Metasoft’s Foundation Search Vs The Foundation Center’s Foundation Finder

… and what to do if your budget doesn’t allow for either.

Awhile back the “Grants” listserv of CharityChannel, the Internet’s premier resource for nonprofit information, featured a lively debate about the merits of Metasoft’s Foundation Search subscription database versus The Foundation Center’s Foundation Directory Online database.

Both programs offer their users a variety of methods to seek out foundation funders. Both obtain their information through foundations’ 990 tax forms. And, based on feedback, both BIG Online and Foundation Directory Online share an equal number of loyal fans.

However, the fact is there are many nonprofit organizations whose budgets (or executive director’s mindsets) do not allow for choosing ANY foundation prospecting tool, let alone BIG Online, which will run you thousands for a six-month (their shortest) run.

What’s a smaller nonprofit organization with limited resources to do? Is it possible to still seek out those little known national and regional foundations whose missions align with yours? Without expensive tools and connections, how will my little $250,000 annual budget children’s arts organization find foundation support to grow and create new programming?

With an internet connection, preferably high speed, some time and practice, and a number of detecting tools, even those on very limited budgets can regularly seek out foundations that will support your mission – year after year.

Your best start is a foundation directory. Almost every state, with exceptions such as Alaska and Hawaii, publish one and sometimes several. More and more these directories are moving to Internet subscription-based services – but they’re still a deal.

Now take some time to really explore these websites if you’re not already familiar with them:

Guidestar: Note that you must register to use Guidestar but registration is free. Guidestar does offer paid subscriptions, however, there is no charge for viewing a foundation’s three most recent 990’s. This clunky little site can be a boon to the grantseeker on a budget. The Foundation Center; one of the oldest and best resources on the web. The Foundation Center offers a number of paid subscription programs – but they also offer free services. The Council on Foundations A relatively new organization devoted to 60,000 smaller United States Foundations

Between your state foundation directory and these five sites, you should have enough resources to get you started on the path to funding.

Check out my book, Five Days to Foundation Funding for more ideas on writing an effective, funded grant proposal.

4 Responses to “Metasoft’s Foundation Search Vs The Foundation Center’s Foundation Finder”

  1. Seymour B. Lecker says:

    Metasoft has had at least one judgment entered against them for failure to honor their Guarantee.

  2. Scott says:

    Metasoft Foundation Search is a SCAM! ‘Bob’ from Foundation Search will not stop harassing the office I work for; we have informed them multiply times we do not want to take part in their business. They keep calling and hanging up on us, when we ask to talk to their manager or get their number. They refuse to stop calling us or allowing us to speak to their managers. IF THEY CALL, HANG UP!

  3. Our organization purchased the Metasoft Foundation Search service and after 6 months of using it with no results (over 400 letters and proposals sent) asked for our money back under their warranty. They presented a host of reasons why they would not provide a refund. BEWARE these people STEAL FROM CHARITY.

  4. Metasoft offers a very generous money back guarantee that allows non-profits who have never pursued foundation fundraising before to do so with no risk. There are seven conditions that apply for the guarantee to be valid and all are spelled out very clearly in “non-legalese” plain English in regular sized print on a one page form. The conditions are very strictly enforced, and the several dozen of non-profits who have met the conditions have had their money refunded. Michael Robinson signed the Money Back Guarantee form.

    One of the key conditions of the guarantee is that the non-profit schedules a “Grant Development Services Initial Consultation” within 6 weeks of their membership activation. The purpose of the Initial Consultation is to help ensure the success of the member by going over foundation fundraising strategies and providing the how-to’s of foundation fundraising including developing a Case for Support, performing effective prospect research, crafting a compelling letter of inquiry, writing winning grant proposals, and following up.

    The guarantee form signed by Mr. Robinson mentions the Initial Consultation requirement in TWO separate places:

    “Your FoundationSearch and/or BIG Online membership includes a complimentary Initial Consultation with our Grant Development services designed to support your fundraising strategy. The Initial Consultation must be scheduled by contacting Grant Development Services ( within six weeks of membership activation and must subsequently take place.”

    1. Client must arrange Grant Development Services Initial Consultation within 6 weeks of activation.”

    Condition 3 on the form signed by Mr. Robinson states:
    “3. An endorsed guarantee form must accompany a refund application”.

    On the form, right under Mr. Robinson’s signature is another signature block for “Metasoft Grant development Officer” with a “Date endorsed”.

    Mr. Robinson did not schedule the Initial Consultation, nor did he contact to arrange the consultation and he submitted the money back guarantee form with his request for refund without it being signed and endorsed by the Metasoft Grant Development Officer.

    In addition to the money back guarantee form which spells it out the requirement for the Initial Consultation 3 times, every new FoundationSearch member receives an email when the account is activated. Mr. Robinson was sent one on August 14th, 2013 and he even responded back to it on the very same day presumably after having read it. The email has in it two completely separate paragraphs: one for orientation and a separate one for the Money back guarantee requirements. The distinction between the two is very clear. Again there is no fine print here nor is there any “legalese”.

    “Orientation Training

    Customer Support provides Orientation to FoundationSearch America webinars that serve as interactive database training sessions on best practices or the most efficient methods of using FoundationSearch. Our next training webinars will be on September 5th and September 19th at 9am Pacific Time.

    It will include information on:

    Geographical data regarding foundations and grant recipients
    Conducting Prospect searches using the Global Search
    Information on Metasoft’s “Four Point Assessment” method
    Use of My Foundation Manager
    Accessing the New Foundation Visualizer
    Questions and answers

    Please let me know which session you would like to attend and I will book you a spot!

    Thank you and I look forward to hearing back from you.”


    As part of your purchase of a membership of FoundationSearch/BIG Online with a Money Back Guarantee, your organization must schedule an Initial Consultation with our Senior GDS Consultant within six weeks of your activation date.

    If you would like to discuss the Initial Consultant and/or schedule an appointment, contact GDS at 1-888-638-2763 or email

    Common sense dictates – “Always know what you are signing”. And also “Always get everything in writing” and “Be sure to read the fine print”, in this case, everything is in writing and there isn’t any fine print.

    After refusing Mr. Robinson’s request for a refund for failing to meet the above requirements, Metasoft’s customer support offered to help Insulin Pumpers with a review of their Letter of Inquiry to find out why it did not attract any funding for their very fundable cause, make suggestions for improving the LOI, and help in identifying prospective funders who have funded similar projects in the past. Mr. Robinson refused the help.


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