When seeking funding, it's important to locate a sponsor that will be a good match for your project, typically one that has expressed an interest in the area of your topic or has a history of supporting the type of project you are proposing. However, sponsors may impose certain criteria on the projects they award, such as addressing a specific need or problem, fitting within a specified budget or focused in or around a specified geographic location. As you apply to agencies or competitions, make sure that your project meets any requirements the sponsor provides.
Consult your Research Development Specialist for any questions on sponsor requirements or direction in where to begin your search.
Resources for Finding Funding
Databases and search engines
To assist you in finding funding, use our core databases and resource guide. Select appropriate filters by project type or sponsor type to help you know where to start your search. Keep in mind, however, that this guide is not exhaustive, so we don't recommend limiting your search to only the databases listed here.
RSS feeds, listservs and social media
Most federal agencies use one or more of the below methods to alert their readers to specific funding opportunities.
- RSS feeds gather new content from one or more sources and relay it real-time in digest form. You can find links to the RSS feeds on individual agency websites, or you can view cumulative RSS feeds curated by Grants.gov, which you can filter by agency or category.
- Listservs are digest emails containing agency news and funding notices. They are typically sent out weekly, but some allow you to choose the frequency of emails received. To sign up for a listserv, look for a "subscribe" option on any agency or database website.
- Agencies also may utilize social media to alert their readers of funding opportunities. Like or follow any agencies relevant to your work or project on Twitter or Facebook.
The following federal agencies are known to offer RSS feeds, Listservs or social media announcements. This list is not exhaustive, so please be sure to check an agency's website, or consult your Research Development Specialist.
- USDA NIFA Update - Biweekly administrator’s newsletter for research, extension, and education partners at land-grant and other cooperating institutions. Click on the RSS feed button and choose which feeds you would like to see.
- Department of Education - The U.S. Department of Education (USED) provides information about grant opportunities on their website, Twitter and RSS feeds.
- EPA National Center for Environmental Research - The National Center for Environmental Research (NCER) sends email to subscribers announcing new grant and or funding opportunities or newsworthy items regarding NCER-Funded research.
- National Institutes of Health - The NIH Office of Extramural Research offers the NIH Guide Listserv, an email service with funding notices. It is available weekly with links to each RFA, PA, and Notice published for that week.
- National Science Foundation - When you subscribe to the National Science Foundation Update service, you will receive an email message each time new content is added to the NSF website in the categories you select. NSF also provides an RSS feed and social media updates for funding information.
- Illinois Department of Human Services has a weekly Grants Alert System with funding notices available for email subscription.
Besides RSS feeds, social media, and Listservs, many agencies link directly to funding opportunities from their websites. In addition to the agencies listed above, below are some state agencies that are known to link to specific funding opportunities. Again, this list is not exhaustive, so please check the website for any agency not listed or consult your Research Development Specialist.
- Illinois Arts Council
- Ill. Board of Higher Education
- Ill. Department of Natural Resources
- Ill. Department of Public Health
- Ill. Department of Transportation
- Ill. Environmental Protection Agency
- Ill. Humanities Council
- Ill. State Board of Education
- Ill. Sustainable Technology Center’s Sponsored Research Program
- Illinois Department of Human Services - Weekly Grants Alert System
NIU offers funding opportunities through competitions and scholarships, such as the Research and Artistry awards and the Great Journeys graduate assistantships.
Tips by Project Type
Early Career Investigator (also known as Early Stage Investigators)
If you are looking to generate pilot data or to get proof of concept, you might consider an NIU Internal Competition such as the Research and Artistry or the Great Journeys Assistantships.
For external funding, these programs may be of particular interest to investigators:
- National Institutes of Health's New and Early Stage Investigator Grants
- National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development Program
- Department of Defense's Young Faculty Award and Young Investigator Program
- Department of Energy's Early Career Research Program
- NASA's Early Career Faculty Grants
Different agencies list different criteria for who qualifies as a new investigator, so be sure to check that you meet the criteria.
Any of the recommended databases can be used to search for funding opportunities. To improve your search results, carefully choose your search terms by relevant keywords, academic, or fields of interest and be sure to select "research" as a type of activity, if offered.
If you need help, contact your Research Development Specialist.
Exploratory or high-risk projects
Some research projects involve an especially high degree of innovation and novelty, making it difficult to judge their potential impact through more traditional mechanisms. Projects in this category may lack preliminary data establishing feasibility, but simultaneously have the potential to create conceptual or technological breakthroughs. Although foundation funding does exist for such projects, it is likely to be most helpful to start your search by using grants.gov.
Particular programs to look for:
If you are seeking equipment or funding for equipment acquisition for your research project, use the Foundation Directory and use the "type of support" filter.
Specific programs to consider:
- Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) - provides funds for equipment acquisition for research projects in areas that will benefit national defense
- NIH Shared Instrumentation Grant Program - a program that specifically aids researchers in the acquisition of commercially-available equipment costing a minimum of $100,000
- NSF Major Research Instrumentation Program (MRI) - provides funding for either acquisition or development of equipment too costly for funding through other NSF programs
Instruction projects may include training, pedagogical theory and practice, demonstration of instruction, development of curriculum, curriculum evaluation, educator training, etc. Instruction may also include academic outreach and public service activities.
Specific funding resources for instruction and public service projects include:
- Alliance of Illinois Community Foundations
- DeKalb County Community Foundation
- USDA outreach grants
- HRSA outreach grants
You may also try the Foundation Directory with a filter for "outreach activities."
Funding for travel grants are increasingly difficult to locate. To search for funding for travel, contact your Research Development Specialist for suggestions.
Collaborations among researchers take many forms ranging from the classic partnership between two faculty members at a single institution to the use by one researcher of another's resources, such as a piece of equipment, a biological strain or a dataset to researchers at multiple institutions.
To find funding for cross-disciplinary or collaborative projects, check out the National Organization of Research Development Professionals (NORDP).
The costs involved with presenting at conferences is typically included in research grant budgets.
Conference grants, however, may be available for hosting or developing a conference.
Specific resources include:
- AHRQ Grant Program for Large or Recurring Conferences
- NIH Support for Conferences and Scientific Meetings
Funding from federal agencies to support small businesses in the development and commercialization of technology. Unique to the STTR mechanism, the small business must partner with research institutions but will retain the rights to the technology they develop and are encouraged to commercialize the technology.
Resources for SBIR/STTR opportunities:
Contact the NIU innovation specialist for more information.
Research is increasingly collaborative and global in scope. Some of the previously mentioned resources will include international research funding. For funding specifically geared toward international Research, check the following:
Graduate research or internship
Besides the databases and resources already mentioned, there may be additional funding opportunities provided only to graduate students that can be found via the following resources:
- Graduate and Postdoctorate Extramural Support (GRAPES) - a database supported by UCLA that catalogs over 350 awards, fellowships, scholarships and internships. Be sure to check that a given award is open to non-UCLA students.
- FastWeb - a database and email subscription with access to over 300,000 funding opportunities. Many awards are intended for undergraduates, but some are available to graduate students.
- Scholarsite.com - detailed and up-to-date information on over 600,000 financial aid opportunities.
- GrantsNet - searchable database of biomedical and science education funding opportunities
The following databases are available to search by type of sponsor, type of project, and by applying additional filters in each database.
Sponsored Programs Administration (SPA) is committed to helping faculty locate funding opportunities. While the Research Development Specialists (RDS) can assist with funding searches, there are databases that can run searches and provide frequent results. SPA has invested in SPIN, a robust grants search engine that will allow you to do your own searches whenever it is convenient for you. Moreover, you can save key search terms and SPIN will automatically search grant announcements for you and send the results to your email.
- Current InfoEd users, go to: http://northernillinois.infoedglobal.com and log in. At the top left, click on Find Funding.
- If you are not a current user of our InfoEd database, obtain log-in information by sending an email from your NIU email account to Julie Miller, eRA Coordinator for Sponsored Programs Administration, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include “requesting SPIN login” in the subject line. A login ID will be sent to you. You will receive a temporary ID that will allow you to do searches, but it will not allow you to save your searches for automatic email updates; when you receive your regular login ID, that will allow you to save multiple searches for different research interests and receive ongoing updates.
- Click on the Search button at the top of the page.
- From the dropdown menu, select Basic Search .
- Enter your keywords, click Locate Funding, and review your results.
- Use keywords for only one research interest per search. You can save multiple searches for your different interests.
- When you view a result, refer to the Keywords at the end of your Opportunity. Use those keywords to better refine your results.
- If some terminology yields few results, consider alternative terminology for your line of research; if “homelessness” yields too few results, try a broader term such as “poverty”.
- If you like the results (not too many false positives and a non-zero number of solid results), then select SAVE.
- A dialogue box pops up, offering you the opportunity to automate the search. You will need to name the search, indicate how you want to see the email (plain text or HTML), and the frequency you prefer.
TIP: You must choose to receive either plain or HTML email messages. If you choose neither option, the software will still perform the search but will not email it to you. It will be saved online for your review, but you would be missing out on an important convenience feature of this new search engine.
- Click Save Changes, and you should start to see results in your inbox shortly. They will appear in your inbox as SMARTS Mailer: SMARTS Results: “your named search”.
There is no limit to the number of saved searches you can automate.
If you are getting too many results with the basic search, you can switch to the Advanced Search. Doing so will set additional limits on your search. For most people, this type of search is the non-intuitive part; the interface is so minimalist that you may not necessarily see right away what you should do.
- Click on Search in the top banner
- Choose Advanced Search from the dropdown menu.
- Click on the box with the + sign to “Add Expression.” The default is to find the keyword in the Program. This works for most beginning searches.
- Click on the yellow box and choose your AND-OR Boolean operators.
- Now add your search terms.
- Click on Locate Funding
If you know that you want to restrict your results in some way (project type, citizenship, sponsor type, etc.), you can add a filter to your search.
- Click Preferences in the top banner.
- Review your options and determine which ones apply to you or to your project.
- Select the filters you want to be applied to your search.
Your Research Development Specialist is available to answer any questions you may have and help set up working searches for you. Additionally, you can also consult a SPIN Quick Start Guide (PDF) or the full InfoEd SPIN guide (PDF).
Grants.gov provides a valuable resource for searching for federal fellowships, grants, and other funding opportunities across multiple disciplines. Grants.gov provides information only on federal sources.
You can subscribe to receive notifications of new federal grant opportunities. Options include subscribing to all grant notices, selected notices based on specific criteria, or notices based on funding opportunity number.
Most federal agencies have RSS feeds; subscribing to these feeds allows an investigator to be current with specific funding opportunity notices. These notices are updated daily, and links to the RSS feeds are available on agency websites. Grants.gov also has RSS feeds available to filter for specific federal agencies.
- Use or bookmark this link to view federal opportunities by agency.
- Use or bookmark this link to view federal opportunities by category. You can select from categories such as arts, education, energy, environment, health, humanities or science and technology.
The Foundation Center provides one of the largest databases of philanthropy in the United States. The Foundation Directory contains information from more than 108,000 U.S. foundations and corporate donors interested in supporting creative, technical, medical, scientific, outreach projects, and more. The Foundation Directory provides information only on:
- Associations, professional and charitable
Foundation Center Newsletters – The Foundation Center also sponsors several email newsletters, including an RFP Bulletin, a weekly newsletter of recently announced Requests for Proposals from private, corporate, and government funding sources.
Additional ways to stay up-to-date with specific Federal agency notices:
The following federal agencies have listservs and/or RSS feeds so that you can stay up-to-date on their funding announcements. This is not an exhaustive list; if you are interested in funding notices from a specific agency, check their website or ask your Research Development Specialist for assistance.
USDA NIFA Update - Biweekly Administrator’s newsletter for research, extension, and education partners at land-grant ad other cooperating institutions. Click on the RSS feed button and choose which feeds you would like to see.
Department of Education - The U.S. Department of Education (USED) provides a web page, Twitter feed, facebook page, and RSS feed for grant opportunities. Their Grants Forecast is also a valuable tool to stay up-to-date with upcoming notices.
Environmental Protection Agency National Center for Environmental Research - The National Center for Environmental Research (NCER) sends email to subscribers announcing new grant and or funding opportunities or newsworthy items regarding NCER-Funded research.
NASA - The NASA Acquisition Internet Service (NAIS) provides email notifications on NASA acquisition opportunities in relevant areas of interest.
National Institutes of Health - The NIH Office of Extramural Research offers the NIH Guide Listserv, an email service with funding notices. It is available weekly with inks to each RFA, PA, and Notice published for that week.
National Science Foundation - When you subscribe to the National Science Foundation Update service, you will receive an email message each time new content is added to the NSF website in the categories you select. NSF also provides an RSS feed for funding information.
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