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Applicant Information and Policies

The information below applies to all Spencer grant programs, unless specifically noted.
Researcher Experience

The Principal Investigator (PI) and any Co-PIs named on a proposal to the Spencer Foundation are expected to have an earned doctorate in an academic discipline or professional field, or demonstrated professional experience appropriate for the program to which they are applying. Demonstrated professional experience commensurate to an earned doctorate can include, for example, school/college/university, district, or other similar institutional or organizational leadership. Currently enrolled students, who do not have such demonstrated professional experiences commensurate to an earned doctorate, are not eligible to serve as a PI or Co-PI.

Researcher Funding

PIs and Co-PIs are restricted from holding more than one active research grant from the Spencer Foundation at a time. This restriction includes National Academy of Education (NAEd)/Spencer Dissertation and Postdoctoral fellowships, unless the Spencer grant is for a project that substantially differs from the NAEd/Spencer fellowship funded project.  For more details, see policy on Dual Submissions below. Note: This restriction does not apply to the Conference Grant program. 

Administering Organization

The Spencer Foundation does not award grants directly to individuals. Therefore, all proposals must be submitted by an administering organization. The administering organization must have a non-profit determination from the IRS (e.g., university, college, research organization, school district, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, non-governmental organization, etc.).

International Organizations

We are open to receiving proposals from organizations outside of the United States. If the organization does not have a U.S. IRS non-profit determination, it will be expected to have an Equivalency Determination certificate. This is not required to submit a proposal. However, if the proposal is chosen for funding, the Spencer Foundation will work with the organization to obtain this certification through NGOSource.

We recognize that different countries have different laws, legal codes, and policies that create specific parameters for accepting international funding. It is the responsibility of the grantee organization to navigate its local legal contexts to meet the Spencer Foundation’s requirements, which are aligned with the laws, legal codes, and policies required by our local and national governments.

Organizational Sign-Off  

The Spencer Foundation requires that submitted proposals be reviewed and signed by an authorized representative of the administering organization (typically a grants and contracts or finance administrator), accepting full responsibility for expenditure of the funds should the grant be awarded. Note: this requirement does not apply at the Intent to Apply stage, which is part of certain programs.

Dual Submissions

We often receive questions from people seeking funding from multiple sources. In general, PIs cannot receive funding from two Spencer research grant programs for the same work. 

PIs and Co-PIs may not submit more than one research proposal to the Spencer Foundation at a time. This restriction applies to the Small Grants, Large Grants, Racial Equity, and Research-Practice Partnership programs. If the PI or any of the Co-PIs currently have a research proposal under consideration in any of these programs, they are required to wait until a final decision has been made on the pending proposal before they can submit a new proposal.

NOTE on NAEd/Spencer fellowship programs and Spencer research grant programs:
If you submit applications to both the NAEd/Spencer fellowship program and a Spencer grant program with the same project idea, please email the Spencer administrative contact for the grant program to which you are applying and let them know that you are also applying to the NAEd/Spencer fellowship program.

Due to the timing of the decision timelines and processes, if you become a semifinalist:

  • For a NAEd/Spencer fellowship, you must choose to withdraw your proposal from either the fellowship or the Spencer grant competition.
  • For a Spencer grant, you must choose to withdraw your application from either the fellowship or the Spencer grant competition.
  • For both the NAEd/Spencer fellowship and a Spencer grant competition, you must choose to withdraw your application from either the fellowship or the Spencer grant competition.

If you are a NAEd/Spencer Fellow or Research Development Awardee:

  • You are eligible to be a PI or Co-PI for a research proposal submitted to a Spencer grant program, if the proposed project is significantly different from the project for which you were awarded a NAEd/Spencer fellowship.
  • NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Research Development Awardees are eligible to apply for and receive a Spencer grant award, as a PI or Co-PI, for the same project recognized by the NAEd/Spencer Research Development Award.
Indirect Costs

We do not allow indirect costs on grant awards of $75,000 or less. Research grant proposals with budgets of more than $75,000 may include indirect costs of 15% of the total direct costs.

Most institutional infrastructure costs should not be included when calculating the direct costs of project. Examples of non-allowable institutional infrastructure costs are: office rent, grants and contracts office expenses, institutional and departmental administrative expenses, institutional and departmental information technology expenses, and accounting and legal services.

The Spencer Foundation does not pay government-approved overhead rates on research grants. The Foundation does not pay indirect costs on non-research grants, such as fellowships or training grants, regardless of budget total. Administrative expenses for these projects may be built into the direct costs, with the exception of those related to institutional infrastructure.

Indirect Costs Calculations for Budgets with Subcontractor

In instances where the total research grant proposal budget is more than $75,000 and includes a subcontract budget(s), the lead organization and subcontractor[s]) can include ​​up to 15% indirect costs ​on their portion of the budget. ​The sum of the indirect cost charges should not exceed 15% of the total research grant proposal budget. See examples below:Indirect Costs


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