Foundation FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions for UWM Faculty and Staff Seeking Foundation Support:

  • What types of funders does Foundation Relations work with?

Foundation Relations staff works with private foundations, community foundations and family foundations alike. The Foundation Relations staff also works closely with University Corporate Relations to help meet the needs of corporate foundations.

We do not work with local, state or Federal government grants (NIH, NSF, NEA, etc.), as those grants are managed strictly by UWM’s Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP). For further information on federal and other government grants please contact OSP at (414) 229-3332 or visit their website.


  • Can I approach a private foundation about receiving a grant request for my project?

Fundraisers across the University, and particularly on the Foundation Relations staff, are assigned to certain foundations as prospect manager. Therefore, each prospect manager is responsible for tracking all UWM interactions with that particular foundation.

Prior to contacting any private philanthropic foundation, please contact the Development Director for your school, college or unit. Your Development Director will be able to tell you about UWM’s history with that specific funder, along with whether or not that funder is already earmarked for other University priorities. In some cases, a foundation will only accept one proposal, per organization, per year or grant cycle. We want to make sure that foundations are not simultaneously being inundated with multiple requests from UWM.


  • What is the process for requesting research help in identifying potential private foundation philanthropic resources?
  1. Initially, you and your school/college/unit Development Director should discuss your proposed project and/or program idea.
  1. Following that discussion, the Development Director will then contact Foundation Relations to discuss the details of the proposed program and/or project.
  1. Foundation Relations has online tools and directories at its disposal to research potential foundation or corporate philanthropic prospects for a proposed program/project. If we feel our research can be helpful with your proposal, we will ask your Development Director to work with you to fill out a CFR Funding Research Request Form.
  1. Once the CFR Funding Research Request Form is completed, your school/college/unit Development Director will send it electronically to the Director of Foundation Relations.
  1. The Director of Research will then be contacted to schedule the research work accordingly, based on the department’s overall workload and other priority projects.


  • How do you determine if your proposed project is a good fit for a potential funder?

Foundation Relations staff can work with grant seekers throughout the proposal process – from identifying prospects to helping develop strategic proposals and budgets. A key step is determining how closely aligned your project is with the funding priorities of a prospective foundation. You need to understand the foundation’s giving capacity and its granting patterns to determine if they fund projects similar to yours and what an appropriate requested amount would be.

Sometimes this information is readily available online, and other times it can only be found by reviewing the foundation’s tax forms. Foundation Relations can help determine if an alignment exists or not with a potential funder. If your project is not a good fit, do not apply. Look for another funder.


  • What are the components of an LOI?

Many foundations require a Letter of Inquiry or Letter of Intent (both known as an LOI) before they will invite a full proposal. As a concise presentation of your project, it is imperative that your LOI is designed to inspire the foundation to consider funding your project. Be sure to make the connection between your goals and the foundation’s interests and program priorities. Assume that the proposal will be read by non-experts or educated generalists, so write accordingly.

The LOI should be clear and concise, a maximum of 2 pages, and include the following components:

  1. Opening Paragraph: This is the summary statement and should be able to stand alone telling the potential funder what you want to do, who will be helped or served, how much is being requested.
  1. Statement of Need (1 to 2 paragraphs): This paragraph will answer the question of “why” you are undertaking this project, and “what” difference will it make.
  1. Project Activities/Methods (2 to 4 Paragraphs): This section answers the “what” and “how” of your project, giving an overview of the activities involved and whether or not you will be collaborating with other organizations and what roles they would play in the project.
  1. Outcomes (1 to 2 paragraphs): State the specific outcomes you hope to achieve, and how you will evaluate whether you have achieved these outcomes.
  1. Credibility (1 to 2 paragraphs): Explain why your institution is best equipped to carry out this program or project.
  1. Budget (1 paragraph): State the total cost of the program/project and what you are requesting from the foundation. Also, cite any other sources of funding—secured and/or pending—including what UWM will contribute even if it is just considered in-kind contributions.
  1. Closing (1 paragraph): Ask for permission to submit a full proposal, and offer to send any additional information the foundation might need. Include a contact name, phone number, and email address for follow-up.
  1. Pre-Proposals: Many foundation funders also require pre-proposals, which are brief descriptions of the proposed project, and generally do not include full budgets, timelines, supporting letters, or curricula vitae. Pre-proposals, while similar to LOIs, usually follow an established format to answer a predetermined set of questions posed by the potential foundation funder. They are simply another way for the foundation to determine whether they are interested in inviting a full proposal.


  • Who should be the Applicant on the grant application?

The UWM Foundation, on behalf of your particular School, College, or Unit’s program/project, is usually the applicant when applying to a private philanthropic foundation. But, not always.

Sometimes, the applicant for your proposal should be the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee itself. When that is the case, UWM’s Office of Sponsored Programs will ultimately submit the application on your behalf.

Since there are certain criteria and/or characteristics that help determine the appropriate pathway to use when submitting a proposal, it is advisable to contact the Foundation Relations Office at (414) 229-3019 or the OSP at (414) 229-3332 if you have any doubt.

Please note, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is always the applicant for all local, state and Federal governments grants. These types of grants are submitted only through UWM’s OSP.


  • How far in advance of a project should I apply for grant funding?   

Although each foundation has its own process, many foundations will require six months to a year to review a full proposal and make a funding decision. While some foundations review proposals as they are received, others have several board meetings each year during which they make funding decisions. A foundation’s funding cycles are usually posted on their web site and are updated annually.


  • How is preparing a budget for a private foundation grant different than for a Federal grant?

Each foundation has its own set of allowable and unallowable budget items, so be aware of your prospective funder’s regulations when preparing a budget. Foundation budgets do not carry the federally negotiated indirect rate, but you will find that many of the items that are counted as indirect costs in a government grant are direct costs in a foundation grant, such as supplies, computers, space, and administrative support. It is important to know whether the foundation to which you are applying allows you to build indirect costs such as utilities, grant administration, and depreciation into your budget. Generally, if a foundation does provide indirect costs to a project, they are capped at 10-20%. Just like federal proposals, most foundation budgets require budget justifications.


  • What is Stewardship, and Why is it Important?

The stewardship of a donor is the process of maintaining an engaged relationship with the donor, and bringing them increasingly closer to UWM. This can occur in various ways, however, the stewardship of foundations often involves reporting that falls into two broad categories:

  1. Qualitative, which is the storytelling that confirms to the donor that the investment was a sound one because the support is making a difference in the lives of people or the mission of UWM, and
  1. Quantitative, which communicates that UWM has fulfilled its fiduciary responsibilities and has deployed the funding as the foundation intended.

Sometimes a foundation will specify the format in which they would like a project report presented. If not, there really is no mandated format and the content will vary widely depending on the scope and complexity of the program/project.  However, you should always give an accounting of the expenditure of funds granted, express your gratitude, and address how you have accomplished the goals and objectives set forth in your original proposal. Be forthcoming about which goals and outcomes were not met, and those that fell short. Explain any extenuating circumstances.

If you have any questions, please contact Foundation Relations to further discuss and review your stewardship plans and/or obligations: