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Finding Funding

Chapter Overview


Overview of Landscape

Federal Opportunities: The Federal Government has historically been the largest sponsor of research at U.S. universities, accounting for approximately 60% of the university research dollar.  The federal government also funds non-research programs in priority areas such as education, public health, and the arts, through agencies to include (but not limited to) the Department of Education, Substance Abuse and Mental Health, and the National Endowment of the Arts and National Endowment of the Humanities, respectively. The government funds their extramural programs through various types of "mechanisms," most commonly, the "grant." Listed below are the most common types of funding mechanisms from the Federal Government.

    • Grant: A form of financial assistance intended to carry out a public purpose. A grant is used when the sponsor anticipates no substantial programmatic involvement with the recipient during the performance of the project and provides the recipient the most flexibility and discretion in how the project is conducted.
    • Cooperative Agreement: Similar to a grant, a cooperative agreement is a form of financial assistance. However, substantial programmatic involvement of, or coordination by, the funding agency is anticipated.
    • Contract: A contract is used when the principal purpose is to provide a prescribed service or “good” for the direct benefit or use of the sponsor.

In issuing these awards, the process begins when sponsoring agencies of the Federal Government transmit public announcements, expressing a specific interest of a sponsoring agency, or a broad program of interest. The most common types of announcements are listed below:

    • Request for Applications (RFA): Announcements that indicate the availability of funds for a research area of specific interest to a sponsor.
    • Request for Proposal (RFP)/ Proposal Announcement (PA): Announcements that specify a topic of research, methods to be used, product to be delivered and/or appropriate applicants sought.
    • Broad Agency Announcement (BAA): An announcement of a federal agency’s general research interests. Invites proposals, and specifies general terms and conditions for award (e.g., Department of Defense agencies, such as the ARO, ONR, and AFOSR BAA’s).

In addition, much of the federal budget moves to the states through formula and block grants. From there it is up to the states to decide how to allocate those funds. Applications to various California State agencies may involve federal “pass-through” funds from their “parent” agency at the federal level. Indeed, local funding (e.g. County) may involve state and federal pass-through funding if the funding has originally come from the Federal Government.

Private (Non-federal) Opportunities:

Private sponsorship can be obtained from a variety of sources, to include foundations, corporations, associations, voluntary agencies, and community groups. Philanthropic organizations fund programs which either address their individual interests or benefit a particular group.

ORSP and University Advancement will, as necessary confer and consult with each other, as well as the PI/PD of a prospective proposal to a private sponsor, to determine which office is best suited to work with the PI/PD on the proposal. Factors taken into consideration are the type of sponsor, nature of the activity (e.g., research, programmatic, instruction, etc.), and the sponsor’s requirements, terms, and conditions.

Examples of major types of private organizations include:

    • Foundations: The funding priorities of private foundations are usually based on the personal philosophies of the founding members. Foundations generally receive their income from an individual, family, or group of individuals.
    • Corporations: Receive contributions from a profit-making entity, such as a corporation.
    • Associations: Private grants-giving groups, such as the American Heart Association or American Cancer Society or professional societies.
    • Direct giving programs: Philanthropic arms of corporations which donate goods and services for charitable causes.
    • Voluntary agencies: Private organizations which support charitable programs that are consistent with their overall mission. The American Red Cross, for example, provides printed materials and staff consultation for health projects in various communities.
    • Community groups: Local organizations which focus on supporting projects within their communities. Examples of these organizations include churches, Junior Leagues, and civic organizations.

How to Find Funding

Resources below contain links to many federal and state funding opportunities. These sites are free to the public. Many agency-specific sites also allow for keyword-based e-mail notification (e.g., NSF, NIH). In addition, the Grants.gov Subscriptions web page allows for customized RSS feeds and e-mail notification of federal opportunities based on agency selection and other advanced criteria.

ORSP Customized Search Requests

The ORSP Senior Grant Writer is available to meet to discuss your specific interests and assist you in implementing search strategies and identifying potential sponsors. Time permitting, ORSP provides individualized searches for researchers upon request. 
Contact the Senior Grant Writer for more information.

ORSP Workshops

ORSP holds workshops on finding funding opportunities both University-wide, and college and/or department specific as requested. Please contact ORSP for dates and an opportunity for your department, or yourself to learn more about workshops.

Conferences and Networking

National, regional, and local funding agency conferences provide an ideal opportunity to interact with agency program staff, while learning about emerging trends and priority areas. When in attendance of such conferences, hopeful proposal submitters are in the best position to discuss their projects with potential funders and to find potential collaborators from outside of their institution. In addition, these conferences provide an opportunity to discuss with other attendees the nature of their work and from whom they receive funding. Check if the funding agency provides conferences or networking opportunities, for help or more information please contact the Senior Grant Writer.

List of knowledge goals for attendance:

    1. Networking with other researchers
    2. Networking with Program Officers representing various programs
    3. Gain insight into a wide range of current issues, including:
      • the state of current funding,
      • new and current policies and procedures,
      • pertinent administrative issues,
      • new programs and initiatives,
      • merit review process, and
      • cross-disciplinary and special interest programs

Searching Abstracts, Award Databases, and Publications

To get a sense of what specific types of projects and/or programs a particular funding agency or foundation is interested in supporting, an applicant should look through agency/foundation abstracts, award databases, and published articles in their field. This type of research can provide valuable information about the typical award size, project scope, and institution type that specific funder’s award. Additionally, an applicant can secure the names of researchers who have been successful in winning awards, so they can reach out to such researchers personally or use such research as the basis of their work, or as a reference in their proposal. Finally, searching abstracts, award databases, and publications can identify funders who have supported research similar to that of the interested applicant. Also, keep in mind that many researchers with successfully funded grants are willing to share their proposals upon request (removing sensitive financial, confidential, and/or proprietary information). Alternatively, researchers can request a specific proposal directly from a federal agency under the Freedom of Information Act (F.O.I.A.).

Targeted Funding Opportunities

    • Funding Opportunities Specific to Young Researchers/Investigators: Many new faculty/young investigators may be eligible to apply for a variety of “Young Investigator Awards.”
      Resource available here: Young Investigator Awards

    • Opportunities for Undergraduate and Graduate Student Research, Fellowships and Scholarships: While many Graduate and Undergraduate External Funding Opportunities are submitted individually by the student applicant. ORSP welcomes any questions Pacific students may have on these opportunities. Where institutional support and endorsement are necessary (e.g., NIH Ruth Kirschstein Fellowship, NASA Graduate Student Research Program), ORSP will work with students and their faculty advisors/mentors to ensure successful submission.

    • AANAPSI – In 2016, the University of the Pacific was determined as eligible, under the U.S. Department of Education’s Title III Program, as a Minority Serving Institution (MSI) with an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution (AANAPISI) designation. This designation opens funding opportunities for improvement of academic programs, renovation of instructional facilities, purchase of equipment, tutoring and counseling programs, faculty development, and other institutional support. Also, from time to time, federal agencies announce targeted funding opportunities for minority serving institutions.
      Contact ORSP for more information about funding opportunities.

Funders: Some Suggested Places to Look

Grants.gov: A single access point for all of the grant programs offered by Federal grant-making agencies.

National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH): An independent federal agency and one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the U.S..

National Endowment for the Arts: An independent federel agency that funds the arts through partnerships with state agencies and the philanthropic sector.

National Historical Publications and Records Commission: NHPCR is a statutory body affiliated with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) that supports a wide range of activities to preserve, publish, and encourage the use of documentary sources relating to the history of the United States.    

US Department of Education: Administers programs authorized and funded by Congress.

Institute of Education Sciences (IES): Supports research that addresses important issues in education and develops solutions that improve school readiness and academic achievement for all students.

National Science Foundation (NSF): Supports research and education in most fields of science and engineering.

Department of Energy (DOE): Office of Science: Support basic research in the physical sciences.

Department of Energy: Advanced Research Projects agency (ARPA-E): Supports high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment. 

Department of Defense (DOD) Broad Agency Announcements: The Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) is a competitive solicitation procedure used to obtain proposals for basic and applied research and that part of development not related to the development of a specific system or hardware procurement.

ONR (Office of Naval Research)

AFOSR (Air Force Office of Scientific Research)

ARL (Army Research Laboratory)

DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)

Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL)

National Institutes of Health (NIH): The largest public funder of biomedical research in the world.

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: Supports research to improve the quality, effectiveness, accessibility and cost effectiveness of health care.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA): Support for programs for substance abuse disorders and mental illness.

Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP): Supports novel approached to biomedical research through funding for high impact, high risk and high gain projects that other agencies may not fund.

Determination of Eligibility

Before embarking on a proposal, it is very important that any potential funding opportunity of interest be closely reviewed to determine feasibility and eligibility. After reviewing a funding opportunity announcement, if you have any questions on whether or not you (or the University) are eligible to apply for a particular opportunity, please contact ORSP. Some points to closely consider:

    • Status: Is the opportunity still active? Is meeting the deadline reasonable?
    • Organizational eligibility: Is the University eligible to submit?
    • Individual eligibility: Are you eligible to submit?
    • Feasibility: Can you complete the project in the available timeframe and suggested budget guidelines? Are necessary institutional resources available?
    • Proposal Limited: Are the number of submissions per institution limited?
    • Cost-Sharing: Is there mandated or implied cost-sharing? (Approval from the Deans, Department Heads, Provost, etc., may be required prior to dissemination.)
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