The Proposal Process
Each foundation has its own processes, so read the website carefully. Many private foundations require a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) (aka Letter of Intent) before they will invite a full proposal. An LOI is usually one to two pages, briefly describes the project, explains the funding need, and demonstrates how the project intersects with the potential funder's interests. LOI'' generally do not include full budgets, timelines, supporting letters, or CVs. LOI's are a mechanism for a foundation to determine whether they are interested in inviting a full proposal, saving both the prospective applicant and funder from wasted time if the fit between the project and a donor's interests is not sufficient.
Donations may come from the company directly or through a separate, company-sponsored foundation. A corporate foundation is a separate legal entity that maintains close ties with the parent company. Their giving often reflects company interests. In other cases, corporate foundation funding programs may be focused on activities that benefit their employees or communities where the company operates. The corporate foundation may have specific areas of interests, such as STEM education, the arts, or sustainability. Some things to look for:
- Check the focus areas of the corporate foundation. Is there a match with your project?
- Check the geographic areas in which grants are offered. Does the foundation make grants in your particular area?
- Check the maximum award size of grants offered. Will it cover your costs? If not, can you carve out a piece for which you could seek support?
Many corporate foundations have a website where you can find the following information:
- What they fund
- How best to contact them
- Grant guidelines, and how to apply - often including a link to their online application forms or websites they use these
Corporations, unlike private foundations and many corporate foundations, do not exist to give away money. Funds coming from the corporate coffers always reflect their business interests, with an ultimate goal of recruiting or technology development. Therefore, when approaching corporations, always consider the company's interests. A proposal to corporations should emphasize how funding your project will ultimately help the company achieve its goals. Be prepared to describe the impact their investment will have on the corporate bottom line. And be sure to think through and outline how you will recognize them as a corporate partner. CFR can help you connect with corporations, when necessary. A CFR staff member can guide you through the process and assist you in researching prospective corporations and corporate foundations as well as reviewing and submitting proposals.
While the particular motivation will vary, all funders want their gifts to make an impact on society, a geographic region, or a discipline. Be sure to read the funder's guidelines on the corporation's or foundation's webpage or in its annual report. Often information will be very specific about what they are looking for in a proposal. When framing your project to the funder, keep the following questions in mind:
- What is the issue to be addressed? Put it in a larger context (global, regional, national, and societal) than just the project itself.
- How will the project move the field forward or address a particular problem?How is the timing advantageous for this particular project, etc.?
- Why is Baylor University and the assembled team the ideal place to address this issue?
- What will have changed by the end of the project?
- How will you accomplish those changes?
- What do you need (time, money, facilities, people) to do it?
- How will you gauge your success?
- Why are you sending this particular proposal to this particular funder? Can you make any special appeal to this particular source?
The length of time from the submission of a preliminary inquiry to an invitation to submit a full proposal to an award varies considerably from funder to funder. While some funders review proposals as they are received, most funding decisions are made by aboard that meets periodically; board meeting schedules vary considerably: from bimonthly to annually. Private foundations and corporate foundations therefore often need to receive materials well in advance of a board meeting, sometimes several months prior. Although each has its own process, many funders will require 6 months to a year for the decision process to run its course.
Preparing a proposal can be a sizable undertaking, involving many details. CFR can review drafts of LOIs and proposals prior to submission, make suggestions, and insure compliance with proposal content and formatting requirements; however, the team submitting the proposal should assume primary responsibility for developing the proposal narrative. Here is a rough outline of the responsibilities of the director of the team and the assistance we can provide.
Responsibilities of the Team Leader
- Know the current state of the field that the project would impact.
- Be able to explain how the project will fill a recognized need.
- Read the funder's guidelines and understand them thoroughly.
- Decide which funding opportunities are most appropriate.
- Garner support/buy-in from colleagues and divisional head.
- Recruit a workgroup to draft the proposal and implement the project.
- Write the proposal narrative in conformance to the funder's guidelines.
- If funded, perform the proposed activities and spend the funds in accordance with the budget approved by the funder.
- If funded, write interim and final reports per the report schedule established by the funder.
Responsibilities of Corporate and Foundation Relations
- Advise grant seekers on how to research potential funders for the project.
- Advice on the appropriate strategy and approach for a particular foundation.
- Read the funder's guidelines and understand them thoroughly.
- Strategize and advise on proposal preparation and presentation.
- Provide institutional information and documents.
- Review the proposal narrative and format. Edit and suggest revisions.
- Assist with preparation of project budget.
- Route proposals electronically for academic and administrative approvals.
- Ensure all items requested by the funder are assembled in final proposal package.
- Assist/coordinate electronic or paper submission.
- Track dates for submission, notification, receipt of funds and reports.
- If funded, assist with stewardship reports to funder.
You will need to submit your proposal through the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP), as you would with any other proposal, and provide the required documentation. OSP will electronically route Foundation proposals to CFR, for review and approval. Additional information on preparing proposals and getting approval from OSP can be found on the OSP proposal preparation website.
Each foundation and corporation has its own set of allowable and unallowable budget items, so be aware of your prospective funder's regulations when preparing a budget. Just like federal proposals, most foundation budgets require budget justifications. The funder may specify the format in which the budget should be presented. If not, your format must simply present the budget expenses and project income clearly. Budgets will vary widely in the level of detail depending upon the complexity and scope of the project. If you are submitting a full proposal, the budget must contain all of the costs associated with the project.
Many foundations do not support F&A charges or pay a reduced rate. Typically, Baylor University applicants need to get a statement of the foundation's overhead policy in writing in order to obtain a waiver of the full rate. The University honors a sponsor's written policy on allowable F&A rates. For example, many training grants limit F&A costs to 8% Modified Total Direct Cost (MTDC) and many foundations limit F&A costs to 10% of total direct costs. In such documented cases, the OSP will apply the allowed F&A rate instead of the University's federally negotiated rate. For application guidelines that are silent on F&A, the OSP will apply the appropriate federally negotiated rate. For application guidelines that are silent on F&A, the OSP will apply the appropriate federally negotiated rate.
The foundation or corporation will tell you what to include. Links to websites that show examples or give guidelines for many of the commonly requested documents are available. CFR staff are able to assist in obtaining other specific materials that may be required. Submissions may include some of the following documents:
- Cover letter signed by President or Executive Director
- IRS letter of determination of non-profit status and certificate of 501(c)(3) status
- Financial Audits
- Annual budget
- Board of Regents list
Typically, the applicant should be Baylor University, utilizing the University's Employer ID Number (EIN) and tax-exempt status.
Our office can assist in preparing a letter to accompany the submission. A minimum of two-weeks lead time is required to review and process requests for this assistance.
It depends on the foundation or corporation. Some may respond to a proposal in as little as one month, while others take as long as 12-18 months to reach a decision. The foundation will usually communicate a time frame if you ask. Some foundations include their time-table for funding decisions on their website.