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I usually prepare federal government proposals. How are foundation proposals different?

Every foundation is unique and has its own guidelines and process. The information and narrative requested by foundations can vary greatly and reflects their individual mission and focus. Many foundations require pre-proposals or letters of inquiry (LOI) as a pre-requisite to an invitation to submit a full proposal. These pre-proposals generally do not include full budgets, timelines, supporting letters or curricula vitae. 

Each foundation has its own set of allowable and unallowable budget items so you need to be aware of what their requirements are when preparing the budget. Foundation budgets do not carry the federally negotiated indirect rate, but you will find that many of the items counted as indirect costs in a government proposal are direct costs in a foundation grant proposal such as supplies, computers, facility use, and administrative support. It is important to know what costs a foundation will allow in a budget – often “overhead” costs are impermissible. Just like federal proposals, most foundation budgets require line item justifications. 

How long does the proposal process take?

The proposal process takes an extensive period of time and is deadline driven. We request that you begin the process as soon as possible. 

It is important to consider whether the project timeline fits the potential funding timelines for each prospective foundation. In addition, writing a proposal, developing a budget, collecting requested data, editing, obtaining approvals, and stewarding the gift if received will take a lot of effort and time. We recommend you allow a minimum of six weeks to prepare significant proposals remembering that it may take up to one to two weeks to get the necessary approvals and cover letter(s) signed, once the proposal has been prepared. 

What approvals will I need?

It depends. Foundation & Corporate Philanthropy will coordinate this approval process with you using WPI’s Proposal Coordination Form.

You will need, at a minimum, the approval of your department head and dean, especially if your project will require time released from other obligations, additional lab or office space, the hiring of new personnel or other additional resources. You may also need the approval of the Provost and/or other Vice Presidents. Generally, Foundation & Corporate Philanthropy prepares a cover letter from the President to accompany your proposal.  

Who reviews my budget?

All proposal budgets and all research proposals are reviewed by OSP for compliance with university policies. Foundation & Corporate Philanthropy will coordinate this review. 

Do foundations allow indirect costs?

Most foundations prohibit use of their grants for indirect costs and those who allow it, generally set their own rate.