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Frequently Asked Questions



How can your office help me?

The Office of Major, Corporate and Foundation Giving can assist you on many levels, from making available our library materials (foundation and other fundraising directories, annual reports of foundations and corporate funders, etc.) to putting a principal investigator (PI) in touch with others at James Madison and elsewhere who are involved in similar projects or related research. Because we have ongoing relationships with many foundations and companies, we can share the history of our experience with a particular funder and frequently suggest the best way to make contact. We can also keep the area in which you're working in mind, and contact you if we notice that a particular foundation initiative dovetails with your project. When you have determined, in consultation with your chair, dean, and the Corporate and Foundation Giving (C&FG) director, to make an approach to a foundation, the C&FG staff can assist you with proposal writing, budget preparation, and reporting.

What is the best way to get started?

Speak with your department chairperson and your dean about your ideas and how to carry them forward. Also begin discussions of what institutional support there may be for your project. Often funders want to see that the institution has made a commitment to whatever is being proposed or only wanting to support projects that receive some internal support.

Should I contact the Office of Major, Corporate and Foundation Giving or the Office of Sponsored Programs about my project?

Contact the Office of Sponsored Programs if you are seeking funding for a research grant or a fellowship, or want to approach a federal or state funding source (including National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts).

Contact Corporate and Foundation Giving if you think that private foundations or corporations might have an interest in your project area, if your project is institutional (involves more than one area of the college), or if your project is truly innovative (moving your field and/or the institution in a new direction). Sometimes it will be appropriate for a project to work with both offices.

Who contacts the foundation or corporation?

This varies depending on the particular foundation/corporation. The project director and the C&FG director will determine how the project can best be presented to the funder and by whom. The initial contact might be a phone call, a letter, a proposal, or a meeting. The C&FG Office sometimes has a personal contact (program director, colleague at another institution, faculty member, board member) who can help determine the most effective approach, and give additional guidance regarding the funding process.

What approvals do I need?

Be sure to get in touch with your department chair and your dean, for they will need to approve any projects for which outside funding is sought. Of particular concern are projects requiring increased space or additional staff.  The Office of Major, Corporate and Foundation Giving must be contacted for clearance.  The foundation or corporation will be reviewed in our data bank to determine James Madison's relationship with the potential funders.  You will want to know if they have recently been sent a proposal from another department at JMU or if they are currently funding a project on campus and are not entertaining any new requests.  This office is prepared to assist you in your initial contact and application process.  Corporate and Foundation Giving is also prepared to assist in the formulation of the proposal.

What is the process for applying for funding?

Every foundation/corporation is different. Often the first approach is a 2-3 page succinct presentation of the project which is called a letter of inquiry or letter of intent. On the basis of this letter, the funder may invite a full proposal -- the specified length can vary from one page to twenty pages. There can be very detailed requirements for the proposal or few specifications. Sometimes a phone call will be the initial contact, and sometimes an e-mail message will win a grant! Usually, however, the process of securing funding for a project takes at least several months.  If you have questions or seek assistance, you should contact the Office of Major, Corporate and Foundation Giving at 568-6278.

What are foundation and corporate giving programs supporting in higher education?

Every foundation and corporation is unique, yet some generalizations can be made about giving patterns. The overall trend in giving to higher education is to support projects that will benefit more than just the home institution, and not to support programs that should be funded by an institution internally. Foundations and corporations often want to know that an institution will support a proposed project before committing additional resources to it. Many foundations are looking for projects that have one or more of the following characteristics:multi-institutional collaboration; interdisciplinary programs; college-community partnerships, often in conjunction with local or regional K-12 schools; creative and economical uses of technology for teaching and learning; service to underserved populations, historically black colleges and universities, Native American tribal colleges, and community colleges; higher education for non-traditional students. Many foundations no longer support building projects or endowments (e.g., scholarship funds). For more information, consult the C&FG Bulletin, the Foundation Center (, Philanthropy Journal (, and Philanthropy News Digest (

What criteria do foundations and corporate giving programs use when deciding what projects and institutions to fund?

All funders want their donations to make a significant impact on society, a geographic region, or a discipline. In addition, corporations want to enhance their public image and recruiting efforts. Be sure to read the foundation or corporate giving guidelines on the funder's webpage or in its annual report; often the guidelines will be very specific about what they're looking for in a proposal. When presenting your project or program to the funder, keep the following questions in mind:

•  What is the issue to be addressed? Put it in a larger context (global, regional, national, societal) than just the project itself; will it move the field forward, address a particular problem, is the timing propitious, etc.?

•  Why is James Madison the ideal place to address it?

•  What will have changed by the end of the project?

•  How will you accomplish those changes?

•  What do you need (time, money, facilities, people) to do it?

•  How will you evaluate your success?

•  Why are you sending this particular proposal to this particular funder? Can you make any special appeal to this particular source?

•  Remember that the University must exhibit collaboration and broad range system changes to have a strong program proposal.

Foundations often send requests for proposals (RFPs) to colleges and universities -- what is an RFP (Requests for Proposal)?

Increasingly, funders are determining the issues and problems on which they focus in an effort to maximize the effect of their funding. They will send a document soliciting proposals that focus on a particular area/problem and conform to certain criteria (for instance specific dollar amount, time limit, collaborations). This document, which can be quite lengthy and detailed, is the Request for Proposals. When the Office of Major, Corporate and Foundation Giving receives them, it distributes RFPs Requests for Proposal, widely across campus.  A copy is also sent to the Office of Sponsored Programs for evaluation and distribution.

How Long Does It Take To Get Foundation Or Corporate Funding?

This varies, but it is usually a long process, months rather than weeks. Funding decisions are often made by boards of directors that meet infrequently and need to receive material at least one month prior to a meeting. Be sure to contact your department chair, dean, and the appropriate C&FG director well in advance of your need for funding.



The Office of Major, Corporate and Foundation Giving is located in the Leeolou Alumni Center, lower level


James Madison University

Office of Major, Corporate and Foundation Giving

Jeff Gilligan, Senior Director

Leeolou Alumni Center, Room 3109

Harrisonburg, VA  22807