Working with Foundations

The proposal should express the plan to meet a need through a specific project with defined goals. Below are some questions that should be considered to define the project:

  1. What problem or need does the project address?
  2. How will the problem be addressed? What activities will help to accomplish your goals?
  3. What is the proposed outcome of the project?
  4. What effect will there be beyond FAU’s six campuses?
  5. Who will direct the project?
  6. What internal or external collaborators will be involved?
  7. Which internal departments or units will be involved in project acceptance and administration?
  8. How will the project’s success be defined and how will you evaluate the project?
  9. What is the project timeline and what is the proposed budget?
  10. How will the project be sustained after funding from the foundation expires?
  11. How does the project fit within the mission of the college/unit and Florida Atlantic University?

The Office of Foundation Relations is happy to help think through the project and the strategy to engage the foundation.

After the idea has been defined and project outlined, the next step is to find foundations that may have an interest in supporting the project.

FAU has basic access to the Foundation Directory Online, the premier search tool for private foundation funding where we can search over 100,000 foundations and corporations with grants by name, location and field of interest. You can also search the Florida National Philanthropic Network, a statewide membership network of organizations working to provide resources, affinity groups and funding specific to the needs in our state.

Faculty also have access to the Office of Research Development (ORD) in the Division of Research. Personnel in ORD will assist faculty with finding federal funding opportunities, building teams, editing proposals and so much more. Faculty can also utilize Grantforward, a search engine dedicated to finding grants to fund research, as well as researcher expertise and collaborators.

Other ways to gather general knowledge of organizations sponsoring projects in your field is by talking with colleagues, reading journal articles, or noting who is acknowledged for their support at events. The Top 100 national foundations are of top importance to FAU. If you are interested in approaching the Top 100 national foundations you must contact Mary Katherine Morales at Allow 48-72 hours for response.

Alignment: Once a potential funder has been identified, ensure that the project is closely aligned with the funding priorities of the foundation. The next step is to research the foundation’s giving capacity and its gift or granting patterns to determine if the project is in line with the foundation’s funding priorities. You also want to consider the dollar amount of the gift/grant. Sometimes this information is available online, and other times it can only be found by reviewing the foundation’s tax forms. If available, carefully read the foundation’s website looking for its (1) gift or grant-making philosophy and interests; (2) application guidelines; and (3) deadlines and recent grants.

Review the foundation’s annual reports and other publications available.

Review the foundation’s Form 990-PF for the most recent years. You may access these through the Foundation Directory or GuideStar. Open the most recent 990-PF and look at the following:

  • Giving patterns in recipients and amounts granted (the grantee list is often located near the end of the return)
  • The Trustee list; are there any known relationships?
  • Directions for approaching the foundation). Also note the correct address and contact information (page 1)
  • Finally, if the project is not a close fit, do not apply; look for another funder

View our toolkit for more information.

All requests for $50,000 or more to any private foundation must be approved through the Office of Foundation Relations and all grant submissions must be routed through the Office of Sponsored Programs. This approval is called a “clearance.” We handle the clearance process for you. Anyone soliciting a foundation for a gift or grant is required to contact the Office of Foundation Relations prior to contacting the foundation. You will also want to get clearance for significant foundations that have previously funded other major projects across FAU’s six campuses.

This clearance process accomplishes several goals:

  • Coordinates grant submissions with the Office of Sponsored Programs
  • Provides useful information about the prospective funder including FAU’s history
  • Ensures that priority-driven relationships are managed with the utmost professionalism
  • Prevents multiple proposals being sent concurrently to the same foundation
  • Promotes teamwork and prevents the appearance of uncoordinated University efforts

In order to ensure continuity, please contact Mary Katherine Morales at or the Office of Sponsored Programs team at

Foundations will often ask for a letter of inquiry or letter of intent (both known as an LOI) as the first step in the solicitation process. In essence, an LOI is a concise proposal addressing the same topics that a full proposal would. After reviewing the applicant’s LOI, the foundation will determine whether they would like to receive a full proposal.

As a concise presentation of the project, it is imperative that the LOI is designed to inspire the foundation to consider funding the project. Be sure to make the connection clear between the goals of the project and the foundations interests and priorities. Assume that the proposal will be read by non-experts or educated generalists. Always follow the foundations guidelines and instructions in the development of the LOI. The LOI should be clear and concise, and most are a maximum of two pages, and include the following components: Click here to download a template of the LOI including tips.

Do not forget to proofread carefully. Spelling or grammatical errors will neither set a good impression nor instill confidence in your ability to carry out the project. Ask at least one other person to read the letter for general comments and suggestions before you send it out!

Finally, do not forget to communicate to Mary Katherine Morales ( and your Development Officer that the LOI has been sent.

Foundation practices vary widely. While some require the submission of a letter of intent (or letter of inquiry), others may by-pass that step and request a full proposal. As with the letter of intent, review the foundation’s website for guidelines, deadlines and the foundation’s funding priorities.

Consider the following:

  • Learn who the audience is and write accordingly — it will usually range from educated generalists to an expert panel.
  • Get to the point. The cover letter, executive summary or introductory paragraph should concisely summarize the project and specific request for funding.
  • Consider the reviewer: utilize simple graphs and pictures, appropriate “white space,” 1-inch margins, and 12-point font. Carefully read the guidelines in case specific margins/fonts are required and always follow the foundation guidelines.
  • The way a project is described internally at FAU will need to be re-conceptualized for external readers. In other words, arguments made for internal approval are not usually the same ones that will persuade an outside funder to award a gift or a grant.

As an overview, most proposals should include the following:

  • Executive Summary (Project Abstract)
  • Introduction
  • Organization History and Purpose (Capability)
  • Statement of Need (Problem)
  • Project or Program Narrative
  • Goals and Objectives
  • Plan of Action or Work Plan
  • Evaluation and Measurable Outcomes
  • Timeline
  • Budget and Budget Narrative (Justification)
  • Attachments and Supplemental Materials

View our toolkit for more information.

Congratulations, you have received the final approval from OSP and/or the Office of Foundation Relations and are ready to submit! Before submitting your proposal, please do the following:

  • Email a copy of the proposal to Foundation Relations at
  • Alert the Development Officer in your college/unit
  • Follow the submission guidelines of the funder and make sure that you keep a copy of the proposal.

Special Instructions for an Online Application:

  • See Step 5 for information on the proper applicant and approvals.
  • As the electronic version cannot be saved, it is strongly recommended that you create a Word document for editing and review purposes and later transfer the information to the online application.
  • Forward a copy of the proposal to the Office of Foundation Relations.