I Need Funding

The Rice University Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations is happy to help members of the Rice community solicit corporate and foundation support for academic and research projects.

We intend for this website to partially guide you through the process.  Please read through the step-by-step overview and contact us if you have additional questions not addressed here, as we are always willing to assist you.

Step-by-Step Overview
  • Step 1: Define the Idea

    The most successful proposals have a clearly identified and defined project or research idea. OCFR is happy to help you think through your strategy and plan.

    • What problem/need will your project address? Why is it important, and why is it important to address at this time?

    • What will be the outcome or impact of the project? Will it have an effect beyond Rice or Houston?

    • What activities/methods will you use? Who will benefit from your research? What audience will you engage in your project?

    • Who will direct the project? Will you engage others in collaboration? What other resources/people at Rice might you engage?

    • How will you define and evaluate the project's success? Approximate time frame and financial needs for project. Will the project require multiple funders?

    • How might you sustain the project after a foundation grant expires? Are there connections between your project and the Vision for the Second Century?

  • Step 2: Attend an Open House

    The first Friday of each month, OCFR holds Open Houses from 9:00-11:00 a.m. in Miner Lounge in the RMC. These informal gatherings are a way for faculty and staff to meet with OCFR and discuss projects and programs for which they will need funding. You provide the project. We'll provide the coffee!

    After each Open House, our office reviews all of the projects that were discussed. An OCFR staff member is assigned to your project and will be in touch to begin the process by, hopefully, identifying sources of funding. 

    OCFR staff members also keep in regular contact with the development officers who are assigned to each school.They keep each other up to date on both existing and potential projects in each department.

  • Step 3: Find potential funders

    Having identified your project/research idea, it is now time to begin researching the companies and foundations which may have an interest in financially supporting it.

    1. If you do not have prospective funders in mind, use the tips below to determine which companies and foundations are funding similar work in your field:

      • Talk with colleagues.
      • Review articles in research journals (funders are often acknowledged for their support).
      • When attending events, note if funders are thanked for support.
      • Search the Foundation Directory (contact OCFR for password), a national directory of private foundations.
      • Consult with OCFR staff.
       
    2. Once you have identified a prospective funder, closely review what and who the foundation has previously supported to determine how closely aligned the foundation's interest is to your project and the range of its funding potential.

      • Closely review the foundation's website.
      • If available, review the foundation's annual report and other publications.
      • Look closely at the foundation's giving pattern by reviewing its Form 990 tax return for the past few years, each of which includes information on funding recipients and amount.
      • Analyze the foundation's giving capacity to determine an appropriate request.
       
    3. After identifying potential prospects for support, we request that you contact OCFR for feedback on your prospect list. We are happy to help with your research.
  • Step 4: Write a letter of inquiry

    Many foundations and corporations require a letter of inquiry (LOI) as a first step in the proposal process. After reviewing the applicant’s LOI, the funder will decide whether or not they wish to request a full proposal.  Review the specific guidelines to determine whether or not a LOI is requested.

    A LOI should be a brief and concise (2-3 pages) , but thorough presentation of the need or problem you have identified, the proposed solution, and your  qualifications for implementing that solution. Similar to a full proposal, a LOI should include an introduction, the amount of funding requested, a statement of need and your proposed solution, a discussion of methodology/activities, a description of the organization and qualifications for undertaking this project, a list of other prospective funders for the project, and contact information for the prospective project director.

    Visit these websites for more information and a step-by-step guide to drafting your LOI.

    Foundation Center Guide
    MacArthur Foundation’s guidelines

    The OCFR staff is happy to assist in the writing and editing of your LOI.

  • Step 5: Prepare a proposal

    A foundation may require the submission of a proposal as the first step in soliciting support or may invite you to submit a full proposal after responding favorably to your LOI.

    Before writing the full proposal, carefully review the guidelines and deadlines for the company’s or foundation’s grant program. Should you have any questions about the requirements, please feel free to contact OCFR for assistance. 

    The proposal will vary in length depending on the funder and will often be accompanied by various institutional documents. Unless a foundation requires you to use a specific format, the proposal will generally include: an executive summary, statement of need, description of the proposed project, organizational background and qualifications, budget, and conclusion. 

    Review the following websites for more information about how to write a proposal and what elements it should include.

    Short Course on Proposal Writing

    Guide from the Minnesota Council on Foundations

    Grant-writing Tools for Non-Profits

    University of Michigan's Proposal Writing Guide

    Once your proposal is written, we highly recommend that you request feedback from multiple sources.  The OCFR staff is happy to help in drafting a proposal and/or providing feedback. 

  • Step 6: Submit the proposal

    Before submitting your proposal to a company or foundation, please do the following:

    1. Alert OCFR staff.
    2. Complete a R&A form (if necessary).*
    3. Attach requested documentation.**
       
    * The majority of foundation and corporate funding requests result in grants that are designated for a specific purpose and must be spent accordingly within a certain time period. Rice manages these awards in “R” funds, which are monitored by Research and Cost Accounting. For those proposals that OCFR determines will likely result in R funds, faculty must route the budget and proposal narrative (either full proposal or abstract) through the Office of Sponsored Research (OSR) with a Review & Approval (R&A) form before officially submitting the proposal. Please note that this form requires the faculty member to first get approval and signatures from their department chair and dean before OSR can give final approval and signature.

    ** Companies and foundations often require a variety of institutional documents in addition to the proposal and budget. In many cases, a cover letter from the president or senior university official will be required to accompany a proposal. OCFR is happy to draft and obtain signatures for these letters and can provide institutional documents that may also be requested.
FAQs about the Basics
  • WHAT IS A FOUNDATION? WHAT DO FOUNDATIONS FUND?

    The Foundation Center defines a foundation as an entity that is established as a nonprofit corporation or a charitable trust under state law, with a principal purpose of making grants to unrelated organizations or institutions or to individuals for scientific, educational, cultural, religious, or other charitable purposes. This broad definition encompasses two foundation types: private foundations and public foundations, the latter being a type of public charity. The most common distinguishing characteristic of a private foundation is that its funds come from one source, whether an individual, a family, or a corporation.

    Foundations will fund a wide range of academic and research projects. Foundations may also choose to support endowments, such as those supporting professorships or scholarships, or even building/plant funds. Sign up for our quarterly newsletter to see examples of what foundations are currently funding at Rice.

  • WHAT IS A RFP?

    A request for proposal (RFP) is an invitation from a funder to submit applications on a specified topic with specified purposes. Unsolicited requests, however, are submitted on any topic of interest to the funder. If a foundation officer approaches a faculty or staff member and requests a proposal on a certain topic, these are solicited requests.

  • CAN FACULTY AND STAFF APPLY TO ANY GRANT OR RFP?

    In general, we ask that you notify OCFR before you apply.  Often there are simultaneous requests of the same company or foundation. We don’t want any of you to run into each other! Recognizing that each circumstance is different, we will discuss with you ways in which we can, or even should, be involved.  Sometimes, we will simply provide you with any insight we have to help with your proposal, including the company’s or foundation’s historical relationship with Rice and its typical grant size.

  • WHAT IS A LETTER OF INQUIRY?

    A letter of inquiry (LOI) is a brief letter outlining an organization's activities and its request for funding that is sent to a prospective donor in order to determine whether it would be appropriate to submit a full grant proposal. A LOI is typically 2-3 pages, and should loosely follow the format of a full proposal, but should be very concise.

  • WHAT IS A PROPOSAL?

    A proposal is a written application, often accompanied by supporting documents, submitted to a foundation or company to request a grant. Although some foundations and companies have strict formatting guidelines, most proposals generally include an executive summary, statement of need or rationale, project description, organizational background, budget, and conclusion.

  • WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A 990 AND A 990-PF, WHERE CAN I FIND THEM, AND HOW DO I READ THEM?

    The 990 is the tax return for a public foundation (more commonly called a public charity) and 990-PF is the tax return U.S. private foundations file. This public document provides fiscal data for the organization, names of trustees and officers, application information, and a complete list of grants made during a particular year. More information about how to read these forms can be found here.

  • WHAT IS STEWARDSHIP, AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

    Stewardship is the process of responsibly managing the relationship between Rice and its key funders. Keeping them engaged and aware of the good work we are doing with their funds better positions the university to receive their support in the future.

    Stewarding your grant begins as soon as you receive the award notification. In coordination with the Office of Sponsored Research, the Office of Corporate & Foundation Relations (OCFR) will review the grant conditions and send any required paperwork back to the foundation or company to accept the award (e.g. the grant agreement may require an official Rice signature). OCFR will coordinate thank you letters from the president and/or dean to express the university's appreciation for the organization's support. OCFR also encourages individual faculty to send their own letters of thanks. The grant agreement will likely stipulate the funder's narrative and financial reporting requirements. OCFR will track reporting deadlines and remind the principal investigators 45 days before a report is due. Timely submission of reports is an important demonstration of the university's gratitude and an important vehicle for keeping the foundation or company aware of the project's progress. OCFR also encourages principal investigators to communicate with funders to convey important developments or challenges throughout the grant period. 

FAQs about the Process
  • HOW MUCH TIME DOES THE ENTIRE GRANTMAKING PROCESS TYPICALLY TAKE?

    The entire grantseeking process can take several months or even years. Although a foundation or company may only require a few months to review a proposal and determine whether or not to fund it (the timeframe will vary by funder and may depend on when and how many times a foundation board meets each year), successfully positioning your project for support can often be a long-term process.

  • WHO SHOULD I APPROACH IF I WANT TO REQUEST SUPPORT FROM A CORPORATION OR CORPORATE FOUNDATION?

    Attending an OCFR Open House would be the first step in requesting support and would provide an opportunity to discuss options. If unable to attend, contact us for assistance.

  • WHY MUST I ROUTE MY PROPOSAL THROUGH CAYUSE BEFORE SUBMITTING IT?

    Some foundations (particularly smaller ones) and companies may give outright “gifts” which have minimal reporting requirements and no official grant agreement forms. These monies are deposited into “G” Funds. Increasingly, however, funders make “grants.”  Thus, most foundation and some corporate funds come with an official grant agreement form, which describes, for example, specific reporting requirements and accounting procedures and include the provision that any unspent funds be returned. Given these restrictions, Rice now consistently treats the majority of incoming funds as sponsored research, or “R” Funds.

    To ensure greater oversight of these funds and compliance with the grant's restrictions, Research Cost & Accounting manages all monies held in R funds and will prepare any required financial reports.  Just like all other sponsored projects, those proposals that, if granted, would likely be held in an R fund must be routed and approved using OSR's web-based software Cayuse before they are submitted to the funder. Routing a proposal and budget through Cayuse ensures that they go through the correct channels to be vetted by deans and center directors and that the submission has been approved by the Office of Sponsored Research.

  • I WANT MY AWARD TO BE PLACED IN A G FUND, BUT I AM TOLD IT NEEDS TO BE IN AN R FUND. WHY?

    G Funds (or Gift Funds) are for unrestricted gifts, with no reporting requirements and no statements that the funds must be returned if they are not used by the end of the award period. If either reporting or returning funds is mentioned in the award agreement document, then the award must go into an R fund (or Research fund). An R fund gives Research and Cost Accounting the ability to track fund expenditures and provide financial reporting as required.

  • WHAT ARE FACILITIES AND ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS (F&A)? MUST MY PROPOSAL BUDGET INCLUDE THEM?

    Facilities and Administrative Costs may also be referred to as overhead or indirect costs. These terms refer to the general administrative costs and university services that support sponsored research projects and may include: salaries and expenses of executive leadership; costs of operating and maintaining facilities; and the cost of other administrative services upon which all departments/centers rely. These costs differ from direct costs that are directly attributed to a particular project, including but not limited to: PI and co-PI time to implement project, specific project supplies, project travel, etc. For information on how to calculate facilities and administrative costs and for sample budgets visit the OSR website.

    To capture as much of the real costs of implementing a sponsored project as possible, it is Rice's policy to include Facilities and Administrative Costs on every proposal unless 1) the funder does not permit overhead or 2) the department has received an official waiver through their dean's office from the Vice Provost for Research. Unlike federal sponsors, private foundations generally allow a limited amount of overhead or a certain percentage of the total direct costs of the project. If you have any questions about how much overhead the foundation or company to which you are applying will allow, please contact OCFR.

  • IS THERE A DEVELOPMENT OFFICER WITHIN MY SCHOOL THAT CAN ALSO HELP WITH CORPORATIONS AND FOUNDATIONS?

    Yes, most schools have at least one designated development officer who serves as a liasion between the school and Rice's Development and Alumni Relations division.  To get information on the school-based development officer who works in your particular school, please contact OCFR.  Our office works closely with these development officers on matters that involve corporations and foundations.  For a comprehensive list of schools and departments at Rice and their designated development officers, visit here.

  • SHOULD I SEND COPIES OF MY PROPOSAL AND GRANT REPORTS TO OCFR?

    Yes, please send copies of all proposals and grant reports to OCFR by email or though interoffice mail to MS-84 for our corporate and foundation recordkeeping.

  • WHAT IS THE CORPORATE COUNCIL?

    The university Corporate Council was established in 2008 to facilitate outstanding collaboration across Rice University to maximize relationships with corporations and other organizations for the benefit of the entire university.  Click here for more information.

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