Funding Process FAQ

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  • How do I get started?
  • Securing funds from a private or corporate foundation requires your involvement. Speak with your department chairperson and your dean about your ideas. Determine what institutional support there may be for your project. Often foundations want to see that the institution has made its own financial commitment to the project being proposed. Also, your department chair and dean will need to approve any applications for outside funding. Once you have a sense of what internal support will be available, we will be in a better position to secure external support.
  • Is my project a good fit for foundations and/or corporations?
  • In general, organizations fund projects, not operations or endowments. Philanthropic organizations have their own goals and programmatic priorities. To successfully engage an organization, your work must help them to achieve their goals.

    Corporations typically interact with universities around three key areas: recruiting/workforce development; research; and corporate social responsibility initiatives. Further, foundation and corporate funding is very competitive. Your work must be innovative and have the potential for significant impact.
  • Am I required to contact FCE before applying to a foundation or corporate foundation?
  • The Office of Foundation and Corporate Engagement encourages faculty and staff to contact us before applying to any private funding organization so that we can update you on the current status of UC Davis’ relationship. We can strategize about how to present your work in a way that aligns with funder interests.

    For some organizations, known as Chancellor’s Prospects, we require notification prior to any contact. There may be limitations on the number of applications that may be made, donor preferences, current chancellor activity or other circumstances of which you should be aware.
  • How do I find the right foundation to fund my project?
  • Foundations seek projects that address their focus areas. They may favor programs that also exhibit one or more of the following characteristics (though this list is not exhaustive): multi-institutional collaboration; interdisciplinary programs; college-community partnerships, especially if in conjunction with local or regional K-12 schools; creative and economical uses of technology for teaching and learning; service to underserved populations; or access to higher education for non-traditional students.

    Foundations often support projects that have an impact beyond the initiating institution and/or projects that develop solutions to global problems.

    Foundations may seek reassurance that the institution will commit its own resources to the project and that there is a plan to continue the project when the foundation's support is exhausted.
  • How can Foundation and Corporate Engagement help me?
  • Our office maintains relationships with many foundations and corporations. In those cases, we can share our knowledge of the organization and provide information not available through its website. Our goal is to make the grant-seeking process easier and more accessible.

    We can:

    - Offer guidance to those on campus who engage in foundation fundraising.

    - Provide briefings and make arrangements for visits to foundations by the chancellor, provost, deans and faculty, and facilitate visits to campus by foundation officers.

    - Provide research on foundations and identify sources of funding.

    - Stay aware of foundation trends to assist faculty and administration in strategy development. Our office reviews and maintains a library of foundation literature, especially annual reports; maintains contact with UC Davis faculty, staff, and trustees who have close connections to particular foundations; and develops personal contacts with foundation officers.

    - Receive, assess, circulate, and assist in developing responses to foundation RFPs.

    - Work with staff and faculty to develop proposals that will suit foundation interests.

    - Facilitate the submission of a proposal, including required supporting documents and, where appropriate, arrange for cover letters from UC Davis leadership.

    - Provide post-grant assistance, including institutional acknowledgment, tracking information about your award and reminders of when reports are due.
  • Will the FCE write my proposal for me?
  • While our staff can assist with many aspects of the grantseeking process, the majority of the narrative is usually written by the PI. Contact us to discuss your specific needs.
  • What are the different types of Foundations?
  • Private/Independent Foundation: A 501(c)(3) organization that is originally funded from one source, that derives revenue from earnings on its investments and that makes grants to other charitable organizations as opposed to administering its own programs.

    Community Foundation: Most often, a publicly supported organization that makes grants for social, educational, religious or other charitable purposes in a specific community or region. Funds are derived from many donor sources, and retention of such funds as endowment is usually encouraged. Income, including that earned by the endowment, is then used to make grants.

    Corporate Foundation: Corporate foundations are very explicit as to their fields of interest, often limiting grants to causes related to corporate profits and interests, such as the communities where they are headquartered or the communities where they have branches. 
  • How do I know whether I’m applying for a gift or a grant?
  • In most cases, an award from an organization is considered a grant if the proposal includes one or more of the following:
    - A specific statement of work
    - A designated principal investigator (PI)
    - A detailed budget
    Professionals from development and SPO work closely together to make these determinations, so contact us.
  • What approvals will I need?
  • You will need, at a minimum, the approvals of your department chair and dean, especially if your project will require time released from other obligations, additional lab or office space, or other additional resources. You may also need the approval of the provost and/or the chancellor. Generally, foundation and corporate engagement can secure any required cover letters to accompany your proposal.
  • Do I need to submit my proposal through the Sponsored Programs Office?
  • Most likely. At UC Davis, philanthropic funds can be accepted by both the UC Davis Foundation and the UC Board of Regents. If an award is a gift, it can be made to and administered by the UC Davis Foundation. If it is a grant, which most foundation awards are, then it should be made to the Regents and administered by SPO. Working with FCE on your proposal ensures that it is routed correctly.
  • Who contacts the foundation?
  • Foundation and Corporate Engagement makes the first contact with the foundation.  We will work with you to determine how the project can best be presented and by whom. The initial contact might be a phone call, email, letter, proposal or a meeting. Members of our staff can advise on the most effective approach and give additional guidance regarding the funding process.
  • How do I actually apply for funding?
  • Each foundation has its own procedures and most maintain websites providing guidance to applicants. Study these carefully, but contact our office because websites can sometimes be out of date.

    Often the first approach is a one to two page presentation of the project in a letter of inquiry. On the basis of this  letter, the funder may invite submission of a full proposal. Some foundations outline detailed requirements for the proposal, while others provide only a general description of what it should include. 
  • If the foundation provides no specific guidelines, what should my proposal include?
  • There are a number of proposal-writing guides available. One good resource is the Foundation Center, a nonprofit organization that offers a wide variety of resources for dealing with foundations. It offers free, online courses, including a Proposal Writing Short Course and Proposal Budgeting Basics.

    Keep in mind that foundations often want their grants to make a significant impact on society, a geographic region or a discipline, and they want to bestow their grants where the funds will yield the greatest results. When thinking through your proposal, consider the following:

    Frame your project in the context of a larger issue (global, regional, national, societal) and show how your project will address that issue or otherwise move the field forward. Is the timing propitious?
    Why is UC Davis the ideal institution to address the issue?
    What are the anticipated outcomes?
    How will you accomplish those outcomes?
    What do you need (time, money, facilities, people)?
    How will you measure success?
    Why are you sending this proposal to this foundation?
  • How do I create a budget?
  • Foundation and Corporate Engagement will work with you to create an accurate budget.
  • Do foundations allow indirect costs?
  • Facilities & administration costs, also called indirect or overhead costs, are costs arising from the normal operation of an institution and not directly attributable to the project being proposed for funding. Some funders, especially government agencies, allow such costs, usually at a rate negotiated between the institute and the Department of Health and Human Services. When such costs are to be recovered, they are built into the proposal budget. Most foundations, however, prohibit use of their grants for indirect costs and those who allow it, generally set their own rate. 

    Foundation and Corporate Engagement can assist you with the negotiation process and help secure any necessary exceptions if a foundation does not allow indirect costs. 
  • Who reviews the proposal before submission? 
  • We will guide you through UC Davis' internal review process. In all cases, you as the principal investigator or project director must sign off before submission. A department chair, dean, provost, or the chancellor may also be required to sign off as the university is ultimately responsible for ensuring the funds are used appropriately.
  • Who submits the proposal? 
  • Foundation and Corporate Engagement will submit the proposal on behalf of UC Davis as an institution. 
  • How long does it take to get foundation funding?
  • Funding decisions are often made by boards of directors that meet infrequently and need to receive materials at least one month prior to a meeting. You should contact your department chair, dean and Foundation and Corporate Engagement well in advance of your need for funding.
  • What are my obligations if I receive funding?
  • Your obligations will be in a letter when you are awarded the grant. Typically, you will be required to provide narrative and financial reports at the close of the grant period. 
  • What are RFPs and Limited Applications?
  • A foundation issues a request for proposals, or RFP, to solicit proposals that address specific problems. The requirements for the proposals may be detailed and may specify the approach to the problem that the foundation wishes to support. The RFP may also require proposals to meet other criteria such as dollar amount, time limits or institutional collaboration. When Foundation and Corporate Engagement receives RFPs, we distribute them as appropriate.

    Some RFPs limit the number of applications that will be accepted from each institution. In these instances, Foundation and Corporate Engagement works with Limited Submissions and helps coordinate campus review and nomination process for foundation and corporation grant opportunities.

Getting Started

UC Davis’ Office of Foundation and Corporate Engagement (FCE) works with corporate and foundation partners, as well as university faculty and staff, to foster meaningful engagement with these external entities and to advance the university’s education, research and service mission.

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