Blog / Nonprofits

Find Free Resources for Nonprofits at the Library

by Steven Assarian, Pat Robinson, Ashley Rosener, and Leigh Rupinski
Find Free Resources for Nonprofits at the Library

Libraries are uniquely located at the heart of local and campus communities, offering free access to a wealth of helpful resources. With an interconnected network, libraries offer support to their communities by providing information and facilitating services at various times and locations. One example of how this library ecosystem functions is demonstrated in the way libraries support nonprofit organizations and help strengthen the nonprofit sector.

This spring, a panel of librarians from Grand Valley State University (GVSU) and the Grand Rapids Public Library (GRPL) shared their organizations’ free resources on managing, fundraising, and grant-seeking within the nonprofit sector at a Johnson Center Lunch & Learn on library resources for nonprofits.

Resources from the Grand Rapids Public Library System

GRPL’s Business and Career Librarian, Steven Assarian, shared a useful grant-seeking resource free to patrons: Foundation Directory Online (FDO) Professional. As a member of the Funding Information Network through Candid, the library offers this database at all of their locations to help nonprofits find the grantmakers most likely to fund their projects.

FDO provides detailed profiles of each grantmaker, which is particularly useful considering 90% of U.S. foundations don’t have websites. Throughout the U.S. other libraries and institutions that are members of Candid’s Funding Information Network provide access to the FDO Professional Database. You can locate these places on Candid’s website.

Assarian presented information about the philanthropy classification system which describes the work of grantmakers, grantees, and the philanthropic transactions between them. You can view this presentation in this open Google Doc. Visit GRPL’s page dedicated to Foundations and Nonprofits for more resources.

Resources from Grand Valley State University: Free to the Public

GVSU librarian Ashley Rosener offered information about nonprofit resources free to the public:

The Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership section of the Library Resources for Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration Subject Guide with links to the sector’s journals, databases, policies, blogs, and other websites of interest – many are free to read.

The Subject Guide on Post-Graduation Resources for Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration with up-to-date links to open access journals, free research databases, government resources, and how to stay informed.

The Michigan eLibrary (MeL) statewide service of the Library of Michigan provides all Michigan residents with free access to online full-text articles, full-text books, digital images, and other valuable research information at any time via the internet. Most states have a similar resource!

MeL’s easy-to-use interlibrary loan system allows Michigan residents to borrow books and other library materials for free from participating Michigan libraries. This is a great way to access books on fundraising, grantmaking, and other philanthropy topics if your local library doesn’t have a specific resource.

GVSU’s Dorothy A. Johnson Collection on Philanthropy is one of the most comprehensive collections in the country in the areas of philanthropy, volunteerism, youth philanthropy, service learning, and nonprofit management. Many of the books can be checked out as part of MeL’s interlibrary loan system.

The Foundation Review peer-reviewed journal of philanthropy offers readers across the globe a mix of open access (free to read) and subscription articles about evaluation results, tools, and knowledge about the philanthropic sector on a variety of themes. The latest issue provides a view on what it means to shift power in philanthropy and what it takes to do it. You can read the full collection by signing up for a 90-day free trial.

Free Resources from GVSU’s Archives

GVSU’s Archivist, Leigh Rupinski, highlighted free-to-read digital collections documenting the history of philanthropy in Michigan. Popular collections include:

Interviews in the Michigan Philanthropy Oral History collection are based on the StoryCorps model, which take the form of conversations between friends, family members, or colleagues focused on their motivations, experiences, and aspirations related to their experience with philanthropy.

The Russell G. Mawby papers document the life and work of the Michigan-born CEO and Chair of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, recognizing his work in philanthropy.

Our State of Generosity is a website that features 40+ years of Michigan’s philanthropic history, including profiles of truly remarkable leaders; lessons learned from the development of organizations that formed the philanthropic, nonprofit, and volunteer infrastructure in Michigan; historical documents; and lesson plans on generosity and servant leadership housed at Learning to Give.

You can learn more about GVSU’s special collections in philanthropy and other topics at

We encourage readers to think about their own local libraries and to reach out to them possibly for more information, or to just explore their online offerings.

Pat Robinson, M.P.A.
Pat Robinson, M.P.A.
Associate Director, Special Projects
Pat Robinson joined the Johnson Center in 1997 and currently serves as associate director for special projects and associate editor of The Foundation Review. Pat’s responsibilities include coordinating nonprofit Lunch and Learn events in partnership with the School of Public,...
Steven Assarian
Business and Career Librarian, Grand Rapids Public Library
Steven was previously a Public Services Librarian at Kettering University and Cataloger at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where he also received his M.S. in Library and Information Science.
Ashley Rosener
Liaison Librarian in Professional Programs, GVSU
Ashley received her masters in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and an undergraduate degree in English from Iowa State University.
Leigh Rupinski
Archivist for Public Services and Community Engagement, GVSU
Leigh was previously the College Archivist at Wilson College, and worked in the University of Michigan Digital Conversion Unit. She holds an M.S. in Archives & Records Management from University of Michigan.