Foundation Center database a valuable tool for nonprofits

In these tough economic times, starting or maintaining a business can be challenging, but trying to start a nonprofit can seem nearly impossible.

That is, unless you know about one of the best-kept secrets that can be found at the La Crosse Library.

Behind shelves of books and surrounded by rows of computers, the library has become an important place in Matthew Brantner’s journey to starting a non-profit.

“Our first unofficial office was right here at the library,” said Brantner.

He’s the executive director of WisCorps, an organization for youth interested in environmental conservation projects including planting gardens or building trails and bridges.

“It’s an actual job that they have, where they can gain the skills that they’re going to need to be leaders in our workforce someday,” said Brantner.

But back before all of his success, he had no idea how to even begin funding his dream.

“You try to do web searches and, ‘how do you find that’ and I was in the library one day and I came across the Foundation Center (database),” said Brantner.


With the recent downturn in the economy, applying for grants has become more competitive.

Librarian Noreen Fish said the Foundation Center database gives people an advantage.

“It lets you be more efficient,” said Fish. “You can target the organizations that are most likely to give you money, rather than doing a scattershot approach where you write 20 grants and hope one of them fits.”

Brantner has received several grants through the database, anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000 each.

“It’s almost a validation that you’re not the only crazy people in the world that believe in what you’re doing,” said Brantner.

It’s been about three years now since WisCorps started.

Brantner said he’s not sure where he’d be if he hadn’t just taken a seat at the library.

“Probably still trying to find that first grant,” Brantner said, joking. “No, I’d like to think that we could have eventually got there, but just the efficiency on our time, as grant writers in a small organization, has just been huge with this resource.”

WisCorps, which is now statewide, is looking to hire about 70 more young adults and expand on more projects throughout the state.

The database is part of the resource center in the library.

The center was funded in part by a grant from the La Crosse Community Foundation.