Finding External Funding


UC Berkeley subscribes to Pivot, a commercial search engine that can help you locate an external sponsor that would be interested in supporting your sponsored project. There are also electronic funding alert services that can provide useful information on funding opportunities.

However, these are only a few of the tools that can be used in the search for external funding. A successful funding search is multifaceted and may include the use funding databases, an analysis of what a particular sponsor has funded in the past and hopes to fund in the future, discussions with the sponsor’s program officers, and “tips” from professional colleagues within the principal investigator’s field both within and outside of UC Berkeley. In short, the more information you have about a sponsor’s funding interests, the better.

The search for external funding can be a time-intensive activity. If you are starting from “scratch” here are some suggestions for getting things started:

  1. Talk to the colleagues in your department or unit about their sponsored activities. UC Berkeley faculty members are typically quite successful in obtaining external funding, and these individuals can provide invaluable information about the types of external funding opportunities that exist in your field. Partnering with other individuals who already have external funding can be a great way to develop a productive relationship with a sponsor that can lead funding for your individual projects later.

  2. Review articles in the professional publications within your field that relate to your interests and look for statements within the article about how the activity was funded.

  3. When you attend professional conferences and meetings, look for presentations that relate to your interests that have been funded by an external funding agency.

  4. Follow the suggestions in the Pivot Guide and user guides provided by Pivot and other funding resources on the SPO funding page to search for “a good fit” for your project. This means that you should consider the sponsor’s goals and objectives and any funding restrictions that might exclude you or UC Berkeley from applying for funding from the sponsor.

  5. When you have identified a potential sponsor through the means listed above, use Pivot to find out more about this sponsor. Also, go to the sponsor’s website, if available, to find out what types of funding opportunities exist and what the sponsor has funded in the past.

  6. After you have narrowed your search to one or more sponsors that might have an interest in funding your project, you may wish to contact the program officer to discuss your idea. Some private sponsors do not have people available to talk to applicants, and some program officers are not receptive to such calls, but many more are willing and interested in talking to potential applicants. Do your homework ahead of time so that when you contact the program officer you have thoughtful questions that cannot be answered just by reading the funding announcement.

  7. If you have the opportunity, try to meet with a program officer of the sponsor at a professional conference or at the sponsor’s offices. However, make sure that you follow the appropriate protocol. Most sponsor representatives prefer to meet applicants who have made an appointment ahead of time. When discussing a funding idea with a program officer make sure to respect the fact that the program officer is expected to treat every potential applicant equally and fairly.

  8. If you are searching for funding from any of the National Institutes for Health (NIH) programs, you may wish to attend one of the NIH regional seminars on program funding and grants administration. These are offered in various locations within the United States during the year. These meetings give potential applicants an opportunity to talk with NIH program officers about their ideas and learn more about NIH funding programs.

  9. The National Science Foundation (NSF) also offers regional grants conferences during the year. These meetings provide an opportunity for PIs to interact with program officers and discuss funding options. In addition, you may wish to inform the NSF program officer who organizes the proposal review for a funding program that you are interested in that you would be willing to serve as a peer reviewer for future competitions. If selected to serve as a peer reviewer you will not evaluate your own proposal, but you will have the opportunity to see firsthand how proposals for this program are evaluated. This can provide you with valuable insight into the NSF proposal review process.

  10. The last recommendation that will contribute the most to your success in finding future funding is to do the following: PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT THE SPONSOR WANTS TO FUND. Many applicants are more interested in the project that they want to carry out than what the sponsor hopes to accomplish. If all you think about is your goals and your needs, your funding search will be non-productive. The best outcome possible for an external funding search is to find a sponsor that has a funding program or agenda that closely matches your objectives.
Good Luck with Your Search!

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