Finding Funding

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Office of Sponsored Programs

Finding Funding

Researching Grant Opportunities--Basic Tips and Strategies

In the earliest stages of the grant development process, it helps to conceive of your research in its broadest possible areas of application. It is extremely rare to find a program or a Request for Proposals (RFP) that is an exact match to your research plan; therefore too narrow a focus at this stage can lead you to overlook worthwhile opportunities. Think in terms of potential outcomes rather than the actual research design. Some useful questions to ask at this stage include:

  • What potential benefits may result from this research or project?
  • Who would be interested in the results of this research or project?
  • What potential applications are there for this research?

These are the questions sponsoring agencies are asking when they formulate their funding guidelines, even when seeking to fund basic research. Thinking in terms of how your project addresses the needs and goals of a sponsor from the outset will help you throughout the grant development process.

On a related note, OSP often gets requests, particularly from administrators and program directors, to find funding to support a particular program or to buy/upgrade equipment. This is an unproductive way to approach grant funding. While there is funding available to support program development and improve facilities, this money is distributed according to many of the same criteria as research funding. As with a research proposal, you need to think of your program development activities and equipment needs in terms of a specific project limited in duration with specific, measurable outcomes. The three questions posed above still pertain, and there are some other questions you should keep in mind as well:

  • Who will benefit from this project?
  • Does the project improve on existing practice at TC or elsewhere?
  • Will the project produce outcomes that might be reproduced at other institutions?
  • How will curriculum development or major equipment purchases improve retention and/or assist students in a pipeline to advanced study in a particular field or discipline?
  • Can the institution support the program after the funding period?

Again, the key at this stage is to focus less on what you want to do with the money and more on why a sponsor might want to support a particular activity.

Other Resources

Through Columbia University Library's online database tools, the college now has access to the Foundation Center's Grant Databases. It may be accessed from the CU library's homepage. Just enter "foundation" into the search field.

The Foundation Grants Guide is particularly useful. It can often be difficult to decide whether or not your particular project is a good fit for a foundation's funding objectives, which are usually stated in broad terms. The Grants Guide indexes actual awards made by over 32,000 corporate and foundation givers with fully searchable abstracts of each. This guide makes it easier to determine if a given sponsor actually makes awards in your area, and can help investigators find unexpected resources. OSP has also compiled a list of 50 foundations to which TC faculty staff have applied for or received funding.  The staff at the Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations can also assist you in finding private funding.  Finally, the staff at the Reference Desk at the Russell Library are trained in the use of SPIN and the Foundation Center resources and are your best first option for finding out about potential funding opportunities at TC.  Contact OSP once you have identified a potential sponsor and want to discuss the mechanics of a specific application.  

For information regarding Fulbright Faculty Scholars: https://www.tc.columbia.edu/provost/opportunities/fulbright-program/faculty/

For information regarding Fulbright Student Program: https://www.tc.columbia.edu/provost/opportunities/fulbright-program/students/

Graduate students may want to consult the Cornell University Graduate School Fellowship Database for potential fellowship opportunities.