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The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (ORSP)

Researcher's Manual - Extramural Funding

Finding funding is the process of matching up a researcher’s idea with the kind of things a sponsor wants to pay for. Most sponsors solicit applications on specific programmatic areas based on their mission, priorities, and budget. These solicitations go by many names, mostly variations on the same theme, such as Request for Applications, Request for Proposals, Program Announcement, Broad Agency Announcement, Program Solicitation, or Program Description.

Outside of CUNY, there are three major types of organizations that fund sponsored programs: government agencies, not-for-profit organizations, and for profit companies. Most for profit companies will try to purchase results or intellectual property for their own purposes and their grants programs are usually small or focused in the pharmaceutical industry. For the vast majority of researchers who are not interested in clinical trials, government agencies and not-for-profit organizations will be the most lucrative and diverse sources of sponsored program funding.

For federal grants, the government established a database of funding opportunities online called in 2002. All domestic federal agencies are required to publish their solicitations for applications in this database. Located online at, this database is free to the public and may be searched in a variety of ways to locate solicitations that are suitable for your academic field and purpose.

The type of not-for-profit organization most likely to provide sponsored program funding is a private foundation. Foundations are usually created as ways for people to give away money for tax benefit. As such, the foundations usually have a mission statement and restrictions on the kinds of support that they will give. One way to understand the ramifications of these origins is to imagine what restrictions and preferences you might put in place if you had $200 million dollars to give away very quickly. Because foundations are usually limited in resources and generous in philanthropy, a separate non-profit foundation called the Foundation Center was formed to help network and find each other.

The Foundation Center not only serves this purpose for foundations that buy a membership for themselves, but also sells memberships to institutions such as Lehman College to allow us to search their database. The Foundation Directory Online is a database of not-for-profit foundations that allows researchers to search for foundations whose missions are relevant to their research ideas. To learn how to log into the database, contact the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

Finally, the model of a subscription database has become popular since the formation of the Foundation Directory Online, and has been applied to many areas. Pivot-RP is such a database and it offers a very useful mix of public, private, and non-profit sources. The Research Foundation of CUNY has purchased a subscription to this database—a link to it is available on Research Foundation site. Lehman faculty may also access Pivot without a subscription, but the database allows more search options, such as saving your searches, and update e-mails, if you register with your Lehman email.