Why you might approach
Foundations are excellent sources of funds to initiate
new and innovative services. Often they support conferences, planning
efforts, needs assessments and the organization of consortia as well.
Applying to a foundation also may have the advantage of a quick turnaround
time -- perhaps 2 to 3 months compared to 5 months or more with federal
grants -- and does not entail such a large investment in preparing an application.
Many foundations have a specific, local focus, so you may well find a perfect
match between your project and a foundation that wants to fund it.
How to identify a good
source of funds:
The Foundation Directory, published by the
Center, found in any large library gives profiles of
most foundations, organized by state, with indices to search for particular
funding categories. The profiles include a list of types of grants
awarded and an indication of the average size of grants. Directory profiles
also give the name, address and phone number of a contact at each foundation.
A site with information on local foundations is offered
by the Donors Forum of Chicago
. This site also allows you to search for descriptions recent grants
– since 1994 – using a number of categories or the names of funders or
recipients. It will not link you directly to foundation web sites, but
does give enough information to narrow your list of potential funding agencies.
The Donors Forum of Chicago also maintains a library and other resources
to help potential applicants identify funding sources. It publishes
a directory of Illinois foundations, also available in the Resource Room.
It also offers workshops and instructional videos on the use of these resources.
Another good search site is the Foundation
Center Directory of Grantmakers.
This will link you to many foundations, as well as to corporate and
public charities. Each links page has a keyword search engine for
recent grants. The Foundation Center offers quite a lot of online information
about grants strategy and application writing as well. The
Chronicle of Philanthropy also offers a search engine for upcoming
deadlines in the private funding arena.
Grantsnet was set up by the American Association for the Advancement
of Science and the Howard Hughes Medical to facilitate the search
for funding by new investigators in biomedical fields. You will be asked
to register, but the service is free, and it does carry out a fairly exhaustive
search using your key words. This is one of the few sites which catalogues
the many small grants for new investigators offered by professional societies.
Some additional databases with information about private
funding sources, including those not on line are:
When researching foundations, read their profiles
carefully. Make sure your needs and those of the foundations
you target match closely. Once you have identified a number of likely
foundations, call for their guidelines and annual report (or browse this
information online, if the foundation has a web site). Most foundations
will send these free of charge in response to a call. The annual
report will list recent awards. Look for trends in funding
which point in the direction of your project. The guidelines
will tell you exactly how to apply for funds.
How to apply:
After you have narrowed your list of prospective funders
down to perhaps 3 to 6, you are ready to prepare your preliminary proposal.
Before you write this proposal, please contact the Office of Research Development.
It is essential that the County's approaches to foundations be coordinated,
since many foundations will accept only one application from a given organization
Follow each foundation's guidelines exactly. Usually
the guidelines will call for a preliminary 2 to 4 page letter describing
the project and the amount of funding requested. This "letter" is
actually a miniature proposal -- don't hesitate to use headings for sections,
charts, tables, or whatever else clarifies the presentation. Always
give an estimate of the funds to be requested, with a breakdown, into major
categories, such as personnel, operations, supplies, or equipment.
Always indicate your willingness to host a site visit.
If the foundation likes your preliminary letter, it may
ask for a full-scale proposal, n When you submit a full proposal,
a program officer from the foundation will often work closely with you
to insure that it fits the foundation's format and funding goals.
Stay in close touch with this contact person. Even if the current
project is not funded, the relationship you develop will be helpful for
Find out the deadline
Many foundation guidelines say they have no deadline for applications.
While it's true that they will accept applications at any time, funding
decisions are usually tied to regular meetings of the foundation's board.
Before sending an initial letter, find out from the contact person when
the board will next meet, and how soon before the meeting an application
should be received for it to be considered.
What foundations usually
Relatively few private foundations fund projects that
are primarily research related (but many health-related charities and professional
organizations do). Even though research is not the focus of most
foundation supported projects, service projects will be expected to have
strong evaluation plans to demonstrate their effectiveness, so be prepared
to develop a sound evaluation plan and to maintain a data base to track
the progress of your project. (See Research Demonstrations)
Many foundations will not fund large equipment purchases
or ongoing operations for an existing project. Nor are they likely
to fund a project which has recently lost another source of funding.
In most cases, the goal of funding a project is to help the program become
institutionalized. The guidelines usually ask for a plan to continue
the program after funding is terminated.
Many foundations require that the applicant organization
be a non-profit (501(c)(3)) organization. For a number of years,
the Hektoen Institute has served as a non-profit
administrator of such grants for County based investigators. Partnerships
can be formed with other non-profit groups to accomplish this aim as well.
If you wish to form such a partnership be sure that the proposed program
is a true collaborative effort, and that the non-profit organization has
the administrative capabilities to carry out grants management.
If you have questions, don't hesitate to contact the Office
of Research Development.
Foundation program announcements
Some of the larger foundations, such as the Robert
Wood Johnson Foundation issue requests for applications
for specific initiatives they plan to fund. These opportunities are
announced throughout the year, and will be included in the Grants
Newsletter when available.
Finding Funding Opportunities
Directory of Grantmakers
Glossary of Terms
Center Orientation: Introduction to Grantseeking
Center Short Course
Foundation Center's User-Friendly Guide