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Four Ways to Fund Your Research

Four Ways to Fund Your Research

  • Student Tips
Joanna HughesAug 15, 2016

Whether you want to change the world through engineering a cutting-edge invention or crafting a transcendent work of art (Hamilton, we’re looking at you), you likely need something beyond your earth-shattering brilliance to make it happen. That something? Money. Luckily, plenty of funding sources exist aimed at helping researchers, artists, teachers and others get their projects off the ground and up and running. Wondering where to start? These four avenues can help.

1. Foundations
Many foundations have the sole purpose of helping researchers transform their ideas into reality. In the US, researchers have a wealth of places to start when it comes to searching for potential funding, such as Foundation Center. One of the world’s largest repositories of philanthropic organizations, this database includes information about more than 550 foundations. Looking for an individual grant? Help with writing a grant or proposal? Or even to start a nonprofit of your own? Foundation Center is a phenomenal starting point.

But it’s far from the only way to discover and connect with funding organizations. The Grantsmanship Center, GrantWatch, Guidestar, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, Pivot, and the Spencer Foundation all offer general grants to support potentially world-changing research.

Additionally, plenty of other foundations support research in specific areas, such as The Tinker Foundation Research Grants, which fund post-dissertation research travel to and within Latin America; the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which provides funding to scientists and scholars from Germany as well as from abroad; and the Society for Women’s Health Research’s Journalism Awards, which “recognize journalism that provides accurate, relevant and understandable research on women’s health.”

International universities and researchers also have numerous options, with many relying on *Research Professional to find comprehensive funding all over the world.

2. Private Businesses
While foundations may seem like the most obvious supporters of research and innovation toward the greater good, private businesses are also a source of money for many scholars and researchers -- whether due to a commitment to giving back or simply because they have a vested interested in advancements within a particular area.

Consider two AWS Programs for Research and Education, both of which support students, educators and researchers in cloud-related endeavors; the American Honda Foundation, which funds research in the fields of youth education and science education; and the Mary Kay Foundation, which supports women’s cancer research.

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3. Government
In the quest to both promote progress and remain competitive on the global stage, the government is also a useful resource for researchers and organizations in search of funding. If you’re looking for federal grants in the U.S., there’s no better place to start than, a comprehensive roundup of which agencies are supporting what and how to find them.

Or, go directly to the source. U.S. researchers in the arts, humanities, science, and engineering, respectively, will find opportunities available through the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, and the National Academy of Engineering. But that’s just the start when it comes to active government funding opportunities with government entities ranging from NASA to the USDA offering awards of their own.

Conducting biomedical research? Make sure to check out the National Institutes of Health -- the world’s largest public funder of biomedical research. And don’t miss the NIH’s interactive tool designed to help potential funding recipients identify both domestic and international funding as part of the NIH’s Research Career Development Awards.

Meanwhile, economic and social issue researchers in the UK will find significant funding from the Economic and Social Research Council, which provides funding to more than 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students.

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4. Your Professional Network
Given the abundance of opportunities waiting to be found online, it’s easy to overlook local, untapped options. Be sure to check in with your institution’s office of research as well as colleagues within your field for invaluable insights into the process. Why? Because while applying to grants through a far-off corporate or foundation website can feel like throwing darts at a wall, exploring closer-to-home resources can help you understand more about everything from which funding sources are particularly receptive to people from your institution to which foundations are most likely to support your specific area of research.

If all of this sounds like a lot to you, you’re right: Tracking down and applying for funding takes some work. However, by putting in the effort, you exponentially increase your chances of finding a funding source. And is there a better way to spend your time than in pursuit of connections which can help bring your vision to life?

Joanna Hughes

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.