Frequently Asked Questions

The Office of Foundation Relations is a central support unit within Ohio State Advancement. Our purpose is to increase philanthropic investment by private foundations in Ohio State’s academic and medical enterprise. We work exclusively with private foundation prospects, managing relationships on behalf of the institution, and are here as a resource to faculty and leaders across Ohio State to support meaningful and strategic engagement with these prospective funders/active donors. Specifically, the Office of Foundation Relations:

  • Advises on private foundation giving, historical engagement, and university relationships;
  • Shares funding opportunities with the campus community;
  • Supports engagement with private foundations, including planning and hosting campus visits, staffing meetings with leadership/faculty, and supporting timely follow-up;
  • Supports letters of inquiry and proposal development;
  • Coordinates proposal submissions to select private foundations;
  • Oversees the limited submission process for relevant private foundation funding opportunities;
  • Provides targeted trainings for faculty/principal investigators; and
  • Develops guidelines, best practices, and tailored plans for stewarding private foundations.

Learn more about which units each of our team members support by visiting Contact Us.

The Office of Foundation Relations is a part of University Advancement. Our purpose is to increase philanthropic support from private foundations, managing relationships on behalf of Ohio State by supporting seamless engagement with managed foundation prospects. We serve as a central point of contact for foundations, track institutional engagement across Ohio State’s enterprise, and develop and deploy institutional-level engagement and stewardship strategies for foundation prospects that have been prioritized by university leadership.  Foundation Relations team members are seasoned grants professionals and relationship managers that hold carefully curated portfolios of private foundation supporters.  Services offered by the Office of Foundation Relations are intended to complement, not duplicate, the support of colleagues within the Office of Sponsored Programs and unit-based grants teams. We are focused on increasing engagement and investment from private foundations by:

  • Keeping abreast of funder priorities and newly released opportunities, sharing opportunities with relevant units/departments;
  • Identifying research initiatives and priority projects within Ohio State that are aligned to funder priorities;
  • Reviewing/iterating around draft letters of intent and full proposal narratives with the aim of ensuring narratives are compelling, responsive, and aligned to the funder’s priorities; and
  • Supporting faculty engagement with foundations from initial approach through stewardship of funded projects.

The Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) is a unit within Ohio State’s Office of Research. Its purpose is to ensure pre- and post-award compliance with federal and non-federal sponsors’ terms and conditions. OSP assists with budget preparation/review, proposal submission (including serving as authorized signatory on most submissions), grants administration, and closeout of grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements. Sponsored Program Officers (SPO) are assigned to specific colleges and units to facilitate these services and supports. More information may be found on the Office of Sponsored Programs website.

Most proposal submissions to private foundations will be directed through the Office of Sponsored Programs. A limited number of submissions must be directed through OSU Foundation for funders that have mandated all applicants be designated by the IRS as a 501c3 nonprofit organization. In those instances, OSP and the OSU Foundation work together in the preparation and submission of the proposal application. Regardless of how the application will route internally, an ePA-005 for any full proposal must still be completed and approved prior to submission.

In addition to working with your unit’s assigned Sponsored Program Officer, we encourage principal investigators submitting a letter of intent or full proposal to a private foundation or non-governmental philanthropic organization to reach out and request the assistance of the Office of Foundation Relations. We work closely with grants support/administration colleagues campus-wide, offering complimentary supports aimed at helping investigators to craft compelling, responsive proposals that are aligned to the foundation’s priorities and requirements. 

The Office of Corporate Relations is a part of University Advancement. The team works closely with colleagues in the Office of Corporate Engagement and is tasked with working to increase philanthropic giving by corporations that are engaging with Ohio State. If you are interested in corporate foundation or corporate support, please contact Debbie Melser in The Office of Corporate Relations. In some instances, the Foundation Relations team may partner with Corporate Relations colleagues to assist in your approach to a corporate foundation, but they should always be your first point of contact.

A private foundation is a non-governmental entity that is established as a nonprofit or charitable trust primarily for charitable purposes. The principal purpose of a foundation is to make philanthropic grants to organizations and/or individuals for scientific, educational, cultural, religious, or other purposes. Foundations are governed by a board of trustees or directors, those responsible for ensuring that all grant giving aligns with the foundation’s mission and vision. Many foundations making investments in higher education issue calls for proposals, are staffed by subject matter experts, and structure scholarly/scientific review boards to provide expert advisement regarding which proposals/projects should receive grant funding.  Other foundations do not engage scientific/scholarly reviewers, but rather rely on their board of directors and/or community advisors when determining grant awards.  The Foundation Relations team is here to assist you in determining how best to craft your proposal based on the structure and composition of reviewers and ultimate decision makers at each foundation. In 2019, giving from private foundations totaled over $75 billion. Over 220,000 foundations nationwide awarded more than 18 million grants to over 400,000 organizations that same year.

If you have interest in approaching a particular foundation, or have general questions about a private foundation and/or a specific call for proposals, you are encouraged to reach out to the Office of Foundation Relations.  Our office specializes in cultivating support from private foundations, helping these funders and our research community to meaningfully connect to advance common goals and interests. Certain foundations expressly require that any approach be made through university designated officials; the Office of Foundation Relations serves in this capacity for the University.  Some private foundations limit the number of proposals Ohio State may submit.  Our office serves as the point of contact for most of these limited funding opportunities, working in concert with Ohio State’s Office of Research to coordinate the internal process for nomination/submission (i.e., Limited Submission Opportunities, please see question 7).  Some private foundations may prefer to have faculty connect directly with appropriate program officers within the foundation. In every instance, the Office of Foundation Relations will be able to provide you with background information regarding Ohio State’s existing relationship and we will be able to offer guidance about each foundation’s priorities and preferences regarding how they wish to be contacted. Please feel free to reach out to your unit’s designated foundation relations staff member with questions or to request assistance with an approach to a private foundation.  

If you have received funding from a foundation as a principal investigator, you are well positioned to cultivate a strong relationship with the granting foundation, demonstrate the impact of their investment, and pave the way for future funding in support of your scholarship and research. Contact your designated foundation relations staff member to discuss creative ways to steward your grant award and in efforts to strengthen your relationship with the foundation. Examples include sharing published articles or conference outputs, sharing timely updates on funded research activities between reporting deadlines, and inviting program officers to attend events or presentations that align with their areas of interest.

If you have not received funding but are seeking ways to cultivate a new relationship with a foundation, please contact the Office of Foundation Relations. We can advise on the best approach based on the foundation’s history of funding at Ohio State and grantmaking priorities.

Congratulations! Your research and work have captured the attention of a program officer or foundation board member.  If a foundation reaches out to you directly about a funding opportunity, or to express interest in discussing your work, please call us as soon as possible. We are here to help as you navigate Ohio State’s internal processes as well as engage with the foundation representatives.  Please remember, timeliness of your reply to the foundation representative matters! After a funder reaches out, consider sending a brief and thoughtful reply to the program officer/contact letting them know that you received their note, you are happy they reached out, and that you look forward to connecting soon.

Limited submissions are funding opportunities in which the sponsor limits the number of allowable applicants from each invited institution. The Office of Foundation Relations manages limited submission opportunities offered by private foundations, hosting internal competitions in collaboration with the Office of Research. To participate, PIs submit an abbreviated proposal via the Office of Research funding opportunity site. An academic review committee comprised of Ohio State faculty/academic leaders with relevant subject matter expertise review and advise as to Ohio State’s nominees for each internal competition. Once an internal competition is complete, all applicants are notified by the Office of Foundation Relations.

The Office of Foundation Relations has curated, and continually updates, an extensive list of private foundation funding opportunities. Relevant opportunities are shared with academic leadership within each college/unit, as well as department chairs, and they indicate which may be further shared with faculty.  If we know that a foundation is looking for a specific type of project, we will often reach out to department chairs to help advise as to specific faculty who may have aligned research/projects.  In addition, the Office of Foundation Relations hosts pre-consultation sessions with faculty who are interested in exploring private foundation funding opportunities.  If you have interest in scheduling a pre-consultation with a member of our team, please complete the contact form available online.  A member of our team will then be in touch to schedule a convenient time for you to connect with the foundation relations director that supports your unit. We ask that you try to be thorough in your responses to the contact form questions as they will help us to better prepare in advance of the meeting.

No. Most private foundations that release requests for proposals are seeking to award grants for investigator-driven studies/projects. You, as the subject matter expert, will need to write the first, substantive draft of your proposal.  The Office of Foundation Relations team will work closely with you to define your approach, ensure the proposal is aligned with the foundation’s guidelines, gather supporting administrative documents, and edit/review as needed through an iterative process. We frequently support investigators by helping to shape lay summaries and personal statements, secure institutional letters of support from OSU leaders, and through final proofreading and compliance review of narratives proposal components.  In rare instances, the team will draft proposals for university and/or OSUWMC priority initiatives, when expressly requested by leadership.

Unless otherwise stated in a funding solicitation, the individual leading the project must be principal investigator eligible at Ohio State. There are foundations that announce fellowship and scholarship opportunities designed for doctoral students and postdoctoral scholars. Please make sure to gain prior approval from your PI or graduate advisor to submit to these announcements, and secure all appropriate internal approvals.

There is a wealth of on campus resources to help principal investigators write their proposals. Please check out the tools and resources section of our website for more information about crafting compelling proposals to private foundation supporters. The Office of Research’s website likewise has lists and links to helpful tools and training resources.  Finally, consider checking in with Research Commons for additional support and trainings aimed at supporting your research endeavors, including targeted training sessions on pursuing grant support for your work.