What’s Essential - Identification of Funding Opportunities
Locating the right funding opportunity to meet your needs can take a bit of time. First and foremost - it's important that you are clear about:
- What you want to do,
- Why you want to do it, and
- Who cares about "it" or its outcomes
Since proposal development and the review / selection process takes time (and more time, the more complex the project), you should embark on your funding search well in advance of when you want to do the project (i.e., when funds are needed).
To ensure that your (future) application is targeted to the right sponsor, reflect on:
- Who might care about your project and its outcomes?
- How much support ($$) do you need and for what purpose (e.g., personnel: students, postdoc's, technical staff; travel; materials or supplies; equipment, etc.).
- Is there anything unique about you or your project's focus (e.g., you are an undergraduate, junior faculty member, from an underrepresented group, member of an association or society; or the project addresses an important societal need)?
This information can help you focus your time and energy on identifying and pursuing those opportunities most likely to result in an award.
Quick tips to finding likely sponsors
- Scan the acknowledgement section of the ‘products’ of the scholarly endeavors applicable to your field, e.g. installations, monographs, presentations, journal articles, etc.
- Sign up for and review your professional society's newsletter. They often publish information about funding opportunities in your field.
- Ask your colleagues, peers, or advisors how their work has been supported.
- Search available online databases for funding opportunities and recent award information.
- Grants.gov is the single access point for more than 1,000 grant programs offered by all Federal grant making agencies. You can perform searches on funding opportunities free of charge on the Grants.gov site. Select “Find Funding Opportunities” on the left hand navigation screen and begin your searches. Note that you do not need to register. MIT is registered, and therefore no additional action is required for searching or for submitting proposals.
- The MIT Office of Foundation Relations – Provides information about Foundation Grant Programs
- Foundation Directory Online and Grant Forward are two subscription databases that offer individual plans. In subscription resources, look up one or more funding opportunities you know "fit" your needs and review how it is described in the database, e.g., requirements, key words, eligibility or academic qualifications, citizenship, activities supported or funding type.
- Review webpages of likely funders (identified by #1 - #4) for information about their current interests and recent grantees. Your goal here is to confirm strong overlap between their goals and your project's focus or outcomes and funding needs. (Not all sponsors will support all the types of items you need.)
- Review sponsor's awardee databases for key words, solicitation number or names. Contact the principal investigator to ask for a copy of his/her proposal; this individual may be a future collaborator!!
What to Do Once You Have Identified Potential Sponsors
OSP strongly encourages the Principal Investigator to contact the program manager or technical point of contact for the potential sponsor to confirm that your idea, goals, and approach fit well with the solicitation.
To facilitate your conversation with the program manager, it can be very helpful to send a concept paper in advance of the call that briefly (~1-2 pages) outlines the:
- application’s purpose, or problem to be addressed (if applicable), and context or background;
- question(s) addressed;
- project plan or experimental design(s);
- evaluation plan or analyses;
- project team; and
- approximate total costs.
The concept paper allows the program manager to be informed quickly about the project, to respond efficiently to questions and to make suggestions for refining the project, if appropriate. Developing the concept paper and sharing it with colleagues for feedback is also an effective approach to help crystallize projects or flush out ideas that may be relatively immature.
After identifying a sponsor and confirming the funding opportunity (also called a solicitation), now proposal development activities can begin in earnest!