Professors and other types of researchers procure grant funding for a variety of reasons: to support projects or programs, and/or to support research in pursuit of developing new knowledge, such as finding a cure for cancer or developing ways to build sustainable buildings. Funding can come from a variety of sources: from government agencies at all levels (e.g., federal, state, and local) as well as from public and private foundations, such as the Gates Foundation and the Ford Foundation.
Unlike a nonprofit organization obtaining external funding for a program or project, professors and researchers that work in higher education or another type of research environment must adhere to strict requirements – requirements set forth by the granting government agency and by the university.
Those seeking funding for programs and projects that do not involve experiments with human or animal subjects follow a different, somewhat easier path to applying for external funding. Both types of applications require the individual(s) to work through the university’s grant office, sometimes known as an office of sponsored programs. Depending upon the type of award, you may or may not be assigned a person to work with you on the proposal itself. Large universities typically have a pre-award office and a post-award office so that you have support throughout the entire process. It is advisable to contact this office well in advance of when you want to apply since it can take many weeks for your proposal to work its way through the process for approval to submit the proposal to the granting agency or foundation, so give yourself plenty of time and plan ahead. Rarely can the office work through a proposal within a week let alone within one day.
Most researchers conducting experiments with human and animal subjects will definitely search grants.gov to locate funding from government agencies. Their website is searchable and provides detailed information about each opportunity (e.g., title of program, agency sponsoring, guidelines and requirements, number of grants awarded on average per year, funding range, etc.).
Information provided by each federal agency, such as the NIH (the National Institutes of Health) and the NSF (the National Science Foundation) through grants.gov will include the following information: the Funding Opportunity Number of FON, the title of the grant, the date it was announced and the deadline date for applications, the category (-ies) of funding activity (e.g., education, health), the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance or CFDA Number, if cost-sharing or matching costs is required, the total amount of funds available to be dispersed for all grants under the program, the range of funding awarded, a list of eligible applicants (e.g. county governments, public and private universities, etc.), a description of the funding opportunity, and contact information in case you need to ask questions.
Federal Agency Websites
In addition, each federal government agency has its own website that contains grant-related information. For example, the Department of Energy provides descriptions of previously awarded programs. This is useful information as you can learn what types of projects that the department prefers to fund. The Department of Education’s website has an entire webpage dedicated to the programs they offer including guidelines as well as access to application packages to submit to their agency. You can search the Department of Agriculture’s website for the various awards that the department offers.
Federal grants in particular have very strict guidelines, not only regarding the actual application and the application process, but also regulations as to how the funding is to be spent. These monies are highly competitive, so ensuring that the pre-award, application, and post-award processes are followed precisely is necessary. Significant errors may result in the application not being reviewed, or, if funding is awarded but not spent according to guidelines, future grants may not be forthcoming.
One way to ensure that you are fully aware of the grant you are applying for is to check to see if the government agency has scheduled a webinar or will be presenting it in Washington, DC or at an upcoming conference. This is your chance to learn all you can about the external funding opportunity as well as ask agency staff questions about the program itself, such as how many proposals are submitted and what percentage of proposals receive funding? Some agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health, allow you to subscribe to a weekly table of contents newsletter (for free) that links to information about changes in federal regulations as well as information about funding opportunities.
Please continue to the next page to view Federal Grant Opportunities and how to apply for them.