​FAQs and Terms

The Bunny statue

​What is an RFP?

A Request for Proposals (RFP) is a funder’s written announcement inviting proposals, usually for a specific grant program. As mission-driven entities, foundations increasingly pre-determine the issues they wish to fund. Foundation Relations serves as a clearinghouse for many RFPs from foundations. Some funding opportunities are restricted to a limited number of applicants from a given university. Internal competitions conducted by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research are often held to elicit and assess the best applications. These competitions are announced through university email.

Am I required to contact Foundation Relations before applying for a grant to a foundation?

Yes, clearance from Foundation Relations is required prior to submitting a full proposal to a private foundation. View information about the clearance process

What should I do if a foundation requires a letter from the Chancellor, Provost, or a Dean to accompany the proposal?

Foundation Relations staff will assist in preparing a letter to a foundation from the chancellor, provost, deans or external stakeholders.

If the award letter from a foundation requires a report, what should I do?

Foundations typically require periodic reports on the supported activity and a final report at the conclusion of the grant period. The PI is responsible for submitting all reports. It is imperative that these reports be prepared and sent to the foundation on time. If a report is missing, a foundation may withhold subsequent payment on your project or sometimes on another project at the university.
In order to keep an accurate university-wide account of all activities with each foundation, investigators should send to the Foundation Relations staff a copy of all correspondence with foundations including letters of inquiry, proposals, award letters, denial letters, extension requests, extension approvals, required reports and stewardship reports. The Foundation Relations staff maintains a centralized database with scanned copies of all foundation-related correspondence. This database allows us to create a full and accurate picture of Washington University's relationship with each foundation, mirroring the files that the foundations maintain on the university. Foundation Relations staff sometimes uses these documents to alert grant recipients to reporting deadlines and stewardship opportunities. Please send copies of all correspondence with foundations to Anne Stengle​ for the Danforth Campus and to Pat Gregory for the Medical Campus.

What should I do if my grant is ending but I have funds that I have not spent?

A formal request for a no-cost extension on the grant may be required to allow additional time to complete the project and use the remaining funds. Do not wait until the end of the grant term to inquire about no-cost extensions, and do not assume that the foundation will approve the request. If the funds are not being used as outlined in your proposal, be prepared to explain why. A foundation may withhold future payments on a grant if financial reports show that the funds have not been used as planned. Each foundation is different. We can help you with this process.

​Brief Glossary of Terms


Annual report  A report issued by a foundation that provides financial data and descriptions of its grant-making activities. Annual reports vary in format and often are included on a foundation’s website.

Capital support  Funds provided for buildings, construction or equipment.
Challenge grant  A grant that is paid only if the recipient organization raises a specified amount of additional funds from other sources in an agreed-upon time frame.
Community foundation  A 501(c)(3) organization that makes grants for charitable purposes in a specific community or region. The funds available to a community foundation are usually derived from many donors and are held in an endowment that is independently administered; income earned by the endowment is then used to make grants.
Endowment  Funds intended to be invested in perpetuity, with the interest earned providing income for ongoing support.
Family foundation  An independent, private foundation whose funds are derived from members of a single family. Family members often serve as officers or board members and play a significant role in the grant-making decisions.
Form 990-PF  The public-record information tax return that private foundations are required by law to submit annually to the Internal Revenue Service. The 990-PF includes information on funder assets, expenditures, grant making and board members.
General operating support  A grant made to further the general purpose or work of an organization, rather than for a specific purpose or project; also called an unrestricted grant.
Grantee financial report  A description of the grant programs, priorities, requirements, limitations, obejectives or methodologies that indicate what the foundation funds.
Guidelines  Procedures a funder sets forth for use by prospective grantees.
Independent foundation  A grant-making organization usually classified by the IRS as a private foundation.
Letter of inquiry (LOI)  A brief letter outlining an organization’s activities, a project and a request for funding that is sent to a foundation in order to determine whether submitting a full grant proposal would be appropriate. Some foundations require this step.
Matching grant  A grant given to match funds another donor has provided.
Operating foundation  A 501(c)(3) organization classified by the IRS as a private foundation whose primary purpose is to conduct research, social welfare or other programs determined by its governing body or establishment charter.
Payout requirement  The minimum amount that private foundations are legally required to expend for charitable purposes. In general, a private foundation must meet or exceed an annual payout requirement of 5 percent of the average market value of its total assets.
Principal Investigator (PI)  Faculty member responsible for a research grant; has overall responsibility for the technical and fiscal management of a sponsored project.
Private foundation  A nongovernmental, nonprofit organization whose funds and program are managed by its own trustees or directors.

Request for Proposal (RFP)  An announcement of funding opportunities by government agencies and foundations. The RFP contains project specifications, application procedures and deadlines.
Seed money  Start-up funding used for a new project or organization.

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