Successful fundraising and grant applications begin with research into possible donors and funders

We understand the process of finding the right donor for your charity can often be overwhelming and time consuming. To make your search quicker and easier, we have collated key sources and developed a template to help you organize your research.

Starting your research – where to go

The following sources are a good place to start your research. They include lists of COVID-19 emergency funding, as well as more general funding directories and information:

Site Description General funding information COVID-19 funding information Cost
CanadahelpsInformation, news and tips for Canadian charities and non-profit organizationsYesYesFree
Imagine CanadaResearch, advocacy, news and information for Canadian charities and non-profit organizations. Subscription-based grand and funding service offeredYesYesFree and subscription-based
Charity VillageCanada’s non-profit sector’s largest online resource for recruiting, resources and educationYesYesFree and fee based
Volunteer CanadaProvides expertise on volunteerismN/AN/AFree
Government of CanadaRegulatory, registration and financial information for operating a charity or non-profit in CanadaN/AN/AFree
Funding PortalSoftware solutions and services to help organizations seeking grants.YesYesSubscription-based
Community Foundations191 local community foundations across Canada provide support to local grassroots charities and groups. Check the Community Foundations of Canada website to see local support in your area.YesYesFree
Provincial and Territorial Lottery and Gaming CommissionsEach province and territory has a Lottery and Gaming Commission. Charities and non-profits can apply for funding on the respective web sites. Check the Community Foundations of Canada website to see local support in your area.YesYesFree

Resources for successful applications

Some of these websites charge subscription fees, so consider if you are part of any umbrella organizations or a network that already has access, so you don’t need to pay. It is also worth researching the annual accounts and reports of other charities and organizations doing similar work to you, to see which funders have supported them.

Once you have researched and found potential funders, the sources below offer support and guidance to help you write a successful application:

Our Case for support – Guide to success highlights key grant application questions and how your charity can respond to them.

Charity Village has guides on how to write grant applications directed at government and corporations. They also have information on why your application might not have been successful and how to improve it next time.

Funders themselves are often useful sources of information about how to write a stronger application. For example, The Garfield Weston Foundation has a list of useful resources on grant applications.

Imagine Canada provides information, resources, and research to strengthen charities and tools for fundraising and accreditation.

Researching donors and funders – what to look for

When researching possible donors and funders, you will need to consider the types of information in the table below. We have provided a downloadable template for you to capture this information during your research. Examples of how you can use this template are provided on the next page.


Name of potential funder or donor


The type of potential donor that you want to approach. These include trusts, foundations, corporate donors, statutory bodies and philanthropic individuals who may be able to support your activities.

Areas of interest

The potential donor’s areas of interest, the fit with your organization and the projects/activities which need funding. For example, the donor may be interested in the protection of the environment and natural heritage; promoting the arts or helping marginalized sectors of society.

Past giving

Other charities, projects, or organizations that a donor has supported in the past, and what kind of grants they have awarded. The donor may have a particular track record in supporting grassroot community groups or the restoration of museums and heritage buildings. Understanding what a donor likes, or tends to support, will help you to work out if they are a good match for your organization. Knowing about relevant past grants or gifts, including the amount, will also help you gain a sense of what level of gift to request.

Key people

Try to find a list of Board Directors, key executives or administrative staff (such as a grants manager) of a given trust, foundation or donor. These should be listed in their annual reports. Try to map a route to any of these through your networks to affect an introduction or letter of endorsement. LinkedIn is a good tool to use.


Any key elements in the donor’s application process including deadlines and any financial information or supporting materials that they require. Some may wish you to complete a paper application form (rather than online) while others have an online questionnaire to assess your suitability for their grants. Some donors have several deadlines per year so think about which deadline ties in best with your charity’s governance process.

Important to note

Any special considerations relating to your approach to this funder or donor for a grant or gift. For example, some funders exclude capital projects or ongoing costs.

Target amount

The target amount that you will be seeking from this donor, taking their areas of interest and track record into consideration.

Next steps

What your organization needs to do next to approach this donor or funder. For example, setting up a phone or video meeting with the grants manager or drafting an application for funding.

Top tip: It can be helpful to colour code each of the possible funders/donors to show their potential to give a gift or grant to your charity. This can be according to their likelihood to give or the possible size of their financial contribution. Colour coding can help you to prioritize your approaches and applications. For example: green – most likely to give to your charity; amber – may give to your charity; red – unlikely to give to your charity.

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