Private vs. Public Funder Characteristics Elizabeth Bird, MSU/EHHD Grant Writing Instructor



Private foundations


Government agencies

Search through Foundation Directory.

Search through or CFDA.

Driven by societal goals.

Driven by scientific procedures.

More appropriate for action-oriented projects and informal education.

More appropriate for research and institutional education.

More discretion.

Bound by law.

Reliant on program officer judgment.

Reliant on peer review committees.

Mercurial, fashion driven.

Agendas more predictable.

Nearly always want a letter of inquiry or pre-proposal.

Nearly always issue a request for proposals.

Premium on “moral” persuasion & evidence of competency.

Premium on “scientific” persuasion & evidence of sound methods.

Communication of reviews (if any) may be informal; conversation.

Communication of reviews usually in writing.

Proposals can be carried over for later review, multiple drafts may be requested.

Set deadlines for submissions & reviews; re-submittals have a formal process of responding to prior reviews.

More fearful of making a bad grant than hopeful of making a good one.

More fearful of controversy, failure to adhere to rules.

Less worried about pushing money out the door (foundations do have to spend at least 5% of their portfolio each year).

Fearful of not spending out the budget (good relationships can bring end of year monies).

Interested in client based targets, milestones and evaluation.

Interested in the questions you answer and the findings you publish.

All foundations have “special snowflake” syndrome: if you’ve met one foundation you’ve met one foundation.

Public agencies are required to be accessible, and accountable for their decisions.

Only 8000 foundations have open competitive processes; 69,000 select organizations for proposals.

Most public sources are competitive and open.

Look for foundation publications,

memberships, regional or affinity groups; track conferences they might go.

Look for congressional testimony by a

program officer or leader for program insight.