Step 2: Find Funding

Pre-Award Phase


How do I target research funders?


Your proposed project should align with the funder’s mission. 

  • Carefully review the solicitations and requests for proposals to identify relevant topic areas. 
  • Well before you apply, consider contacting staff at the agency or program of interest for advice on whether your topic is a good fit. Even if your research area does not exactly match the solicitation, the funder might still be interested in your proposal.

Since funding agencies often have an array of funding opportunities, work with an agency program manager to identify the best match for your project.

Some sponsors provide access to information on previous awards through award announcements and/or award databases. Use the following databases to find sponsors and programs that fund research like yours. 

A single sponsor or opportunity might not fund everything you need at once. Try segmenting your needs, and then submitting focused proposals that are best matched to each of the various elements of your project.

  • Remember to avoid overlapping projects with multiple funders, as your resulting awards may have conflicting obligations.
  • Unless explicitly permitted, avoid submitting the same proposal to more than one federal agency or sponsor.
  • If the federal government does not fund your proposal, you may be allowed to resubmit at a future date or you can submit the proposal to a non-governmental sponsor, such as industry or a foundation.
How do I find funding opportunities?


How do I approach a potential research funder?


How do I work with Federal agencies?

For Federal funding, agency program managers are available to provide guidance on research topics, proposals, and the process for that particular agency. 

  • Ask program managers for help with: (1) identifying the right home for your project within an agency; (2) finding the right type of funding for your work; (3) understanding how your project will be reviewed; and (4) feedback on your proposed project.
  • Email a short project description (no more than one page) to the program officer, asking to schedule a time to talk. 
  • Visit the Berkeley Research Development Office page for advice and guidance on making the most of your meeting with a National Science Foundation program officer. This was written for the NSF CAREER program, but much of the guidance is applicable to other programs and agencies.
How do I work with a for-profit company?
  • Visit the Intellectual Property and Industry Research Alliances webpage for resources, advice, and process information about establishing a contract with a for-profit company. Contact IPIRA’s Industry Alliances Office to speak with one of our industry liaisons and contract negotiators. For questions about philanthropic gifts from industry, contact University Development and Alumni Relations (UDAR) or your department development officer. See below for information about distinguishing the difference between contracts and gifts.
  • Make connections in your network. Most connections are made through conference presentations, poster presentations, and publications. Try to be responsive to companies if they reach out to you, as they may be exploring projects with other researchers both inside and outside UC Berkeley. Be sure not to make contract-related promises (like overhead reductions or intellectual property issues), as these can cause massive delays with negotiations down the road. Ask IPIRA’s Industry Alliances Office about any contract-related questions the company may have.
  • Meet with the company. Tap your professional and academic network to find a company representative willing to discuss your research project. If you don’t have a personal contact, reach out to the business development or licensing department, or partnership officer. IPIRA’s Industry Alliances Office is happy to talk with you about meeting with a company about your project, how the university approaches intellectual property and publications, and more.  In addition, IPIRA’s Industry Alliances Office is happy to join you in a meeting.  
  • Confidential disclosure agreement.  If the company requires a non-disclosure agreement to discuss your project, contact IPIRA’s Industry Alliances Office right away. They will help to review the agreement and will sign on behalf of the university. Be sure not to disclose non-published information without a confidentiality agreement in place. To request review and execution of a confidential disclosure agreement (CDA) or nondisclosure agreement (NDA), please fill out IPIRA's concierge form. An IPIRA representative will contact you shortly.
  • Develop a proposal. Industry proposals are typically between two and ten pages and require, at a minimum, a statement of work, budget, and budget justification. When there is a formal request for proposals, there may be other required sections as well. The budget should include: full indirect costs, benefits, and the actual costs of the research. Work with your Berkeley Regional Services research administrator to build your budget. Omit confidential or unpublished information, as most companies will not consider your proposal to be confidential. Industry proposals are submitted through the Phoebe Proposal System if they will be contracts or grants, and through University Development and Alumni Relations (UDAR) if the project will be funded by a research gift.

How do I work with a non-profit entity or foundation?

Foundations are mission-driven organizations that fund programs to further their objectives. Most foundations prefer discrete projects over open-ended operations, endowments, buildings, or equipment. Typically, large foundations seek public impact from their giving. 

Seek out foundations whose objectives and strategies are in alignment with your project. Pay special attention to geographical restrictions and types of work supported. For example, research is very different from intervention! Look beyond subject headings. Will the foundation fund projects like yours?

The Foundation Relations and Corporate Philanthropy Team can help with best practices in regards to reaching out to foundation partners. Tell us about your project and our team will compile a short list of the best prospects that includes program information, past grants, and application strategy. Start by emailing our office

In general, support can be identified as a gift when the following characteristics exist:

  • The funding is motivated by charitable intent
  • The funding furthers the University’s mission
  • The funder provides support to the University without expectation of direct economic or other tangible benefit commensurate with the value of the funding (including technical reports, intellectual property rights, participation in the research, or deliverables)
  • Funding is awarded irrevocably
  • While the general area of work to be supported may be specified, there is no detailed scope of work, line-item budget, or period of performance specified by the funder or promised by the University
What are limited submissions?

Sometimes a funder limits the number of applications an organization may submit, requiring an internal selection process to determine which proposal teams can move forward. Learn more about limited submissions.

What types of research funding are available to me?


Different types of funding (like grants, gifts, and contracts) serve different purposes.  It is important to consider your research funding needs when preparing a proposal, as different funding mechanisms have varying levels of restrictions and obligations. Learn more about distinguishing gifts, grants, and contracts

  • Grant: financial assistance/funding for a specific purpose, such as research, travel, running a conference, developing curriculum, instituting a consortium, or finishing a dissertation or book. Grants typically have reporting requirements, but they do not require deliverables or prototypes.
  • Fellowship: funding for an individual (typically a postdoc, graduate student, or professor) for either a field of research or a particular project, depending on the funding agency terms and conditions.
  • Research gift: funding for a general area of research, not a specific scope of work, and can not include requirements for reports, intellectual property rights, or any other quid pro quo.
  • Cooperative agreement: similar to grants, but the agency has more input into the type and progress of the research compared to a regular grant.
  • Contract: funding for a specific project (for federal contracts, it is classified as “acquisition” funding), and the contract may specify deliverables, milestones, and go/no go decision points. Payments may be based on the submission of deliverables.

Most common sources of funding:

  • Federal funding is typically awarded as a grant, cooperative agreement, contract, or fellowship.
  • Industry funding is typically awarded as a contract, although companies award grants, gifts, and fellowships. See the Intellectual Property and Industry Research Alliances webpage for more information about how to apply for industry sponsored research. For information about gifts from businesses or corporate foundations, see below.
  • State and other governmental funding is typically funded as grants or contracts.
  • Corporate foundation and non-profit organizations typically award grants, gifts, or fellowships. For more information, visit the Foundation Relations and Corporate Philanthropy website.
  • Individuals typically provide funding as gifts. For more information, visit the University Development and Alumni Relations website.
How do I distinguishing between gifts, grants, and business contracts?

Gift funding cannot have quid pro quo, meaning the gift does not have specific technical reporting requirements, a specific scope of work, or intellectual property rights back to the funder.  Grants and contracts typically do have a specific scope of work and often require technical reporting along with other terms and conditions. The Vice Chancellor for Research’s webpage explains the difference between gifts and grants. 

Gift sponsorship programs allow industry sponsors to support research at UC Berkeley through a gift. These programs are typically created to incentivize corporate donors to fund and be engaged with the academic research activities of a lab, center or institute. These programs can help campus entities raise their visibility in the corporate community and create opportunities for academic to private engagement. Corporate sponsors may be drawn to these opportunities as a way to gain insight into emerging research, as well as a way to engage with other corporate partners who have similar interests.

If your project is not research and you are instead planning to perform a test or service under a contract, visit the Business Contracts and Brand Protection Office (BCBP). See the Campus Decision Tree for Contracts for more information about which office you should work with for your project.

How do I get help?


The Berkeley Research Development Office (BRDO) is a great place to start, They have expertise in proposal development for a variety of funders, and if they are not the correct office to help, they will also help to triage your request and refer you to the correct resource. 

For general help, please reach out to

How can I provide feedback on this website?


We want this Grant Life Cycle webpage to be useful, and we welcome all feedback. Please use this form to provide feedback to our team: Grant Life Cycle feedback form.