Each month when I pull together our free Non-profit Webinar Round-up, I’m struck by the wealth of information and resources available to US non-profits and charities through The Foundation Center. For example, in addition to their free webinars (that we promote in our monthly round-up), through GrantSpace they offer a Finding Funders page as well as Foundation Directory Online.
But I wasn’t too familiar with resources available to Canadian charities until recently, when I was introduced to Michael Lenczner, CEO of Ajah. Their Fundtracker online service is designed to help Canadian nonprofits identify and connect with funders and insight into how to gain their support.
Since I hadn’t heard about the Fundtracker service or theSector.ca, (a free online resource developed by Ajah that allows Canadian non-profits to browse 70,000+ charities according to activities and location) I decided to interview Michael so I could share details about these resources with our blog readers.
Interview with Michael Lenczner of Ajah:
1. Can you give me some background about why you built Fundtracker? Fundtracker comes out of the frustration I've personally experienced trying to get funding for different nonprofits that I've worked with. Over the course of the last 15 years I've worked at many different types of organizations and one of the key challenges - always - is finding adequate and stable sources of funding. The problem isn't necessarily that funders aren't out there - it's that finding the relevant information at the right time can be very difficult.
We built Fundtracker in order to help nonprofits not only find all of the people and programs that could be new sources of funding, but also to help them figure out which funders are most likely to be receptive.
2. How does Fundtracker work? To find new funders, there are two complementary approaches to take. First, which foundations, companies, or other funders are looking to fund organizations in my area? Second, where are organizations like mine getting their funding? Coming at the question from both directions is a great way to get a complete picture of the funding environment - which makes fundraising that much more efficient and likely to succeed.
To look at it another way, Fundtracker is a large database of funding information with two entry points: search for funders and search for charities. Using these two tools together helps fundraisers - with organizations of all sizes - spend much less time uncovering new opportunities. And, once they have identified the opportunities, Fundtracker arms them with information to help them approach these new possible funding sources and achieve their goals.
3. Who is the key target audience for this service? When we designed Fundtracker, we were thinking about how to help overworked fundraisers at small-to-midsize non-profits. That’s why we focused so much on having a complete and up-to-date listing of grants from the three most important sources - foundations, corporations and government programs. Smaller organizations often don’t have dedicated staff working exclusively on soliciting major gifts or planned giving, for example, often one or two people have to do everything. That’s also why we focused on making it so easy to use - we didn’t want to ask fundraisers to learn or do anything extra.
We quickly found out, though, that Fundtracker was a better and more powerful tool than the ones the larger fundraising shops were using. Now we have clients from across the non-profit sector, from rural community organizations to national foundations and hospitals.
4. Is it comparable to The Foundation Directory Online in the US? It is similar, except as it's name implies, the Foundation Directory is focused on foundations. Our service includes up-to-date information about corporate and government funders as well. Relatively speaking, Foundations are a much smaller source of funding in Canada than in US, so it is more important for our clients to have access to information about corporate and government funding as well.
5. Tell us how you find out about all of these funders? Fundtracker takes information from dozens of public sources and makes it available to our clients in a clean, easy-to-use web interface. We don't just take the information and present it as-is, though, we have our own research team which is responsible for adding important qualitative information to each of the funding profiles.
6. You also offer theSector.ca - what is that? theSector.ca is a really cool project we developed to highlight the value of our data. We see it as a gift to the non-profit sector at large. It's purpose is to make it easier for non-profits to see more easily what is happening in their own sector.
7. How can this benefit Canadian charities? Most people don't know all of the organizations that are active in their area and in their field of activity. Using theSector.ca you can benchmark your organization against others, for instance by finding out the salary range of employees in organizations of different sizes in different domains. An organization can also use it to learn about other organizations’ fundraising tactics.
People working in the charitable sector are very passionate about their work - and the work they do is very important, not just for themselves but for their communities. At the same time, though, the work can often seem overwhelming - there's always too much to do and too few resources. We created Fundtracker and theSector.ca to help these passionate, committed people achieve more with their limited resources.
Our thanks to Michael for introducing us to Fundtracker and theSector.ca. Check out these online services and let us know what you think in the comments below.