About the Office of Foundation Relations

Boston University’s Office of Foundation Relations builds sustainable and mutually beneficial partnerships between the University and the charitable organizations that share our research, teaching, and social service missions. We pursue this goal through three related strategies:

Fundraising: We help the president, provost, and deans of the University’s 16 schools and colleges identify and build relationships with private foundations in support of priority programs and projects.

Coordination & Stewardship: We manage institution-wide relationships with the University’s largest organizational donors and other key foundation partners.

Faculty Assistance: We promote faculty grant-seeking from foundations and other private charitable organizations by assisting individual faculty members with prospect identification and proposal development and submission.

Our Partners

Foundation Relations is a part of Boston University’s Office of Development & Alumni Relations (DAR) which works to garner support for the University across all constituencies (e.g. foundations, corporations, alumni, and the general public).

When approaching a foundation connected to a company that has a planned or managed relationship with the University, we work with our DAR colleagues at the Office of Corporate Relations. Corporate Relations works to build strategic long-term relationships with industry, creating road maps that identify areas of mutual opportunity.

Additionally, our work often involves cooperation with the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) and the Research Office. OSP supports the development and submission of proposals to all external sponsors, including federal, state, and local agencies, foundations, and corporations. The Research Office represents the University to key stakeholders in government, industry and foundations and leads the development and implementation of effective policies and procedures to streamline and manage research.


Centrally Managed Foundations

There are a handful of restricted foundations that should only be approached for funding through or with clearance from Foundation Relations, at the request of either the foundation’s leadership or the university’s. These are foundations that expect funding discussions to center on institutional priorities and that in most cases have explicitly asked that funding requests carry the endorsement of the president and be conveyed through Foundation Relations. Thus, funding requests to the following foundations are restricted. Clearance to apply for funding from these foundations must be requested from the Office of Foundation Relations prior to submitting a letter of inquiry or proposal. Please contact Michael Dettelbach, director of Foundation Relations, to coordinate your request.

  • Atlantic Philanthropies
  • Barr Foundation
  • S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and Stephen Bechtel Fund
  • Wallace H. Coulter Foundation
  • Arthur Vining Davis Foundations
  • The Hartwell Foundation
  • The Hearst Foundations
  • W. M. Keck Foundation
  • Henry Luce Foundation
  • Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
  • Yawkey Foundations


Corporations and Corporate Foundations

Foundation Relations develops and maintains partnerships between the University and many corporate foundations and we are a first stop in pursuing corporate foundation funding.

That said, when approaching a foundation connected to a company that has a planned or managed relationship with the University, we work with our DAR colleagues at the Office of Corporate Relations. Corporate Relations works to build strategic long-term relationships with industry, creating road maps that identify areas of mutual opportunity.


Contacting Us

Please let Foundation Relations know about any contacts you have with a foundation, even if the relationship does not necessarily involve grant or gift funds. While we encourage as many people as possible to develop direct relationships, we do need to have a complete picture of the University’s overall relationship and to occasionally help manage simultaneous requests of the same foundation. Recognizing that each circumstance is different, we will discuss with you ways in which we can, or even should, be involved. Sometimes, we will simply provide you with any insight we might have, including the foundation’s historical relationship with the University.

The easiest way to contact Foundation Relations is through this website.

We have offices on the Charles River Campus (595 Commonwealth Avenue) and on the Medical Campus (72 East Concord Street).

About Foundations

The Foundation Center defines a foundation as an entity that is established as a nonprofit corporation or a charitable trust under state law, with a principal purpose of making grants to unrelated organizations or institutions or to individuals for scientific, educational, cultural, religious, or other charitable purposes. This broad definition encompasses two foundation types: private foundations and public foundations, the latter being a type of public charity. The most common distinguishing characteristic of a private foundation is that its funds come from one source, whether an individual, a family, or a corporation.

Time Involved

The grantseeking process can take several months or even years and successfully positioning your project for support can often be a long-term process. While a foundation may only require a few months to review a proposal and determine whether or not to fund it, timeframes vary by funder and may depend on when and how many times a foundation board meets.


Requests for Proposals

A Request for Proposal (RFP) is an invitation from a funder to submit applications on a specified topic with specified purposes. Unsolicited requests, however, are submitted on any topic of interest to the funder. If a foundation officer approaches a faculty or staff member and requests a proposal on a certain topic, these are solicited requests. A calendar with upcoming RFP deadlines is maintained on our website.

In general, we ask that you notify Foundation Relations before you respond to an RFP. Often there are simultaneous requests of the same foundation. Recognizing that each circumstance is different, we will discuss with you ways in which we can, or even should, be involved. Sometimes, we will simply provide you with any insight we have to help with your proposal, including the foundation’s historical relationship with the University and its typical grant size.


Letters of Inquiry (LOIs)

A letter of inquiry (LOI) is a brief letter outlining an organization’s activities and its request for funding that is sent to a prospective donor in order to determine whether it would be appropriate to submit a full grant proposal. A LOI is typically 2–3 pages, and should loosely follow the format of a full proposal, but should be very concise.


Proposals

A proposal is a written application, often accompanied by supporting documents, submitted to a foundation to request a grant. Although some foundations and companies have strict formatting guidelines, most proposals generally include an executive summary, statement of need or rationale, project description, organizational background, budget, and conclusion. Click here for more information on what you should include in a full proposal.


Form 990s and 990-PFs

The 990 is the tax return for a public foundation (more commonly called a public charity) and 990-PF is the tax return U.S. private foundations file. This public document provides fiscal data for the organization, names of trustees and officers, application information, and a complete list of grants made during a particular year. More information about how to read these forms can be found online.


Stewardship

Stewarding your grant begins as soon as you receive the award notification. In coordination with the OSP, Foundation Relations may review the grant conditions and send any required paperwork back to the foundation to accept the award (e.g. the grant agreement may require an official University signature). We may coordinate thank you letters from the president and/or dean to express the university’s appreciation for the organization’s support. We also encourage individual faculty to send their own letters of thanks.

The grant agreement will likely stipulate the funder’s narrative and financial reporting requirements. Foundation Relations may track reporting deadlines and remind the principal investigators before a report is due. Timely submission of reports is an important demonstration of the university’s gratitude and an important vehicle for keeping the foundation aware of the project’s progress. We also encourage principal investigators to communicate with funders to convey important developments or challenges throughout the grant period.

Good stewardship helps maintain good relations between the University and its key funders. Keeping them engaged and aware of the good work we are doing with their funds better positions the university to receive their support in the future.