Ken Goldstein, MPPA

Ken Goldstein has been working in nonprofits and local government agencies from Santa Cruz, to Sacramento, and back to Silicon Valley, since 1989. He's been staff, volunteer, board member, executive director, and, since 2003, a consultant to local nonprofit organizations. For more on Ken's background, click here. If you are interested in retaining Ken's services, you may contact him at ken at

Monday, May 08, 2006

DonorData Versus the Foundation Center

A friend recently asked my opinion of a new online foundation research site called "" They offer a free 20-day trial membership, so I signed up for the test drive.

As a baseline for comparison, I used the Foundation Center's "Foundation Directory Online." I decided to do the same search on each service. Here are my results:

DonorData (trial subscription) - $!9.99/month
Search: California & Civil Rights
86 foundation results
No sub-categories available

On the Foundation Center site the "Civil Rights" field of interest has several sub-categories. I did the search twice, first just with "Civil Rights" and again with all the sub-categories.

Foundation Center's Foundation Directory Online - basic subscription $19.95/month
Search 1: California & Civil Rights
37 foundation results
Search 2: California & Civil Rights OR Civil Rights sub-categories (including: women, voter education, race/intergroup relations, minorities, immigrants, gays/lesbians, disabled, aging, advocacy)
152 foundation results

Interesting note: included in DonorData's 86 hits were a few foundations that were not listed in the Foundation Center's 152 hits!

Another thing DonorData has over the Foundation Center is the Celebrity Donors database, although it remains to be seen how accurate or effective the data is.

In the Foundation Center's corner, however, is usability. They've been at this for a long time, and their web design and ease of use makes searching and reading the results a breeze. DonorData has good information, but it is not very intuitive and search results are not formatted in an easy to read or print manner.

While the foundation records contain much of the same basic information, the Foundation Center's is far more flexible in how you create a search. DonorData insists on starting with choosing a state and then a field of interest. From those basic results you can narrow it down by city or another column. With the Foundation Center, I can begin a search on any key field, or run a text search across all fields.

There is also a question of where the data is coming from. The Foundation Center constantly surveys foundations to update their database, along with the latest 990 filings. The foundations are all familiar with the Center and aware of the importance of these surveys and are good about responding. DonorData doesn't explain where their data comes from, which makes me wonder how accurate or up-to-date it really is.

What we do know, however, is where they get information on their potential customers: For a 20-day free trial of their $19.99 monthly service, DonorData required me to enter more personal information (including a credit card number) than Adobe did to download a 30-day trial version of their $399 GoLive software.

I will continue to play with this during the rest of my 20 days, and will let you know if my opinion changes, but for now, stick with the Foundation Center.

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