Federal grants often come under criticism for favoring established investigators and not recognizing outside-the-box thinking. Regardless of whether these claims hold water, looking outside of government funding opportunities can be beneficial. Luckily, there are non-federal sources, including private industry, professional organizations, and foundations.
Private industry includes companies that operate outside of the government. Pharmaceutical companies, of course, fund a good deal of medical and veterinary research, and chemical companies fund basic bench science in chemistry. However, it can be tough to find a list of each company’s offerings, and it can take a search of each individual website to do so. Companies such as Patagonia, whose sales of outdoor gear rely in large part on the existence of outdoor recreation, fund conservation research and initiatives. Asking your mentors about their past funding may turn up some good opportunities (see our newsletter on mentoring); looking through CVs of other researchers in your field on their websites to see who has funded them in the past can also be enlightening and save you a lot of time surfing through company pages. If you know the person whose CV you are looking at and they have a funding source listed, ask him or her if you can see their successful application.
Professional organizations are usually non-profit associations seeking to further a specific profession or interest. Many of those offering funding are medical organizations, such as the American Cancer Society, or the American Heart Association. These are ideal sources for funding if you have the same focus as the organization. If you aren’t looking for funding for medical research, there are other organizations such as the Research Corporation for Science Advancement (http://www.rescorp.org/grants-and-awards), and Rand Corporation (http://www.rand.org/about/clients_grantors.html) that offer funding across a much broader range of scientific focuses.
A foundation is either a private or public nonprofit organization or charitable trust that donates funds and support for other unrelated organizations or charitable purposes. There are many different foundations offering many different kinds of funding, which makes it easier to connect with a foundation looking to fund a project specific to your niche. Sorting through these various organizations to find the right award can prove difficult but, fortunately, other groups have already done some legwork. The Foundation Center lists the top 100 funders in terms of total funds given, along with links to their webpages (http://foundationcenter.org/findfunders/topfunders/top100giving.html). Click through these sites gives to check out each funder’s research focus and grant opportunities. There are also websites that group grantmakers by region, such as http://www.givingforum.org/s_forum/index.asp, or by topic, such as the environmental grantmakers association website: http://ega.org/
Additionally, many universities compile lists of foundations with funding opportunities for new faculty and postdoctoral researchers. UC Berkeley and UC San Diego each have extensive lists of both federal and nonfederal agencies with available funding (UC Berkeley: http://www.spo.berkeley.edu/fund/newfaculty.html, UC San Diego: http://cfr.ucsd.edu/young-investigators/funding-opportunities.html). If you are submitting your proposal to a wide range of foundations, professional organizations, and private companies, check out our earlier newsletter on multiple submissions: