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Foundation Directory Online Essential Tutorial: Home

An overview of the access to and process of searching the Essential version of the Foundation Directory Online database.

Announcement: Small nonprofits that complete a Candid profile Gold Badge of Transparency before the end of the year can earn a free year's subscription to Foundation Directory Essential. See details here -

In response to the lockdowns and closures of the COVID-19 pandemic, the publishers of Foundation Directory (Candid) decided to extend access to the Essential version of that database to the public for free through what is now called the day pass system. This guide will explain what the database is, how to gain access, and tips for exploring.

Access Steps

In order to visit and search Foundation Directory Online Essential, first contact the provider nearest you. For those in Forefront's area, email and ask for the FDO Essential day pass link. All others can locate their nearest resource center from Candid's website.

After you receive the link via email, you will be asked to create an account and sign up for a day pass. Save the link you receive from the Forefront Library, as it will be needed to revisit the site in the future. The day pass allows users to access Foundation Directory Essential remotely in a 24-hour window. There is a clock at the top of the screen that will tell you how much time remains in the pass. After the 24 hours, the clock will show the next date on which you can activate a new pass (every 30 days).  To activate your new day pass, revisit the link you received from the Forefront Library and login with the credentials you created.

Since you will be able to create individual accounts in Foundation Directory Essential, you will have access to the MyFDO features that were not previously available. You will be able to create dashboards and save searches and return to them each time you activate a new pass.

FDO Essential Explained

Foundation Directory Online is a database that contains profiles of over 238,000 U.S. grantmakers with details gathered from IRS data, various online resources, and philanthropic news as well as self-reported information. FDO Essential is less robust than FDO Professional in that features like grant details and recipient profiles are unavailable but is an excellent place to begin researching. 

This video was record in September of 2021


Make the most of each Foundation Directory Essential day pass for remote access by using the tips below:

  • Prepare: Before logging in for the first time, explore how you can use Foundation Directory by watching our video or one of Candid's online tutorials.
  • Timing: Log in at a time when you can come back to the site (if needed) within a 24-hour period. For instance, logging in at 1PM would give you the ability to log back in on the same pass the next morning at 9AM. Or, you could start the clock at 9AM and revisit the application on the same pass later in the afternoon/evening of that day.
  • Offline research: Take advantage of Foundation Directory's robust download/email features; you can run searches on Foundation Directory Essential and then download or email yourself the prospect list for offline reviewing.
  • MyFDO: When you’re logged in, you can use the features of MyFDO to create personal dashboards, tag favorite grantmakers, and save searches under your username. Then you can return to them each time you activate a new pass and pick up exactly where you left off.