Frequently Asked Questions

The following are questions asked often by users of the Grants Information Collection (GIC). Visit the Candid’s website for more questions and answers.

About Us/Contact/Hours

The Grants Information Collection is one of a national Funding Information Network of approximately 400 similar library and information collections throughout the U.S. established by the Foundation Center, now Candid (a merger of the Foundation Center and Guidestar). The Foundation Center’s mission since its beginning in the 1950’s was to provide free access to authoritative sources of information to nonprofit organizations on foundation and corporate giving. Candid continues that mission and vision, added a wealth of additional data and research. The Grants Information Collection, located at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, also provides information on scholarships, fellowships, and grants available for individuals. Other network locations throughout the U.S. (and a few other countries) can be found at the Funding Information Network locations site.

The Grants Information Collection is located on the second floor of Memorial Library at 728 State Street in Madison, Wisconsin. It is a special collection housed in the Reference Reading Room (room 262). There are directions to campus and campus maps available at the Campus Information and Visitor Center.

Anyone can use the Collection. Non-University users will need to present their community borrowing card or get a visitor’s pass at the Library Entrance near State Street by first showing an unexpired government issued photo ID. Day passes are issues once every seven days. You may be eligible for an Extended Research Pass to conduct grants research. For more information, including computer access, please see the Visit Memorial Library webpage.

The Grants Information Collection is open during Memorial Library building hours. However, if you need assistance in using the collection, you may wish to contact the Grants Information Collection. Some basic assistance may be provided at the Circulation Desk on the first floor. Here is the phone number for the Grants Librarian, Ellen Jacks: 608-262-6431.

You may contact Memorial Library at 608-262-3343 or the Grants Librarian at 608-262-6431. If you would like to send email, you may contact the Grants Information Collection.

Any staff member will be glad to show you the location of the collection and answer basic questions you might have. We can also see if any of the more experienced staff members in grants research are available. You will also find useful information on the Help and Tutorials page. Staff members do not do not do funding research for users.

Items from the collection cannot be checked out. However, there are numerous books on fundraising, board management, nonprofit law, and related topics which do circulate, located in Memorial stacks and in other libraries on campus. The titles held in the Grants Information Collection can be found in the Library Catalog. You may limit your search to items in the Grants Information Collection by using the facets on the right-hand side of the search page. To do so, click on Library and then the following: UW-Madison => Memorial => Reference Grants Information Collection. Your search will now by limited to items in the Grants Information Collection.

There is an online directory of other Funding Information Network locations. Here is a list of the other Funding Information Network partners in Wisconsin.

Yes! While users are encouraged to use Grants Information Collection’s printed handouts and web pages and to attend our grant research workshops, we can certainly meet with you to help you get going.

Getting Started:  Nonprofit Organizations

Information on grant seminars and area workshops is available on the web at the Libraries’ workshop page. The collection supervisor at times is available to give in-house presentations on funding resources to area nonprofits, campus departments, classes, and other local groups. Contact Ellen Jacks at 608-262-6431, or Contact the Grants Information Collection for more information.

Foundation grants are usually restricted to nonprofit organizations as recipients, particularly those with a 501(c)3 tax-exempt status from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. There are some foundations which have special permission from the IRS to give to individuals, but the numbers are few in comparison. Separating the grant information according to the type of recipient – organization or individual – should make the funding search more efficient for the grantseeker.

A “501(c)3 organization” is a nonprofit organization that meets the tax exemption requirements of section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code. For more information, see the Charities & Non-Profits section of the Internal Revenue Service. There general information on applying for tax-exempt status and forming a nonprofit at the Foundation Center’s FAQ, How do I establish a nonprofit organization?

There is an excellent overview, Guide to Funding Research, which can offer guidance to first-time grantseekers in using our collection.

Frankly, no. However, take a look at Marquette University’s publication, Foundations in Wisconsin, available in print or online or both formats at any of the six Funding Information Network partners in Wisconsin and perhaps your local library. It is also available for purchase from Marquette University Memorial Library’s Funding Information Center. In addition, the Foundation Center’s database, FD Online, contains a vast amount of information on Wisconsin foundations, and is available at the same network locations.

You may wish to start looking for state and local government assistance at the site, and scroll down to find the Agency Directory and Online Services.

Form 990-PF is the public record information return that all private foundations are required by law to submit annually to the Internal Revenue Service. The Foundation Center’s web site has a 990 Finder along with links to a tutorials on 990’s and how to interpret them. Whereas private foundations file IRS Form 990-PF, in general churches, hospitals, schools, or publicly supported organizations file IRS Form 990. Often when you have difficulty locating a particular organization’s tax return, it may be because the organization you are looking for files a Form 990, instead of a Form 990-PF.

You may also explore a non-profit’s financial data using the basic functions at Guidestar for free and at home. Note, only the basic features are available for free to the general public, but you can get the full features by visiting our collection in person. For more information on locating and interpreting financial data, please view this guide.

Yes. There is an excellent link to the one of the Foundation Center nonprofit management tutorials, Establishing a Nonprofit Organization. There is also our site, Starting a Nonprofit Organization and Nonprofit Law: Web Sites and…Selected Books. See also the Foundation Center’s FAQ site, Nonprofit Management: Establishing a Nonprofit Organization. A handy to-do list, How to Form a Nonprofit Corporation in Wisconsin, is available in chart format on the lower half of the Marquette University’s Funding Information Center’s site, Starting a Nonprofit.

There are a number of databases available at the Grants Information Collection for searching grants. However, keep in mind that no one computer database will have all available funding opportunities.

Some databases have license restrictions for on-campus users only, some are available off campus but restricted to University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty, staff, and students. Still others have free internet access to anyone. Information on computer accessibility to campus resources is outlined in Off-campus Online Access. One can also call the Library Technology Group Information Desk at 608-262-8880. Generally speaking, conditions of access are given with each database described in the database web pages listed in FAQ 13 above.

Government grants can be found initially by searching It describes itself as the “single access point for over 1,000 grant programs offered by the 26 Federal grant-making agencies.” Primarily managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it offers users “full service electronic grant administration” with guidelines and grant applications available online. Search capabilities include by agency, category, grant type, or by browsing available grant opportunities. Government grants are also included in COS Pivot, which is available on the UW-Madison campus.

The Foundation Center’s FAQ, What is a foundation? will answer this question. The Council on Foundations states that “foundations are nonprofit organizations that support charitable activities in order to serve the common good. They provide this support by making grants to other nonprofit agencies, or through operating their own programs.” For purposes of federal tax law, a 501(c)(3) organization is classified as either a public charity or a private foundation. Since foundations usually do not give grants to other foundations, for obtaining grants it is advantageous to be a public charity. Also, public charities are not subject to a number of special tax rules which apply to private foundations. See also the excellent online tutorials, Foundations and their Role in Philanthropy and Foundations Today at the Foundation Center’s Learn About Foundations and Funding site.

Individuals can often get grants awarded only to nonprofit organizations by finding a nonprofit organization, or fiscal agent, which will sponsor the individual and receive the grant on the individual’s behalf. For more on this process, see the Foundation Center’s FAQ site, “Fiscal Sponsorship”

An all-around place to begin is the web page of the Foundation Center and its learning community, GrantSpace. The GIC is one of the over 400 network partners of the Foundation Center within the U.S.

Grants to Individuals

There are a number of databases available at the Grants Information Collection for searching grants. However, keep in mind that no one computer database will have all available funding opportunities. Start with Databases for Grants to Individuals. If you have a fiscal sponsor or are with in an academic institution you may qualify for funding in the following listing: Databases for Grants to Organizations.

See answer to FAQ 18, above.

The best place to start for student campus funding – is the Office of Student Financial Aid. Undergraduates will want to check out Scholarships@UW. Graduate students will want to explore the Office of Fellowships and Funding Resources web site. In addition, consult with the academic departments, schools, and colleges, centers, and other programs on campus for funding information connected to those areas and fields of study.

University researchers and post-doctoral scholars should check the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs for research funding guidelines and additional information, such as on-campus contacts facilitating sponsored program funding.

Faculty, researchers, graduate students, and others who are affiliated with a university or other academic institution may often qualify for grants using their institution as an organizational sponsor. These individuals should contact their department chairs, deans, or campus office of sponsored research for more information. (At UW-Madison the Research and Sponsored Programs office has posted a College and School Research Contacts site.) The institution will in most cases get a percentage of the grant for administrative costs, the sum of which is often figured into the original proposal budget.

See the web sites, Funding for International Students at the UW. Many of our funding databases have a separate search field for selecting and eliminating citizenship requirements.

Grants to pay medical bills, debt relief, and for similar individual needs are limited. One place to check for government benefits for individuals is

Generally speaking, however, grants which are available from foundations and/or by the federal government are awarded to either state and local governmental agencies or to nonprofit organizations which in turn provide human services programs for individuals in their communities who qualify for their assistance.

Wisconsin state and local government assistance programs can be found within the State Agencies site, where, for instance, one can find programs within departments such as the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Those few foundations that are exceptions to the above and do give personal assistance grants can be found in a printed directory, Foundation Grants to Individuals, located at the Grants Information Collection, along with its online equivalent, Foundation Grants to Individuals Online. (The latter is also available from the Foundation Center for $19.95 per month to any interested individual. See the FC site at

Business Finance

There are very few grants for small businesses. Why this is is explained well in the Foundation Center’s GrantSpace FAQ on the topic. Occasionally, grants for Social Entrepreneurs are available in the Foundation Directory Online. There are also a few funding opportunities for small businesses in COS Pivot. Our staff can help you to use these databases or get an overview on the Help and Tutorials page. However, in general, these opportunities are few and far between.

For information on Wisconsin business finance opportunities try’s Business Services or Business Tools site. See also the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation “Start your Business” and “Innovation and R&D” links. Finally, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Small Business Development Center offers information and programs on business start-up finance and management. (The SBDC offices outside Madison are listed at the Wisconsin SBDC site.)

Entrepreneurs outside Wisconsin might find advice and help from similar sites in their state’s official site, and the additional information at the Foundation Center’s business finance FAQ (mentioned above) on the subject. Many public libraries can also be a useful resource.

Proposals and Grant Applications

There is proposal writing information in the following Web sites

  1. Proposal Writing: Web sites
  2. Proposal Writing: Selected Books.

Library staff do not help users write or review proposals. Resources on locating sample grant proposals are included in both web sites. The Foundation Center also has some samples available online on GrantSpace under Sample Documents.

The staff at the Grants Information Collection does not provided help in proposal writing, although staff may be able to recommend resource individuals in the area, grantmakers that review proposals submitted to them, and seminars offered in Wisconsin. On the University of Wisconsin campus the Writing Center provides opportunities and classes on such topics as writing graduate research proposals, application essays, and advice on applying for specific grants such as the Ulrich, Rhodes, Hilldale, Wisconsin Idea, and others. Faculty will want to check with their particular UW-Madison College and School Research contacts, especially for federal grant proposals.

See our Proposal Writing: Web Sites section, Proposal Writing: Selected Books, and the Foundation Center’s answer to this question in their FAQ, Where Can I Find Examples of Grant Proposals?

Although we do not collect application forms, many grantmakers have web sites from which applications may be duplicated. The Wisconsin Philanthropy Network provides access to a Wisconsin Common Application Form accepted by some Wisconsin foundations. However, this may not be accepted everywhere. In addition, the information found in Candid’s Introduction to Proposal Writing workshop is helpful in determining common proposal elements.