Finding Funding

Sponsored project funding refers to any funding obtained from a sponsor external to the university; often for research purposes, but also for other types of scholarly and artistic pursuits. Such funding is usually obtained through a competitive process in which potential projects are evaluated and only the most promising receive funding.

Most sponsored funding comes from the government (primarily carried out by universities and specialized government agencies); however, associations, industry and private agencies also provide funding.

NIU subscribes to SPIN, a robust search engine for federal and non-federal sources of grant funding that will allow you to do your own searches whenever it is convenient for you. Moreover, you can save key search terms and SPIN will automatically search grant announcements for you and send the results to your email.

Visit SPIN or contact your proposal coordinator for more information.

Resources for Finding Funding

To assist you in finding funding, use our core databases and resource guide. Select appropriate filters by project type or sponsor type to help you know where to start your search. Keep in mind, however, that this guide is not exhaustive, so we don't recommend limiting your search to only the databases listed on this website.

Most federal agencies use one or more of the below methods to alert their readers to specific funding opportunities.

  • RSS feeds gather new content from one or more sources and relay it real-time in digest form. You can find links to the RSS feeds on individual agency websites, or you can view cumulative RSS feeds curated by, which you can filter by agency or category.
  • Listservs are digest emails containing agency news and funding notices. They are typically sent out weekly, but some allow you to choose the frequency of emails received. To sign up for a listserv, look for a "subscribe" option on any agency or database website.
  • Agencies also may utilize social media to alert their readers of funding opportunities. Like or follow any agencies relevant to your work or project on Twitter or Facebook.

The following federal agencies are known to offer RSS feeds, Listservs or social media announcements. This list is not exhaustive, so please be sure to check an agency's website, or consult your Research Development Specialist.

  • Department of Education - The U.S. Department of Education (USED) provides information about grant opportunities on their website, Twitter and RSS feeds.
  • EPA National Center for Environmental Research - The National Center for Environmental Research (NCER) sends email to subscribers announcing new grant and or funding opportunities or newsworthy items regarding NCER-Funded research.
  • National Institutes of Health - The NIH Office of Extramural Research offers the NIH Guide Listserv, an email service with funding notices. It is available weekly with links to each RFA, PA, and Notice published for that week.
  • National Science Foundation - When you subscribe to the National Science Foundation Update service, you will receive an email message each time new content is added to the NSF website in the categories you select. NSF also provides an RSS feed and social media updates for funding information.

Besides RSS feeds, social media, and listservs, many agencies link directly to funding opportunities from their websites. In addition to the agencies listed above, below are some state agencies that are known to link to specific funding opportunities. Again, this list is not exhaustive, so please check the website for any agency not listed or consult your proposal coordinator.

NIU offers funding opportunities through competitions and scholarships, such as the Research and Artistry awards and the Great Journeys graduate assistantships.

Tips by Project Type

If you are looking to generate pilot data or to get proof of concept, you might consider an NIU Internal Competition such as the Research and Artistry or the Great Journeys Assistantships.

For external funding, these programs may be of particular interest to investigators:

Different agencies list different criteria for who qualifies as a new investigator, so be sure to check that you meet the criteria.

Any of the recommended databases can be used to search for funding opportunities. To improve your search results, carefully choose your search terms by relevant keywords, academic, or fields of interest and be sure to select "research" as a type of activity, if offered.

Some research projects involve an especially high degree of innovation and novelty, making it difficult to judge their potential impact through more traditional mechanisms. Projects in this category may lack preliminary data establishing feasibility, but simultaneously have the potential to create conceptual or technological breakthroughs. Although foundation funding does exist for such projects, it is likely to be most helpful to start your search by using

Particular programs to look for:

Specific programs to consider:

Instruction projects may include training, pedagogical theory and practice, demonstration of instruction, development of curriculum, curriculum evaluation, educator training, etc. Instruction may also include academic outreach and public service activities.

Specific funding resources for instruction and public service projects include:


Collaborations among researchers take many forms ranging from the classic partnership between two faculty members at a single institution to the use by one researcher of another's resources, such as a piece of equipment, a biological strain or a dataset to researchers at multiple institutions.

To find funding for cross-disciplinary or collaborative projects, check out the National Organization of Research Development Professionals (NORDP).

Funding from federal agencies to support small businesses in the development and commercialization of technology. Unique to the STTR mechanism, the small business must partner with research institutions but will retain the rights to the technology they develop and are encouraged to commercialize the technology.

Resources for SBIR/STTR opportunities:

Contact the NIU innovation specialist for more information.

Research is increasingly collaborative and global in scope. Some of the previously mentioned resources will include international research funding. For funding specifically geared toward international Research, check the following:

Multiple funding sources exist to support the arts including private foundations and the federal government. The University of Illinois Library has compiled a list of resources to guide you in finding and writing arts grants.

Besides the databases and resources already mentioned, there may be additional funding opportunities provided only to graduate students that can be found via the following resources:

  • Graduate and Postdoctorate Extramural Support (GRAPES) - a database supported by UCLA that catalogs over 350 awards, fellowships, scholarships and internships. Be sure to check that a given award is open to non-UCLA students.
  • FastWeb - a database and email subscription with access to over 300,000 funding opportunities. Many awards are intended for undergraduates, but some are available to graduate students.
  • - detailed and up-to-date information on over 600,000 financial aid opportunities.
  • GrantsNet - searchable database of biomedical and science education funding opportunities

Core Databases

The following databases are available to search by type of sponsor, type of project, and by applying additional filters in each database.

Sponsored Programs Administration (SPA) is committed to helping faculty locate funding opportunities. To do so,  NIU has invested in SPIN, a robust grants search engine that will allow you to do your own searches whenever it is convenient for you. Moreover, you can save key search terms and SPIN will automatically search grant announcements for you and send the results to your email.

Contact your proposal coordinator for more information.

Log-In Information

  • If you are not a current user of our InfoEd database, obtain log-in information by sending an email from your NIU email account to Julie Miller, eRA Coordinator for Sponsored Programs Administration, at Include "requesting SPIN login" in the subject line. A login ID will be sent to you. You will receive a temporary ID that will allow you to do searches, but it will not allow you to save your searches for automatic email updates; when you receive your regular login ID, that will allow you to save multiple searches for different research interests and receive ongoing updates.

Conduct a Basic Search

Conduct an Advanced Search

Adding filters

If you know that you want to restrict your results in some way (project type, citizenship, sponsor type, etc.), you can add a filter to your search.

  • Click Preferences in the top banner.
  • Review your options and determine which ones apply to you or to your project.
  • Select the filters you want to be applied to your search.
  • Save.

Additional Resources

Your Research Development Specialist is available to answer any questions you may have and help set up working searches for you. Additionally, you can also consult a SPIN Quick Start Guide (PDF). provides a valuable resource for searching for federal fellowships, grants, and other funding opportunities across multiple disciplines. provides information only on federal sources.

You can subscribe to receive notifications of new federal grant opportunities. Options include subscribing to all grant notices, selected notices based on specific criteria, or notices based on funding opportunity number.

Read instructions for using (PDF).