Getting Started on Funding Databases

Nov. 2, 2016

Let me tell you a story.

About a year ago, I received an email from a student in linguistics asking if I would review a draft of her proposal for the Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research. This was the first time I had heard of the Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research, or at least, the first time it caught my attention. With a little investigation, I found that the American Philosophical Society supports the fund and that several UA graduate students in geology have previously received the award.

Who would have suspected that a wonderful source of funding for geology students would be the American Philosophical Society?

Okay, that was hardly the most exciting story you have ever heard, but it does demonstrate that the world of funding is full of interesting twists and turns. How does one discover these little nuggets of funding?

One amazing resource for finding them is the funding databases that are available to you. Below you will find links and tips for using some of those databases.

Funding Databases for Graduate Students

Begin with funding databases that are exclusively for graduate students. This will give you an idea of the kinds of funding that exist for you at this stage of your professional life. Here are a few good places to start.

Comprehensive Funding Databases

Once you have an idea of the funding landscape for graduate students, move on to the bigger databases. These ARE worth your time. Why? Because both of the databases listed below permit you to set up search alerts. You will get a weekly email with funding opportunities that meet your search criteria. So an hour or two invested in these databases will pay off for a long time.


Pivot’s website claims that their database contains an estimated $44 billion in funding. Of course, some of this is exclusively for facility construction at a university in Austria or for visiting personnel at a Korean university. That said, some of that $44 billion is relevant to you and your work, and you have to look to find it.

  1. Sign up for an account. It is free with an email account.
  2. Do an advanced search. Begin broadly and gradually narrow your search. I suggest that you only use their search terms, not your own, and begin by leaving many of the fields blank. If you browse under “keyword” you can select the discipline that is (or disciplines that are) most relevant to you. Be sure to use the “applicant type” filter as well.
  3. Keep playing around with your search. If you get fewer than 10 results, your search is too narrow. If you get more than 200, your search is too broad. A good search results in about 70 opportunities with three or four that are relevant to you.
  4. Once you create a good search, save it and check the box when it asks for weekly alerts.


GrantForward claims that it has over 9,000 US sponsors. Again, many of these are not relevant to you as a graduate student, but, like Pivot, the opportunities are generally reliable and accurate. The process for searching in GrantForward is similar to the process outlined for Pivot above.

Both GrantForward and Pivot have many wonderful capabilities beyond the ones outlined above.  Learning to use them is a good idea, but don’t get bogged down. You can learn to use them to their full potential or you can set up your search and move along.

Further Resources

Yesterday I talked with a graduate student who is researching how to improve the aerodynamics of large airplanes, later I talked to a student who is looking at reducing air pollution around retired mines through the use of particular types of vegetation, then I talked with another graduate student who is researching best dictionary-making practices for endangered languages, and then I talked to someone who is examining how families that are divided by the southern U.S. border deal with caregiving issues. The graduate students I talk to are as varied as their research topics. In turn, each student is eligible for various types of funding and will find various databases useful.

On our website you will find a number of other resources for finding funding including separate database for Arizona funding, government funding, and foundation funding. You can access them here:

Good luck with your search! Feel free to contact me with questions.

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