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Grantmaking Strategy

In selecting projects for funding, the Foundation seeks proposals for original initiatives led by outstanding individuals or teams.  We are interested in projects that have a high expected return to society, exhibit a high degree of methodological rigor, and for which funding from the private sector, government, or other foundations is not yet widely available.

What We Do Not Fund

  • The Foundation does not make grants to political campaigns, to support political activities, or to lobby for or against particular pieces of legislation.
  • The Foundation does not make grants to individuals except through its Books program.
  • The Foundation does not generally make grants to for-profit institutions.
  • The Foundation does not make grants in religion, medical research, or research in the humanities.
  • The Foundation does not make grants aimed at pre-college students except through its New York City initiative.
  • The Foundation does not make grants to projects in the creative or performing arts except when those projects are related to educating the public about science, technology, or economics.
  • The Foundation does not make grants for endowments, fundraising drives, or fundraising dinners.
  • The Foundation does not make grants in support of the purchase, construction, or renovation of buildings or laboratories.  On some occasions, the Foundation will support the purchase or construction of scientific equipment if such equipment is essential to the success of a Foundation-supported research project or educational initiative.

The Grant Application Process

STEP 1: READ THE FOUNDATION'S WEBSITE

  • The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation makes grants through its various grantmaking programs. Grant applications are made to a particular program.  Interested applicants should read carefully through the Foundation's program descriptions in the Programs section of the website.  Each program page includes a statement of the program's goals, a description of the strategies employed, a list of recent grants, and a section with information about how to apply. Interested applicants are encouraged to browse through some of the grants made in the program to get a feeling for the kind of projects the program supports.

STEP 2: SUBMIT A LETTER OF INQUIRY

  • Once a relevant program has been identified, an interested grantseeker should submit a Letter of Inquiry by email to the appropriate program director.  See our Letters of Inquiry section for more information about Letters of Inquiry.  
  • NOTE: Not all programs accept unsolicited inquiries.  The Apply section of each program page specifies whether that program is currently accepting inquiries.

STEP 3: SUBMIT A FORMAL GRANT PROPOSAL

  • The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation does not accept or review unsolicited grant proposals.
  • Grantseekers that submit promising letters of inquiry will be invited to submit a formal grant proposal.  Visit our Grant Proposal Guidelines section for more information about composing and submitting a grant proposal.
  • The Tips for Writing a Successful Grant Proposal section gives useful advice on how to write a successful proposal.
  • Once a proposal has been submitted, the Foundation will evaluate the proposal.  The Foundation's grant review and approval process is extremely rigorous and designed to mimic the peer review process at high quality academic journals.  Depending on the funds requested and the complexity of the work to be performed, the Foundation may seek independent expert review of the proposal.  If so, grantseekers are given the opportunity to respond in writing to reviewer comments.  It is not unusual for a grantseeker to be asked to revise, amend, or supplement the original proposal (sometimes significantly) as a result of the proposal review process.  

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation makes grants year-round, though major grants (<$125K) are approved only quarterly. Grantseekers should take care to work with their program director to ensure there is sufficient time for submission, redrafting, independent review, and amendments subsequent to review.

Letters of Inquiry

The grantmaking process begins with submission of a letter of inquiry. 

Letters of Inquiry should include

  • A brief statement (1-2 sentences) about the nature and purpose of the proposed project;
  • A description of the proposed work to be supported;
  • An estimate of the total cost of the project and the amount of this total the proposer would likely seek from the Sloan Foundation;
  • An estimate of the duration of the project;
  • The grantseeker's title and contact information;
  • The names, affiliations, and titles of other key members of the project, if any.

Letters of Inquiry should be

  • No more than two pages (one page is preferred)
  • Submitted by email to the program director for the program you are requesting funds from.

NOTE: Some programs require additional material or information be submitted with a letter of inquiry.  Each program has an apply section on its program page that specifies any program-specific application requirements.

Response Times for Letters of Inquiry

Due to the volume of inquires we receive, it can take up to one month to receive a Foundation response to a letter of inquiry.  If more than a month has passed since you submitted your letter of inquiry, it is appropriate to send an email to the relevant program director to inquire about its status.

Tips for writing a successful grant proposal

  • Read Bourne and Chalupa's concise and helpful Ten Simple Rules for Getting Grants.
  • Adhere to the formatting and content requirements laid out in the grant application guidelines. These requirements are inflexible. Proposals not meeting these requirements will not be considered.
  • Avoid rhetoric and hyperbole. Illustrate with real instances or examples.
  • For grant proposals in support of meetings or conferences, include a draft agenda, draft list of invitees, and draft letter of invitation if possible.
  • Be specific about outputs and outcomes. The proposal should explicitly state expected practical, tangible outputs (such as number of students whose training or careers are affected, data collected, scientific papers produced) and outcomes (such as new knowledge, institutional strengthening, etc). BE VERY CLEAR ABOUT WHAT OUTPUTS OR OUTCOMES WOULD MAKE YOU THINK THE PROJECT HAD BEEN A SUCCESS (big sales of a book, a prize awarded for research, a government grant to continue the project, web traffic, high enrollments, better salaries, etc.).
  • If the effort connects to or benefits other programs or areas of Alfred P. Sloan Foundation interest such as advancing diversity in STEM higher education or promoting the public understanding of science, point this out.
  • Be explicit about the duration of the project (e.g. 12 or 18 months).
  • Be clear about management. Who will do what jobs and who will have what responsibilities, obligations, and powers (both carrots and sticks)?
  • Make constructive use of milestones to the extent applicable (for example, include a schedule of events over time indicating when certain things should be accomplished or happen).
  • Include Letters of Support if a project’s success depends crucially on support of key figures other than the Principal Investigator.
  • Keep proposal compact in terms of total megabytes and also in terms of files into which a proposal is divided. A proposal should not come in more than 3 files (such as main proposal, appendices, budget). Draft files should be sent as Microsoft Word files to make it easy for the Foundation to return comments.