student and his/her designated college will receive a copy of this report.

Student Aptitude Test (SAT): Students are often required to take this test for admission to many colleges. It is administered by the College Board (see also Preliminary Student Apptitude Test).

Technical/Vocational School: Postsecondary institution that offers certificates in education directly related to preparation for specific careers, and that require no more than two years of study.

Total Giving: The total of all grants and contributions awarded by the grantmaker. This amount generally does not include commitments for future payment, the costs associated with foundation-administered programs, loans, or set-asides but includes all other forms of support such as grants, grants to individuals, employee matching gifts, and in-kind gifts.

Transcript: An official record of a student's academic achievement made available through the student's school. When a request is made to provide this document, an official copy must be submitted.

Trustee: A member of a governing board. A foundation's board of trustees meets to review grant proposals and make decisions. Often also referred to as a "director" or "board member."