There are various sources and types of funding for a variety of activities. While federal departments and agencies are prominent sources of support, alternative sources, such as industry, private and corporate foundations, and state governmental agencies, should not be overlooked. To explore potential funding sources, you need to begin the process of converting your initial idea into a clear and reasonable detailed project design. To make your project attractive to the funding source, it is important to demonstrate that you are offering a response to a current problem that is of interest to them. The goal is to propose a clearly thought-out project with measurable outcomes in a specific area of need.
Evaluate your idea as objectively as possible. The evaluation process may require: reading and citing authoritative sources; conversation or correspondence with leading figures; familiarizing yourself with ongoing funded activities; and considering the relevance of your idea in light of other approaches. You should always be open to the possibility of refocusing the project design as a result of this evaluation. Keep in mind that review groups, in considering the merit of each application will assess: the significance and orginality of the proposed research; the adequacy of the methodology; the qualifications and experience of the investigators; the suitability of the facilities; and the appropriateness of the requested budget.
A. The First Step
A written description of the project, called a preliminary proposal, has to be developed in order to identify the problem that the project will address and its importance, and the need for the project as a significant response to a problem.
Even if you haven't developed a preliminary proposal, it is a good idea to meet and become acquainted with the staff in the Office of Sponsored Programs, 516/517 Pioneer Tower, 342-1456. You will receive helpful information and suggestions for your project early in the planning stages. The more known about your proposed project, the more help can be provided.
A preliminary description of the project's intent is valuable as a first step in defining it. The description is also useful in eliciting feedback and constructive criticism from your colleagues. And, it will help OSP staff to identify appropriate extramural funding sources. It is a vehicle for direct preliminary contact with potential program officers.
B. Getting Information
The Office of Sponsored Programs staff is ready to respond to your needs and will do a search of possible funding sources. If you wish to search the web, the OSP home page at http://www.uwplatt.edu/~sponprog contains links to databases, federal and private funding sources.
A preliminary proposal can help the staff in OSP in their efforts to search for funding sources. A short list of possible funding sources will be sent for your review. The staff will provide as much detail as possible. OSP will request proposal guidelines from the funding source.
The PI should follow up by calling the program officer to have technical discussions about his/her project. Studies have shown that contact with the program officer correlates highly with success in receiving funding.