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State and Federal Agencies

  • An initial contact may give you a chance to introduce yourself and your project idea. It may also help you to understand the funding interests of the agency and how your idea fits these interests.
  • Ask if Preliminary proposals are requested or accepted. If so, take advantage, it may function as a basis for discussion.
  • Is pre-submission contact permitted or encouraged? If it is permitted, take advantage of it. The Office of Grants and Contracts will assist in submitting drafts of the proposal well in advance (six months not two weeks) of the deadline.
  • Know your agency/program. Prior to contacting the program officer, find out as much about the program as you possibly can. Be informed!!

Approaching Government Agencies

  • Telephone a program officer in the grant category where you think your request belongs to discuss your idea and determine whether it falls within the scope of the grant program.
  • Ask if it would be appropriate to send the program officer a pre-proposal describing your project. If so, send the pre-proposal and establish a two-week telephone follow-up.
  • If the agency accepts draft proposals, take into account the program officer's response to the pre-proposal, and prepare a full draft of the proposal for agency review. Aim for a draft that is as close to the final product as you can, so the program officer can review it as though it were actually before a peer review panel.

General Suggestions

  • In many instances, program officers are former academics or other experts in the subject area with which the grant category deals. They are your colleagues!
  • If you have any questions about an agency's priorities, requirements, biases, or any other matter, call and ask. It is the program staff's job to answer your questions.
  • Program officers usually welcome the chance to discuss proposals with potential applicants in person or on the telephone. However, you should make an appointment only if you have a specific idea you want to discuss; avoid non-specific meetings designed merely to get to know an agency.
  • If the program officer believes that your proposal is premature or otherwise non-competitive, consider postponing your request and submitting it later in a stronger version or to another agency.

Private Funding

Preliminary contact with a foundation or corporation is critical. These organizations are known to meet several times to discuss project ideas and determine how they fit the organization's priorities. Keep in mind that foundation and corporate giving officers generally have more input into funding decisions than do federal program officers.