Places to Look for Funding for Participatory Research Projects

Understanding the Grant Process

Every sponsored project starts out as an idea. Before you look for funding or write a proposal, take time to fully develop your research or project idea. You should ask yourself:

  •         What is the purpose of the project?
  •         Who will be participating in the project?
  •         What is my relationship with the community I wish to help?
  •         Who are my community partners and stakeholders?
  •         How long will the project take?
  •         What kind/amount of resources or funds are needed to complete the project?

Identify the scope of your project so you can get the right amount of money from the right organizations/ foundations for the right period of time. Once you have developed your idea then you can start to seek funding for your project and develop a proposal.

 Public vs. Private Sponsors

 Pros of public source funding

  • Have more money, like to make big awards
  • Will often cover indirect costs
  • Must account to public officials if funds are misused
  • More possibility for renewal
  • Clear application processes specific proposal format and due dates
  • More staff who might provide technical assistance
  • Reasons for funding are established by legislation
  • Fund projects that impact significant groups

Cons of public source funding

  • More requirements to follow when sending funds
  • New or innovative ideas are harder to sell
  • There is more bureaucratic red tape
  • Co-sharing or matching is often a requirement
  • Politics affects the governments funding trends
  • Proposals are longer and require submission of many administrative forms

Pros of private source funding

  • Sometimes give large grants
  • Proposals can be short and simple
  • Less bureaucratic rules for administering grants
  • Usually fewer applicants
  • Process can be more informal
  • A better source for local needs
  • Better source of experimental or demonstration funds
  • May fund new needs, newly developing issues

Cons of private source funding

  • Priorities change rapidly
  • Unwilling to pay indirect costs
  • Fewer staff to provide input and feedback
  • Size of awards are smaller
  • May not advise why your project as rejected
  • Policies and procedures harder to locate

Where to look for funding?

You can find links to several of the databases listed below from the UNC Research Database website: . Otherwise links are provided. Each database is ranked with up to 5 stars to help you identify which are potentially the most useful and easy to use.

Carolina Internal Funding Database: **** 

This funding database provides several different ways to search for funding within the UNC campus. There is not one best way to use the searches made available, but searching by applicant type or award type help you get the most focused results to explore.

Commercial Scholarships Database: **

Many of these databases are geared toward finding scholarships or alternative funding opportunities for undergraduates. The first link “Nationally Coveted College Scholarships, Graduate Fellowships & Postdoctoral Awards” is not easy to navigate, but it offers the best information when searching for grants. It will be time consuming and does not offer good filters for searches.

Community Foundation Locator: **
This is useful if you know you are going to be working in a particular community/region in the U.S. It can help you identify potential local funding. If you use the link from the UNC webpage you should select the blue underlined link “Community Foundation Locator” on the first page. Then simply select the state you are looking for and browse the results.

COS Pivot: *****

COS includes funding opportunities from all disciplines including arts, humanities, health and medicine, social sciences, and sciences. Users can conduct searches for funding opportunities, and UNC-Chapel Hill faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholars and graduate students can create accounts to save searches and receive funding alerts.

Pivot is one of the most extensive databases made available to UNC students. For more information and tips for searching please explore the other Pivot documents we have made available.

  • Searching COS Pivot Handout: 
  • Additional Tips for searching Pivot for participatory funding:
  • When searching for participatory funding through COS Pivot, key word such as “Community Studies/Development” or “Community or Outreach Programs” will yield results related to community based participation.
  • Make sure to specify your area of study as a keyword search (i.e. Health, Arts, Anthropology, etc.) to get results related to your intended research project.

Euraxess: European Researchers in Motion: ***

This database provides several different categories to search under, but it is difficult interpreting the results. If you are invested in European research this is worth exploring further.

Foundation Center Database: ***

This link is only a good starting place. If you really want to explore the Foundation Directory Platinum you must make an appointment with the Office of Research Development: Otherwise you can have limited access to search foundations via this link 

Funding Databases for International Research and Study: **

This is most useful for international students studying in the U.S. The second link “IIE Funding for U.S. Study” offers the best potential information for students who are not originally from the U.S., but are studying/conducting research here. The information offered about potential funding opportunities is limited.

GENIUS: ****

This website finds other investigators with similar research interest for collaborations.

Create and search investigator profiles.

Create a Genius profile is the first step to setting up Smarts automatic email notifications. Smart is an automatic email notification system that sends you emails when any new funding opportunities fit your search criteria

  • You can customize how you receive emails:
  • One email per funding opportunity versus one email per day
  • Full program vs. summary *** 

  • All federal agencies are required to post their funding opportunities at You can search or browse for federal grant opportunities through keyword, agency, funding, or opportunity number.
  • Sign up for automatic email notifications (sent once a day if new funding opportunities fit your search criteria)
  • Sign up for updates to particular funding opportunity announcements
  • Apply for grants electronically

Graduate & Postdoctoral Extramural Support (GRAPES) Database: ****

This UCLA resource includes several different filters that can help you identify relevant funding sources. The results are clear and helpful. 

Graduate Guide to Grants: ****

The searching component of this database is straightforward and reasonably easy to navigate. The site provides a link to tips for searching. The results are well organized and easy to read. This is a good basic source to use when searching for grants and fellowships. If you are having no luck finding relevant sources you can try conducting searches based on your most basic requirements like Academic Area and Duration.

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Guide for Grants and Contracts: ***

This is obviously most useful to those who are conducting research in Health and Medical Sciences. The resource allows for searching amongst and browsing through active funding opportunities. It also lists new opportunities weekly, so it is easy to find the most recently available opportunities.

National Science Foundation (NSF) Guide to Programs: ***

This is most useful to scholars in the Social Sciences along with Life and Physical Sciences. This resource does not allow for searches, but has an advanced browsing system. You can browse through opportunities for Graduate Students or by program area (ie. biology, education, etc.). You should browse both sections because they seem to offer different browsing mechanisms. Searching by Program Area tip: Once you select how you want to browse you have further opportunities to sort information by Title, Program Guidelines, or Due Dates—pick due dates!

NC OpenBook: **

It’s easy to get bogged down by the amount of information on this website. It shows you where money has gone in the past in North Carolina and is a particularly good resource if you are considering a grant, but are unsure of whether it is worth applying for. Browsing becomes quickly overwhelming, but there is a simple search feature that may help you identify a slightly less overwhelming list of potential resources.

New York Foundation for the Arts: ***

The “Go to the Resource” link may not work from the UNC Research Website. You can use this link: or simply Google the organization and select “NYFA Source” under the Resources tab. For those in the arts and humanities it has a complex search mechanism: start with “awards” and work your way through the tabs clicking the “next” button, once you have selected your relevant information click “search now.” Tip: you can select “graduate student” under the “other criteria” tab.

SPIN: ***

  • List both government and private funding opportunities
  • Use quick advanced searches by keyword, geographic restrictions, award types, deadlines etc.

Tips for creating a great proposal

*Compiled by Community-Campus Partnerships for Health, this document is an excellent resource on creating a successful grant application. The tips are specifically for proposals in CBPR (Community-Based Participatory Research) but the advice spans to other forms of participatory research.


Proposal Development Resources at UNC Library

The UNC library system ( has many books on proposal development to assist in creating a successful proposal. A selection of available books is listed below:

  • The art of funding and implementing ideas [electronic resource] : a guide to proposal development and project management

Arnold R. Shore & John M. Carfora

  • The process of grant proposal development

Gerald V. Teague and Betty S. Heathington

  • A basic guide to proposal development

John C. Morrow

  • The nuts & bolts of grant writing

Cynthia E. Carr

  • The only grant-writing book you’ll ever need

Ellen Karsh and Arlen Sue Fox

UNC Libraries have many other books and electronic resources for proposal development. Search key terms such as “Proposal Development” or “Grant Writing” for more resources!

Additional Resources:

Campus Organizations:

CARES (Community Academic Resources for Engaged Scholarship)

Carolina Center for Public Service

UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

Community Engaged Scholarship Toolkit

TRUCEN Toolkit:

CES4Health Info

External Organizations:

Community Campus Partnerships for Health

Imagining America


Engagement Scholarship Consortium

International Association for Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement

The Research Universities Civic Engagement Network

Funding Opportunities at UNC

Opportunities to Consider Now: 

1) 2015 Community Engagement Fellowships applications open

The Carolina Center for Public Service (CCPS) is accepting applications for the Community Engagement Fellowship program. A maximum of five fellowships of up to $2,000 each are awarded in the spring to develop and implement engagement or engaged scholarship projects that employ innovative, sustainable approaches to complex social needs and have an academic connection.

Returning, full-time graduate and professional students (teams or individuals) at UNC-Chapel Hill are eligible to apply with preference given to interdisciplinary student teams. Apply online through the CCPS Application and Nomination Portal by 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 9. 

2) Carolina for Kibera James and Florence Peacock Fellowship

The Carolina for Kibera (CFK) Fellowship offers graduate and undergraduate students at UNC-CH the opportunity to apply their skills and talents while engaging in grassroots participatory development in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya.

Deadline: November 25, 2014 

Opportunities to Keep on Your Radar: 

1) Pre-Dissertation Travel Awards: Center for Global Initiatives

Purpose: help fund preliminary explorations, not dissertation field research- for those preparing to write a dissertation proposal.

Deadline TBA 

National Funding Opportunities

*Note: this is not an exhaustive list of available funding sources. Search engines such as COS Pivot and the Foundations database will provide more opportunities in your field of interest


Ford Foundation

The mission and strategic goals of the Ford Foundation is to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement.

Kellogg Foundation

The Kellogg Foundation administers funds for the promotion of child development and reducing racial gaps and inequalities existing in communities. The foundation has commitments to Community and Civic Engagement and supports participatory approaches in communities to create conditions in which children develop optimally.


NIH Index on CBPR research (Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences)

Includes recent funding opportunities, training initiatives, and past NIH funded grants supporting participatory research


The NIMHD Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) Initiative supports collaborative research efforts between scientific researchers and community members to address diseases and conditions disproportionately affecting health disparity populations.

Directory of public and private sources of funding for CBPR

Source: Community and Campus Partnerships for Health


American Sociological Association Community Action Research Initiative (CARI) Grant

Program Description
This funding opportunity serves to encourage sociologists to undertake community action projects that bring social science knowledge, methods, and expertise to bear in addressing community-identified issues and concerns. Grant applications are encouraged from sociologists seeking to work with community organizations, local public interest groups, or community action projects. Appointments will run for the duration of the project, whether the activity is to be undertaken during the year, in the summer, or for other time-spans.


Amgen Inc.

The foundation supports programs that align with its overall mission and priority giving areas in the communities where Amgen has a presence. The foundation’s focus is to fund programs that enhance civic engagement by supporting science and education based initiatives, environmental programs, health and social services, as well as culture and arts in an effort to strengthen and enrich the communities.