Identifying Funding Opportunities

Funding Sources Graphic

What’s Essential - Identification of Funding Opportunities

Locating the right funding opportunity to match your project can be challenging. Since proposal development and the review / selection process also takes time, you’ll need to embark on your funding search well in advance of when you want to do the project. Before you start your search for potential sponsors:

Get clear on some fundamental questions:

  • What do you want to do?
  • Why do you want to do it?
  • Who cares about it or its outcomes?

Familiarize yourself with different types of funding sources:

  • Federal - MIT has a long history of working with most U.S. government agencies such as NIH, NSF, DoE and DoD, but competition for these funds can be very stiff.
  • Non-Profit – Non-profit organizations, foundations, other institutions of higher education, and state or local government agencies are another significant source of funding at MIT. Pay attention to unique proposal requirements and award terms, such as unusual reporting requirements, that can require extra time and effort.
  • Industry – For-profit entities are a growing source of funds for research at MIT, but require significant relationship-building, negotiation and management. See the page "Working with Industry"
  • Foreign – These are not only foreign federal, state or local government organizations, but also any non-profit or industry sponsors based outside the U.S. Working with foreign sponsors can be both rewarding and tricky. Make sure you know about the resources available through MIT Global Support Resources (GSR) if you are considering applying for funds from a foreign sponsor.

Quick Tips for Finding Likely Sponsors

Good preparatory work can help you focus your time and energy on identifying and pursuing those opportunities most likely to result in an award.

  • Scan the acknowledgement section of the ‘products’ of the scholarly endeavors applicable to your field, e.g. installations, monographs, presentations, journal articles, etc.
  • Sign up for and review your professional society's newsletter. They often publish information about funding opportunities in your field.
  • Ask your colleagues, peers, or advisors how their work has been supported.
  • Search available online databases for funding opportunities and recent award information. Some recommendations to get you started can be found on the Finding Funding section of the RAS website.
  • Take advantage of services for MIT faculty offered by:
    • The Office of Foundation Relations (OFR) identifies, cultivates, and engages foundations to maximize support to the Institute from this sector. OFR staff work to identify foundation opportunities aligned with Institute priorities across the entire campus, and to develop strategies for successful approaches. More information on the Office of Foundation Relations website.
    • The MIT Office of Corporate Relations - Industrial Liaison Program (ILP) is dedicated to creating and strengthening mutually beneficial relationship between MIT and corporations worldwide.

What to Do Once You Have Identified Potential Sponsors

  • Review webpages of likely funders for information about their current interests and recent grantees. Your goal here is to confirm strong overlap between their goals and your project's focus or outcomes and funding needs. (Not all sponsors will support all the types of items you need.)
  • Review sponsors’ awardee databases for key words, solicitation numbers or names. Contact the previous awardees to ask for copies of their proposals. Remember, this individual could be a future collaborator.
  • To save time, target efforts on programs that are a good fit with your project. RAS strongly recommends that you contact the program manager or technical point of contact for the potential sponsor to confirm that your idea, goals, and approach fit well with the solicitation or the sponsor’s needs. If you are interacting with the program manager for the first time, it can help to prepare a concept paper prior to the call to focus the conversation and get more specific feedback on your project.

    Your outline should include:

    • the purpose of the project or problem to be addressed, and any context or background;
    • anything unique about you or your project's focus (e.g., you are a junior faculty member, from an underrepresented group, member of an association or society; or the project addresses an important societal need);
    • project plan or experimental design(s);
    • evaluation plan or analyses;
    • project team; and
    • approximate total costs (e.g., personnel: students, postdocs, technical staff; travel; materials or supplies; equipment; indirect costs, etc.).