OHSU Researchers' Guide to Foundation Funding
Funding from private foundations may be a great fit for your program or research project; however, it is important to understand that every foundation operates differently. Use this basic guide below and spend time researching the foundation before submitting your proposal.
FOUNDATION PRIORITIES & MECHANISMS
The first thing to understand about foundations is that they want to fund their own priority areas. While the NIH offers investigator-initiated research support, foundations tend to have set standards for funding programs and giving mechanisms that reflect their specific areas of interest.
Foundations like their support to be part of a collaborative effort. Typically, they do NOT like to be the sole source of funding for a project. (Exceptions include foundations that function more like NIH—American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, etc.)
Nearly all foundations want to see a plan for sustaining the project or impact over time, and that plan should not rely heavily on indefinite grant support from private foundations (examples include: identifying another source of revenue, charging membership and/or user fees, planning to obtain a large NIH grant, etc).
IMPACT & EVALUATION
It is important to explicitly state the difference your project will make and/or the problem it will solve over the long term by showing that you will have tangible results.
POINT OF VIEW
Foundations want to read a proposal that is easy to understand, aligns with their priority areas, and meets a need of the community. When writing your proposal, emphasize the connection between your work and the foundation's goals to achieve an impact that benefits the community they wish to serve. Also consider that the review committee may be a lay audience.
Be patient when seeking funding from private foundations, as the review process typically takes anywhere from four to twelve months.
On average, less than one in ten proposals gets funded. If your proposal is declined, ask why. Foundations will oftentimes give feedback to declined proposals. Many foundations do accept resubmissions but will accept different project proposals from the same investigator.
In many cases, personal relationships with board members and program officers can weigh heavily on funding decisions. It is often recommended to make contact with a foundation prior to submitting to ensure your project aligns with its funding interests, which will help you build a relationship with the foundation.
Updated October 30, 2012