Are we required to work with you? May a faculty member reach out directly to a foundation or program officer?
Contacting us before approaching a foundation is required by the university—and it may greatly increase your chances of success. Some foundations require that you approach them through our office; some limit the number of proposals Duke can submit and ask our office to coordinate them. What if you meet a program officer at a conference or over social media? That’s great! Some of our most successful faculty fund-seekers have formed relationships that way. Similarly, if you already know a program officer through a previous grant, a degree program, or some other connection, we encourage you to make use of those contacts. (The Duke Endowment and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation are exceptions: these foundations have asked that all contact be channeled through our office.) We do ask you to get in touch with us when you’re making an approach—that’s our area of expertise.

Do you have established relationships or contacts at most foundations?
We have developed relationships with some of the university’s top foundation donors. Depending on the foundation, we can provide assistance in a variety of ways:

  • We often have examples of previously funded proposals to share, notes from foundation program officers about their current priorities, or other useful information to help increase your chances of success.
  • Sometimes we can connect you with someone at Duke who has a relationship with the foundation.
  • If someone else at Duke is in conversation with a foundation, we can work with you on the best timing and strategy for your application.

We will work closely with you to determine the best approach to each foundation.

What is the university’s relationship with The Duke Endowment and how are their grants made? Can I approach them?
The Duke Endowment is one of our most important funders. Its Higher Education program supports the University’s highest priorities as determined by the President and Provost. It is rare that individual faculty members’ projects receive support unless they are university-wide priorities. Contact Vera Luck for more information.

What is the university’s relationship with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and how are their grants made? Can I approach them?
As with The Duke Endowment, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has requested that our office handle all contact, and the foundation entertains only those proposals that have the Provost’s approval. Sometimes Mellon funds are available for internal re-granting. Consult with Carol Vorhaus for more information on Mellon.

What about corporate giving? Can you help with this, too?
If you are interested in corporate funders, please contact Victor Taylor in Duke’s Corporate Relations office. In some cases, we partner with them to assist in your approach with a corporate foundation.

Will you write the proposal for me?
In some special cases our staff may write proposals, but we usually encourage the subject matter expert (that’s you) to write the first draft. We can work closely with you to define your approach, confirm that you are following the foundation’s guidelines, and edit and review as needed.

Who is responsible for grant reporting? Can you help?
With more complex grants, we sometimes coordinate the reporting process. But as with the proposal, you’re the best authority for what you did with your grant and what your work produced. We’re happy to provide guidance throughout the reporting process.

What’s the best way to get a grant?
That really depends on the foundation! Assuming you have a lucid proposal for a worthy project, your chance of success will depend on fit and relationship. Foundations vary in how they weight these two. Some foundations are very much transactional (all fit) and some are very loyal to the scholars they support (all relationship). We can help you understand the foundations that match your work and help you build those relationships.