Winning funding for an informal STEM learning project requires a strong match between the funder’s priorities and your project’s goals, audiences and final product. Before searching for sources of funding, estimate the project’s:
- Scope and scale
Use these estimates as a starting point to narrow the search for sources of funding that align with your project’s goals and intended audience. InformalScience.org's "Advanced Search" can filter for funding types, which allows you to get a sense of what types of projects particular funders support.
Consider a range of funding sources, including private foundations, corporations, and federal, state, and local government programs.
- Search for funding sources that are aligned by audiences, goals, priorities and values
- Review what a grantor won’t fund
- Note eligibility requirements for the funding program or institution
- If approaching a private funder, you can review their IRS-990 form which provides financial data, trustees or board officers, and a grants list.
Sources frequently funding informal STEM education:
In this video, Julie Johnson, Program Director & Co-Lead of the Advancing Informal STEM learning (AISL) Program at NSF, shares changes to the 2021 AISL solicitation and updates to the PAPPG, as well as details about NSF funding opportunities. This was recorded in advance of the 2021 NSF AISL Awardee Meeting October 19-21 which was a virtual gathering for funded projects.
Links to NSF programs
- Advancing Informal STEM Learning program (AISL)
- Smart & Connected Communities (S&CC) is a cross-directorate program supported by NSF’s Directorates for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE), Education and Human Resources (EHR), Engineering (ENG), and Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE). A recording of the webinar, conducted with program officers on Dec. 14, 2020, can be found here with accompanying slides here.
- Inclusion across the Nation of Community of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science program (NSF INCLUDES)
Private foundations who fund STEM learning, engagement and science communication:
- STEM Funders Network
- Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
- Simons Foundation
- MacArthur Foundation
- Rita Allen Foundation
- Sloan Foundation
- Kavli Foundation
- Cognizant Foundation
- Pisces Foundation
- The C.S. Mott Foundation funds statewide afterschool networks, many of which have a variety of STEM programs.
Additional funders can be found here:
Preparing a Proposal
- Plan for enough time to develop and write the proposal. Two to three months prior to the deadline is ideal.
- Read the funding program’s guidelines carefully, for example the Grant Proposal Guidelines that NSF updates on a regular basis.
- Review past successful proposals from the funder you intend to approach.
- Discuss your idea with a program officer that oversees the funding program.
- You may need to provide documents establishing the credibility and ability of your organization to receive and manage a grant, such as articles of incorporation, tax exempt status, bylaws, short biographies of board members and key staff, and financial and operations descriptions. Determine what is needed and start gathering this documentation early, since it can take time to pull together.
A strong proposal, regardless of what organization it will be submitted to, will include:
- The need or problem the project intends to address, and build the case for how your project will address the need. Include project goals, objectives, audience, activities, timeline, key staff, and project partners, collaborators, and advisors.
- Evidence for key choices in the proposal: the need, the approach, or intervention that the project intends to use to address it, and a plan for gathering data and evidence about the effectiveness of the approach is successful.
- A review of relevant peer-reviewed and grey literature, as well as any systematically gathered wisdom from practice on other projects, approaches that have addressed a parallel need.
- Citations of relevant evaluation reports of past work of similar projects.
- A coherent description of the setting, experience or activity design.
- Highlights of and emphasis on the innovative features of the proposed project.
- Features for future sustainability or scalability beyond the grant period.
- A detailed budget that clearly aligns with the project description.
- A dissemination plan for the sharing the project’s outcomes, products, research findings, and/or evaluation reports.
Other NSF-funded resource centers have created materials to help guide the proposal development process, and can be found on the Center for Integrative Research in Computing and Learning Sciences (CIRCLS), Community for Advancing Discovery Research in Education (CADRE), STEM Learning and Research Center (STELAR), Math and Science Partnership Network (MSPNet), and the sunsetted Academic Research Center (ARC) websites.