How to Find Research Funding Opportunities: A Quick Start Guide



It’s the first week of the New Year, and the government offices are back up and running. Funding announcements are beginning to trickle out again, and you can see mention of them popping up here and there. But where are the definitive lists of these opportunities posted when they are published? If you are trying to jump start your grant writing in the New Year but don’t know where to start,  this quick start guide will point you in the right direction so you can review the opportunities as soon as they are published.

The funding opportunities we discuss here are grants and contracts, although there are other opportunities such as loan repayment that you can explore as well. (NIH’s loan repayment program is mentioned below, but be sure to check out HRSA’s loan repayment program, too.)


A great place to start your search for research funding is at, where the government posts its funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) as they are published. This is the master list of grant opportunities, and, although it is searchable, I suggest you browse a time or two before limiting your view with a search. Funding in your area can come from sources you may not expect, and by searching too narrowly or with incorrect search terms, you are likely to miss out on interesting opportunities.

Some of the agencies also maintain their own lists of grants and have mechanisms by which you may receive news of the opportunities via the agency. For example, the NIH has a funding page describing the funding types offered (grants, contracts, research training and career programs, the loan repayment program, and the extramural diversity program) and linking to funding announcements and pages on which you may sign up for notifications.

In addition to these web pages and e-mail notification options, some agencies tweet their funding opportunities. If you follow the agency on Twitter, you may see the opportunity in a tweet. However, in my experience, an opportunity may have been published days or weeks prior to viewing a tweet about the opportunity, so relying on Twitter may not be the best option for your search.


Not all research funding is in the form of a grant–some are contracts. NIH contract research opportunities can be found at FedBizOpps. Often I find researchers at academic institutions dismiss SBIR/STTR opportunities out of hand, which is a mistake given their specific funding of tech transfer that requires a small business partner with a research institution (but that’s another blog entry, I suppose).

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) also uses a contract mechanism for its awards, although most researchers I’ve worked with on PCORI awards notice little or no difference between that mechanism and a grant. (I’ve blooged about PCORI before, so feel free to browse this blog for more information about PCORI and its funding opportunities.) Additionally, if you follow me on Twitter (@JKNByram), you know that PCORI (follow @PCORI) offers a unique opportunity to participate in peer review of proposals. The opportunity is priceless if your livelihood depends on writing successful funding proposals: experience as a peer reviewer makes you a better proposal writer. Period.

Information about small business contracts is best articulated by the SBA in their post, 8 Tips for Finding Government Contracting Opportunities.

Private Foundations

There are myriad private foundations providing research funding, usually in very specific, niche areas. I don’t have time to go into them all, but I can suggest approaches to finding the funding foundations with which your research will align:

  • Review the peer-reviewed articles in your research area and note the funding sources that are thanked. At one point, the acknowledged funder supported this type of research–so go to the funder’s web site and see if there is an alignment and if there are current funding opportunities available.
  • Who funds your colleagues?
  • Is there an organization specific to the condition/disease you research that supports research?
  • Look at your research more broadly. Perhaps you research a rare disease (a disease that affects <200,000 people in the US, also referred to as “orphan disease”) that does not have specific Federal funding or a patient organization with research funding. Search more broadly for “rare disease” or “orphan disease” funding opportunities. Funding in the area of rare diseases and their treatment is increasing in the Federal and the private foundation arenas, so thinking broadly would be an effective approach to seeking funding in this area. (I specialize in securing funding for rare disease and orphan drug research, so I can assure you that funding is not as obvious but it is certainly available.)

If you’ve found this information useful, I hope you will “like” this piece. You can also follow the blog and receive notification when it is updated. Additionally, you can join the Strategic Grantsmanship mailing list to receive the Strategic Grantsmanship Newsletter. Questions or feedback? Please leave a comment!

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