What are foundations? There are many answers to this question. Foundations are

  • A vital funding source for faculty work. Foundations are nonprofit philanthropic entities. To keep their tax-free status, they are required to give away 5% of their assets annually. In 2015, foundation giving in the U.S. added up to $57 billion. A good chunk of that goes to university research and projects. In fiscal year 2016, foundations provided Duke with $200 million.
  • Mission-driven. Foundations give in accordance with their goals, supporting causes from human services to research sciences to art conservation. Many large foundations have multiple highly specific program areas, headed by program officers who are experts in their field.
  • Potential philanthropic partners for you. In addition to the prestige associated with foundation awards, many faculty enjoy the chance to build long-term relationships with philanthropic partners who care about their field.
  • As diverse as the donors who originally endowed them. Foundations run the gamut from small family-run funds to professionally staffed giants like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Many fund only in certain geographic areas, and some are closely associated with a few grantees. Granting processes vary just as widely, from local organizations that might give a grant with a handshake to big foundations with multi-stage, highly selective competitions.
  • Multitudinous. There are more than 140,000 foundations in the U.S.
  • Our area of expertise. Sounds like a lot to learn? Luckily for you, that’s our job. We can help point you to the foundations you’ll want to get to know better, and we can help you understand how they work and how you might work with them.

If you’re ready to search for foundation opportunities now, the Office of Research Support maintains a searchable database of requests for proposals (RFPs). We recommend using the “advanced search” options to narrow by discipline; you can also use “funding agency type” to narrow to non-federal foundation opportunities. Once you’ve searched, please contact Angela Crews at angela.crews@duke.edu or by calling 919-681-0468, for ideas on pursuing the foundation opportunities you find. We can also help you find foundations that might not have a current RFP but might be worth sending a letter of inquiry to or adding to a watchlist.