A Quick First Step to Knowing Your Funding Source

So often new grant writers can be a bit overwhelmed by the multiplicity of funding sources, and they may initially find it hard to differentiate between them based solely on their mission statements. Don’t waste your most valuable resource (your time!) in developing a proposal if you are not certain of your project’s fit with the funding source. An easy way to get an idea of what kind of projects/research a source funds is to review information about the projects and research the agency or foundation has funded previously. Two great examples of funding sources that provide ample information are the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a federal agency, and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), an independent research institute.



The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is probably the best-known U.S. source of funding for biomedical research in the US, so I will skip the introduction. A direct way of viewing funding aggregated in a number of ways is through the NIH’s RePORT database. This data can be scaled down to the individual project, providing an abstract of the funded research project. If you are involved in lobbying or advocacy, you may find a summary of NIH activity in your (or another!) state valuable. These state information factsheets can be found here. (For example, here is a summary of NIH work in New Mexico.)


The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) was established by the Affordable Care Act (2010) and receives funding from and via the U.S. government, but is an independent research institute. Perhaps because it is relatively new to the funding arena, many people are a bit of unsure of the institute’s mission and funding portfolio. Abstracts for the institute’s funded research can be found on their PCORI Funding Awards page.
These abstracts can be incredibly helpful in providing examples of stakeholder inclusion in research, as well. To access these abstracts, you may browse a list of funded projects organized by funding cycle or use the PCORI funding awards map to see what research PCORI has funded in your state.

Reviewing abstracts and other information provided by state-level information sheets is only a first step in understanding what a funder is looking for in the proposals it funds. Remember, as research is funded, these portfolios grow, and needs evolve as funded research advances the field and shifts the paradigm. Be strategic and visit the funder’s web site often so your understanding of the funder and its needs remains current. I highly recommend subscribing to the blogs of funders’ administrators to understand the direction in which the agency, institute, or foundation is moving–and therefore where the funding dollars will be found moving forward.


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