Foundations are non-profit organizations that specifically exist to champion a cause. Most foundations are philanthropic arms of for-profit corporations or the byproduct of a large endowments left by wealthy individuals.
Foundation awards vary in size from small to large. A good strategy for investigators who do not have a track record with a foundation, is to request funds for a small project. The small project will give you the opportunity to show the foundation your work is worth the investment.
Foundation funding research programs do not operate with the same restrictions imposed by federal government. However, as a public university ISU still manages foundation grant awards according to specific state and federal guidelines.
Foundations typically make awards which are considered charitable to organizations that support, educational, scientific, religious, literary, or cultural purposes. The IRS has identified Illinois State University as a 501(c)(3), meaning we can accept awards without any specific taxable implications for the foundations.
Many foundations restrict the payment of facilities and administrative costs (or indirect costs) which normally apply. RSP recommends you carefully review the guidelines of any project prior to applying for an award, to determine what indirect costs must be applied to your project.
Some private foundations have grantmaking offices with staff willing to interact with prospective PIs. Other, smaller organizations, with more limited staff, restrict such contacts. Preferred methods and limitations for contact may be posted to the funders’ website. If no such guidelines are offered, an email inquiry, including a brief (one-page / 2-3 paragraph) summary of your proposed project, together with specific questions, is a recommended initial contact.
Several electronic directories and resources are available:
Grantwriting guides for foundation funders: