External Funding

Faculty and staff members at the University often have interesting ideas about activities they want to undertake, including research studies, creative activities, teaching innovations, curriculum reform, industry or community partnerships, campus improvements, academic support programs, and the list goes on. Typically, the funds to make these ideas a reality cannot be found in our normal operating budgets, and so we turn to external entities to support us – foundations, federal programs, corporations, and/or state and municipal agencies. 

There are two resources on campus that can help secure such funding: the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) and the Office of Institutional Advancement's Corporate and Foundation Relations (CFR). This helpful summary of answers to common questions will help faculty and staff understand which of these offices to work with in order to achieve a successful outcome.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Office of Sponsored Programs is dedicated to finding sources of funding for faculty and staff scholarship and projects. While OSP works primarily with public funders (federal, state, and municipal programs), they also work in collaboration with CFR to match faculty and staff with certain opportunities in the private sector. OSP attempts to stay as current as possible with the myriad of public funding programs, as well as with the scholarly and creative interests of our faculty and staff in order to make effective connections between the two.


The Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations is dedicated to identifying, cultivating, and nurturing relationships with private corporate and foundation funders for support of a wide range of University goals and objectives. With one ear tuned to the needs of the institution and another to the continually changing landscape of corporations and foundations, they seek opportunities to match funder’s philanthropic goals with institutional priorities. CFR also provides assistance for faculty members seeking private funding for approved projects that have a departmental or programmatic focus.

The first thing you should do is discuss your project goal(s) with your department chair, supervisor, or dean. You will need their support as your proposal takes shape and moves forward, and it’s best to bring them in early. They, in turn, may need to consult with the Office of the Provost. Your goals will help determine which office will be working with you. We will make this distinction as clearly as we can; however, there are bound to be cases in which you are not certain. In those cases, either office will be glad to talk with you and help determine your next steps.

If you are seeking money for a project where the primary focus is individual research or scholarship, you will most likely be working with OSP. If you are seeking money for a project where the primary focus is an academic or administrative department, or a community-oriented program or activity, you will most likely be working with CFR. There are exceptions of course, but they are largely matters of cooperation between the two offices:

If you are seeking money for a project where the primary focus is individual research or scholarship, and a funding opportunity arises in the private (corporate and foundation sector), OSP will be checking with CFR to see what they know about the funder, and also to see whether any other University entities are planning to approach, or are in the process of approaching, that funder. In some cases, you may be told that your project is not the highest priority in the relationship between the University and a private funder. Both offices, though, remain committed to helping you find resources.

If you are seeking money for a project where the primary focus is an academic or administrative department, or a community-oriented program or activity, but the funder is a public entity (a government program), you will be working with OSP.

If you are seeking money for a project where the primary focus is an academic or administrative department, or a community-oriented program or activity, but your project involves commitments of University resources and/or the delivery of a specific product, you will be working with CFR, but CFR will be coordinating with the Office of the Provost.

What if I have an idea about a funder, but not about a specific project I want to do? (This question should have its own bullet above and be capitalized)

Follow the guidelines above to see which office you should consult. Either office will be happy to work with you on developing an idea. As with all requests, potential applications are subject to the approval of your department chair, supervisor, or dean, as well as the Office of the Provost.

In seeking funding for projects there are two sets of documents to be concerned with. The first are the guidelines and application forms issued by the funders. Some of these documents are quite simple and some are long and complex; part of our job is to help you translate your ideas into the language of these external forms. In general, though, all funders want to know the goals of your project, how much money you need and why, and the outcomes you (and they) can expect to see. The second set of forms is internal. In cases where the project involves specific commitments of University personnel efforts or space, the creation of a tangible product, or a legal agreement or contract between the University and the funder, we need to be careful that the commitments made are ones we can honor and that all applicable University policies are being followed. In these cases, both OSP and CFR will work with the Office of the Provost on the generation and approval of those forms.

This is a good question to ask but a hard one to answer. Some funders do not want long documents; others ask for long documents and dozens of attachments, including some that have to be signed and notarized. Some projects are very simple and some are complex; the most complex ones involve partners in other academic institutions or in the community. In these cases, letters of support and agreement have to be obtained. If your project involves research with human or animal subjects, there is an internal approval you must obtain from committees whose job it is to protect the rights of human and animal subjects.

The most important thing you can do is communicate with the appropriate office as soon as you know of a funding opportunity you want to apply for; don’t wait until you have something in writing. You should have a very specific conversation about the complexity of the idea and the funder’s process, as well as anticipated timelines and next steps. You should also be prepared to provide all necessary documents*, in at least rough draft form, to the CFR or OSP office in the early stages of the grant preparation process. Although circumstances for both you and the office you are working with may require a shorter or longer preparation period, we generally recommend that final drafts of proposals be provided to CFR or OSP no later than ten (10) business days before the funder deadline. If you need assistance with budget preparation or other consultation about the application requirements, please contact CFR or OSP in advance of the 10-day minimum.

*For example:

  • Narrative containing all required components from RFP or funder guidelines
  • A budget describing the major activities of the grant, cost(s) of those activities, and any cost-sharing to be undertaken by the University
  • Assurances of approval for commitments of University resources
  • Human or Animal Subjects Committee Approval, if necessary


First of all, not all funds are awarded, even if you were approached by the funder and/or encouraged by OSP or CFR. Most awards are competitive.

Sometimes we just wait to hear. Other times the funder may have questions. You should NOT communicate directly with the funder but instead route all communication through either CFR or OSP; that way we are sure that we know the issues. Sometimes the funder will be willing to fund the project but may ask for reductions or changes in the budget. Again, these negotiations should be handled by CFR or OSP with input from you. Typically the funder will notify OSP or CFR about their funding decision. Sometimes they copy the faculty or staff member who wrote the proposal; in any case OSP or CFR will be sure you are notified. If you receive notification of a funding decision, please be sure to notify CFR or OSP.

Again, this depends a bit on the funder, but in general the funds will be deposited in the appropriate University account. If the funds are to be spent over time, someone in your department will need to oversee those expenditures. Fund administrators will need to be mindful of funder stipulations regarding purpose and time period for utilization of externally provided support.

In nearly every case, the University will be asked to make a report to the funder detailing how the funds were used. Again, some of these reports are simple and some are not; your cooperation, as well as that of your dean or department head, will be important and appreciated.