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Making an Approach to a Foundation

The Agency Inquiry: Some Suggestions

In dealing with foundations and other agencies which support research and other scholarly activities it is valuable to establish direct personal contact with the funding agency during the early stages of planning a grant request. Two main purposes will be accomplished.

  1. You will obtain, in a timely manner, information about whether your program is of interest to the foundation, thereby avoiding futile submissions, and
  2. You will establish a personal acquaintance and working relationship with the agency staff members who will become most closely associated with the proposed project. These staff members will often provide considerable assistance in developing the proposal so that it is acceptable to those making the funding decision.

A visit by either the principal investigator or a representative is not usually necessary at the preliminary stage, a personal letter or telephone call is suggested.

Contact by letter

The letter should contain the following and not exceed one page if at all possible.

  1. Title of the proposed project.
  2. A brief description including significance of the proposal.
  3. Reference to the total (direct +F&A) estimated cost of the project and its duration. If the request will be for partial funding some mention of where the other funding may come from.
  4. Request for a response as to whether or not the subject matter falls within the agency's area of interest.
  5. Request for the guidelines or forms for submitting a proposal to the specific program in question. N.B. These are frequently available on agency websites ; check the website before asking.
  6. A final paragraph stating that you will telephone within 10-14 days to hear the response.

Contact by phone

Write out items 1-5 above before you call so that nothing is forgotten during your conversation. In ending the call say that you will send a letter (or e-mail if they prefer) confirming the conversation. Include the Items 1-3 and 5 in the note along with your version of what was said.

The Foundation will thereby have a summary of your understanding of the phone conversation plus the correct spelling of your name, your title, address, telephone and fax number and e-mail address.

The Yale Development Office maintains close ties to several of the larger foundations and manages all Yale requests to these organizations. Therefore, you should inform the Development Office of your intent to seek support from a foundation and get their approval before calling or writing.