Find a funder who is interested in your project.
Things to look for: Recognize that sources of funding have different motivations for giving. Finding a funder means finding a match between your mission and the funder’s mission.
- Foundations (corporate, family, and large public foundations) must distribute a certain amount of their assets each year, in line with particular goals of the foundation.
- Federal and state government agencies have a legislated mandate to distribute funds fairly, so they usually require detailed proposals and sometimes require matching funds.
- Other sources — professional associations, corporations, individuals — all have highly individualized aims.
Before you approach a foundation
Do not approach any foundation without first consulting the grants coordinator. We want to ensure that your proposal will not compete with another proposal from Goshen College.
Only the president may authorize a contact with Lilly Endowment Inc.
If you do not have a specific funder in mind, begin by searching the Foundation Center CD-rom, available in the Development Office, AD01 or the Foundation Center website.
Common sources of public funding which you can find with a simple web search include: National Science Foundation, National Institute of Health, National Endowment for the Humanities, Indiana Arts Commission, Indiana Humanities Council, and the US Department of Education.
The Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion is also a good potential resource. Campus Compact gives small grants for community-based learning projects.
Learn as much as you can about potential funders before contacting them.
- The development office has files on many foundations.
- Send for annual reports of foundations or view recent grants on Web sites.
- Contact a current grant recipient to find out how they were successful.
- Use your personal networks of contacts to make connections to key people.
- Find out the goals of this funder and how your project might fit into their framework.
- Funders are seeking projects that promote their agendas. They see grants as an investment, not as a gift, which means you must offer something of value to them in return for the grant dollars.
Call a program officer at the funding agency to test your ideas.
- Both private foundations and government agencies welcome this kind of conversation.
- Initial contact with a program officer can be crucial; prepare a fact sheet or concept paper prior to making a call. You may want to fax it to the program officer ahead of time.
- The fact sheet should contain a brief description of your project, including the specific aims and expected outcomes, a list of resources needed, an estimate of the budget and project duration, and a list of major obstacles that may be encountered, along with methods to overcome them.
- This should be a two-way conversation. Listen carefully to what program officers say and incorporate programmatic input they offer into the proposal.
- Program officers will rarely discourage applications; but a telling question to ask is: “Will my project be competitive?” A direct answer should be very enlightening.
Letter of intent
Write a letter of intent or pre-proposal.
- Some funding agencies may require a letter of intent or preliminary proposal.
- The letter of intent is a one- or two-page document that describes the project, the qualifications of the project director — or principal investigator (PI) — and the estimated budget.
- Agencies will then respond by inviting a full proposal if they are interested in the project.
- College approval usually is not needed for pre-proposals, the development office should be notified and a copy provided when submitted.
- If the pre-proposal obligates the college in any way (such as providing matching funds), then it must be approved in the regular approval system described in the “Obtaining approval” page under the “Process” tab above.
Tip: Contact with an agency should be a two-way conversation. Listen carefully to what program officers say and incorporate any programmatic input they offer into the proposal. Program officers will rarely discourage applications; but a telling question to ask is: “Will my project be competitive?” A direct answer should be very enlightening.