What is the difference between a "Grant" and a "Gift"?

A gift is any item of value given to the University by a donor who expects nothing in return other than recognition and disposition of the gift in accordance with his or her wishes. Any funding provided by a governmental authority, either at the federal, state, or local levels, is not treated as a gift.

For detailed guidance on this question, please visit the Office of the Controller's website.

What do funders look for in a Grantee?

Funding officials will first determine whether the purpose of an organization or project matches their interests. They will want to see that the project/program is well designed, effectively managed (both programmatically and fiscally), and has a proven record of success.

For related information, visit the Foundation Center's Online Orientation to the Grantseeking Process at:

How can I get started?

Begin by identifying potential grantmakers and determining whether they might be interested in supporting your project by examing their funding priorities and history of grantmaking. This information is typically available on the funders' websites. As well, prior grants and grantees are listed on a foundation's Form 990 which is submitted to the IRS annually (990 Finder).

Then, determine the funder's process and timeline:

  • what are the application deadline(s)?
  • is a letter of inquiry, application, or full proposal required?
  • what are the narrative and budget requirements?

Once you have found a funder you'd like to approach, set up a meeting to determine how we can best assist you.

How can I locate potential grantmakers?

American University has several resources available. SPIN (Sponsored Programs Information Network) is a searchable database service that can be accessed from any computer once your password-protected account is created. The database can be queried to do a specific search or results can be e-mailed on a regular basis once you have established a personal SMARTS profile. Instructions have been developed in conjunction with the Office of Sponsored Programs. We can help you create your account at our regular office hours every Tuesday morning.

Community of Science's Pivot searchable database is also available. Pivot gives Research Administrators, Research Development Professionals, and their institutions the edge to bring together the right research opportunities, funding, and people quickly and easily. It provides global and local connections that strengthen research by exploring new avenues for funding and collaboration for faculty, staff researchers, and graduate students.

You can also search the Foundation Center website for information on private foundations, corporate grantmakers, grantmaking public charities, and community foundations. As well, this website provides valuable information on the grantmaking process and training opportunities. To access the Foundation Center Online Directory:

  • go to
  • click on Search Databases
  • click on F
  • scroll toward the bottom and click on Foundation Directory Online Professional.
  • If you are off-campus, you will need to enter your user name and AU ID and select American University.

How long does the grantmaking process take?

The proposal process varies considerably amongst funders and can take as little as two weeks or as long as twelve months. The majority of proposals will require at least two to four weeks for you to develop. The proposal will then be routed through WCL and AU for approval, taking approximately one week. Funders often provide a timeframe as to when they will respond to submissions, though most will be within three months from the application deadline. Once a grant is awarded, it may be another month before funds are available for use against project expenses. Therefore, with all of these necessary steps, we encourage you to begin planning at least six months to a year in advance of the date that funding is needed.

What else does the Office of Grants and Programs do?

In addition to providing WCL faculty and staff with assistance throughout the grantmaking process, our office handles a variety of services for the law school.

Where is the Office of Grants and Programs located?

Our office is located at 4910 Massachusetts Avenue (one block north of the law school) in suite 16 in the lower level of the building.

When and where are the Office Hours held?

Every Tuesday morning the Office of Grants and Programs, along with the Office of Sponsored Programs, hosts office hours from 10:00am until 1:00pm. We typically meet in room 106, suite 16 (Lower Level) at 4910 Massachusetts Ave. Once a month, we schedule meetings in the main law school building.

Office hours provides you with the opportunity to meet directly with staff of both offices to discuss aspects of your funding interests. To ensure that we are able to meet with you on a particular Tuesday, please contact Diana Dority ( or 202-274-4219) to schedule a time to meet.

Please Note: WCL Finance is also available during most office hours to assist with any Post Award issues: expense reimbursement issues/questions, budget modification requests, sub contract or consultant agreement questions, grant balance inquiries, Datatel Report help, BI tool report help, and grant part time/deans fellow hiring.