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, generally called Program Officers, will first determine whether the purpose of an organization or project matches their interests and meets their eligibility requirements. 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. A plan to monitor and evaluate project objectives, impact, and outcomes is also critically important.

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 with the Office of Grants and Programs to determine how we can best assist you.

How do I write a proposal?

To learn the basics of developing a proposal, the Foundation Center is an excellent place to start.  The Center houses a comprehensive database and collection of materials on U.S. and international grantmakers and grants, training and educational courses.  In D.C., the Center is located at 1627 K Street, NW, Third Floor, 202-331-1400. For information on training programs, go to:

Additional course offerings and online webinars are available here.

How can I locate potential grantmakers?

The following resources are available to help you in your search to identify funding opportunities and prospective donors.  Online resources are available from any computer on campus.  If you are off campus, you can log in with your AU credentials.

Foundation Directory Online is a database of over 100,000 foundations, corporate giving programs, and grantmaking public charities in the U.S., as well as a database of 2.4 million grants and 700,000 IRS Forms 990 and 990-PF. 

  • General URL: go to
  • Click on Search Databases
  • Click on the letter “F”
  • Scroll toward the bottom and click on Foundation Directory Online Professional.
  • For training programs and online webinars, go to links in section above, "How do I write a proposal?"

COS Pivot is a comprehensive, editorially maintained database of funding opportunities with scholar profiles.

Grant Forward is a database with a rapidly expanding inventory of foundation, federal and other funding sources while providing an intuitive, powerful search. p rovides advanced searches for funding opportunities and programs offered by federal agencies.

Additionally, AU’s Office of Sponsored Programs offers training sessions on a variety of topics useful in grantseeking and for the management and administration of grants once they are received.  Please check their website for details on upcoming trainings and how to register:

How long does the grantmaking process take?

The proposal process varies considerably amongst funders and typically takes six 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.

  • Facilitation of the J1 Visa process for WCL's international visiting scholars
  • Coordination of WCL Summer Programs in DC
  • Establish and incubate new projects and programs.

What and when are Office Hours?

Every Wednesday morning the Office of Grants and Programs and the Office of Sponsored Programs host office hours from 10:00 a.m. until noon.

Office hours provides you with the opportunity to meet directly with staff of the Office of Grants and Programs to discuss all aspects of your funding interests. To ensure that we are able to meet with you, please contact Melissa Hippler or call 202-274-4219 to schedule a time to meet.

Please Note: WCL Finance is also available to assist with pre- and 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.