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Where can I find foundation funding opportunities?

We host a comprehensive listing of funding opportunities on the Funding Opportunities page, which are regularly updated. You can also subscribe to our biweekly newsletter or search for opportunities on your own.

When should I contact the Office of Foundation Relations (OFR)?

Contact our office when you have questions about private foundations, or want to begin exploring private foundation funding opportunities. We can help with prospect research, developing proposals, planning foundation visits, and more.

Does the Office of Foundation Relations provide writing/editing support?

Yes! Our senior associate directors and executive director serve as proposal consultants for letters of inquiry (LOIs) or proposals requesting foundation support. We can provide guidance on framing your request, review draft inquiries and draft proposals, and ensure that the language and context align with the audience that will be reviewing your request. Review our proposal resources, and find the member of our team that works with your area of expertise.

What are "restricted foundations?"

We have "restricted" several foundations due to the nature of the University's relationship with the foundation, because the foundation may limit the number of applications that can be made from Northwestern, particular interests of the funder, etc. See the list of restricted foundations and connect with our office prior to any outreach.

What are "limited submission" funding opportunities?

Limited submissions are funding opportunities whereby the number of applications Northwestern can submit is limited by the sponsor. Northwestern University's Office for Research Development manages these opportunities and hosts an internal competition prior to any submission to the funder. All limited submission opportunities, including how to apply for the internal phase, can be found on the Office for Research Development's website.

How does the Office of Foundation Relations differ from the Office for Research Development and the Office for Sponsored Research?

Our office focuses exclusively on building and strengthening relationships with private, professional foundations. We support faculty across Northwestern in developing and submitting the strongest proposals to the most appropriate foundations. We also monitor all foundation proposal activity and track philanthropic gifts on behalf of the University.

The Office for Research Development

The Office for Research Development (ORD) advances Northwestern's competitiveness by designing and executing activities aimed at securing external funding, specifically federal and other government funding. They focus largely on interdisciplinary activities. OFR partners with ORD particularly around limited submission opportunities sponsored by private foundations.

The Office for Sponsored Research

The Office for Sponsored Research (OSR) manages sponsored programs in support of Northwestern's mission. All grants, regardless of the funding source, must be tracked by OSR to ensure University compliance on a number of measures.

Who is eligible to submit grant proposals to foundations?

Please review Northwestern's Principal Investigator Eligibility guidelines on the Office for Sponsored Research website for information on who can be identified as a PI when submitting proposals to external sponsors. Additionally, each funder and funding opportunity will have unique eligibility requirements that must be reviewed and adhered to.

The foundation to which I’m applying requires an Institutional Letter of Support, Tax Determination Letter, Board of Trustees List, etc. to accompany my proposal, can OFR help?

You can find institutional documents in our Proposal Resources section. Contact Maureen Scherrer for access to the current board of trustee list, IRS forms, etc.

We can also help you navigate the process of securing endorsements from the President, Provost, and other institutional leaders. Please contact the appropriate team member.

The foundation award letter says I need to submit progress and/or financial reports, can OFR help?

When you are awarded a grant, be sure to alert our office by sending a copy of your award letter to We will setup report reminders, and alert you approximately six weeks in advance of the deadline. We can also help with reviewing reports, coordinating foundation visits, and more.

Who at Northwestern needs to know that I am submitting an LOI or grant proposal?

Please let our office know if you are submitting a funding request to a private foundation. We strive to track all private foundation activity, including foundation responses to proposals, and can help in crafting your approach or proposal. See our proposal resources.

Also, make sure you are in touch with your research administrator early in the process so that proposals can be reviewed and approved by the Office for Sponsored Research.

I’m a graduate student seeking funding. Can you help me?

Our office provides limited support to graduate students. Please see Funding Opportunities for the selection we do support. We recommend you reach out to the Office of Fellowships.

I’m new to seeking foundation funding. Are there resources to help me understand foundations?

There are many resources in the philanthropic community that can familiarize you with private foundations and help you get started in seeking funding. We recommend:

  • Forefront is a resource for networking, information, and guidance on seeking philanthropic support in Illinois.
  • The Foundation Center provides an online course on foundations, as well as tutorials on proposal writing and creating a budget. The website also provides access to tax returns (Form 990-PF) for foundations. Its Philanthropy News Digest service provides free updates on foundation news and current requests for proposals (RFPs).
  • GuideStar provides general information on foundations and not-for-profits.
When you're ready to explore funding opportunities for your research or project, contact our office.

Will foundations fund equipment needs?

Foundations typically do not fund equipment needs. Occasionally, RFPs specific for equipment or instrumentation are disseminated, and some foundations will fund equipment as part of a larger grant proposal.