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How to Begin
Proposal development takes time, coaching, and practice. The more you write proposals, the better you get at it. Perserverance is a key to success. Rejection is part of the learning process. You learn from formulating and submitting proposals, getting feedback from reviewers and program officers, refining your idea, and submitting again. When fortune shines upon you, your proposal is funded and then you must face the prospect of implementing and managing a project.
When you have an idea for a research or instructional project, contact the Sponsored Programs Office. We will help you turn your idea into a fundable project proposal. Here's what happens during your initial consultations:
|1.||We will ask you to describe your project idea as well as any efforts you have made to secure funding in the past. Reviewing a one-page description or previous proposal text is very helpful.|
|2.||Next, we will ask you to outline what you hope to achieve with your project, who will be involved, and how much money is needed to accomplish your goals and objectives. Our goal will be to focus your project idea into tangible objectives, milestones, and other deliverables that will be of interest to a funder.|
|3.||After that, we will will look for funders and funding mechanisms that match the scale and nature of your project. For larger scale projects, federal and other governmental sources might be appropriate. For smaller projects, private foundations and corporations might be good sources.|
This process may take many meetings, so it's good to plan ahead before submitting a project proposal. It can take up to a year to write a complex proposal and the timeline from initial project idea to funded project can be three years or more. In proposal development, patience is a virtue!
Here are some links to websites that have helpful tips for getting started with the proposal development process:
National Endowment for the Humanities – How to Get a Grant from NEH: http://www.neh.gov/humanities/2008/julyaugust/feature/how-get-grant-neh
National Science Foundation – Guide for Proposal Writing: http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2004/nsf04016/nsf04016.pdf
National Institutes of Health – Grant Writing Tips Sheet: http://www.grants.nih.gov/grants/grant_tips.htm
Constructing a Proposal
Writing a proposal is as much a construction process as it is a creative writing effort. Most proposals require you to assemble a complex array of documents.
After consulting with Sponsored Programs, begin assembling your proposal elements. These elements include:
Face Page or Cover Letter – Provides basic information about you, your project, start and end dates, and amount requested. Typically, face pages are completed online and may already be populated with most of the needed information. Cover letters are written separately and may come from the Sponsored Programs Office itself.
Abstract or Summary – Outlines the research objectives, methodology, and significance. One page or less is allocated to this document. It typically is the public face of your proposal if your project is funded.
Statement of Work, Work Plan, or Project Description – Provides a detailed explanation of the problem you intend to address and why is it important. This detailed description of your project can be five to twenty pages or more long. Succinctness, clarity, and detail are critical in this document. Your audience is the people who will review and score your proposal. Your goal is for your proposal to get the best possible score it can achieve. Doing so gives program officers freedom to advocate your proposal for funding.
This document includes:
Objectives – What do you plan to achieve?
Approach – How do you plan to achieve your objectives?
Personnel – Who will do the work and why are they qualified to do so?
Evaluation – How will you know that you’ve achieved your objectives?
Sustainability – How will you sustain your efforts once these funds are exhausted.
Budget – Provides a reasonable estimate of costs required to conduct the project and a detailed justification of expenses.
How to Begin Developing Your Proposal
It's often useful to begin the proposal development process by writing a one-page abstract for your project. After that, it's good to start developing a budget and budget justification.
Many people advise writing your abstract last after you've figured out all the details of your proposed project. We consul people to write an abstract first. Although you'll need to revise your abstract many times during the proposal development process, writng it first helps you formulate your proposal idea. It also can serve as a calling card to recruit collaborators, evaluators, and potential funders.
It's also important to work on the project budget early in the process. Doing so helps you focus your project goals into achievable objectives. For the budget, you will typically need to specify the following project expenses:
|Personnel Salaries and Benefits||Sponsored Programs will help you estimate salaries for faculty, staff, administrators, and students, as well as relevant benefit rates and cost of living expenses.|
|Equipment and Supplies||Detailed costs of equipment and supplies to be purchased for a project should include purchase sources, taxes, shipping, and any licensing and maintenance expenses.|
|Contractors and Consultants||Many projects include people who are not employees of the university (e.g., web designers, editors, teachers). Sometimes, contractors may be businesses, governmental agencies, schools, non-governmental organizations, and other colleges and universities.|
|Subawards||Federal agencies frequently will require other institutions to be subawardees on a proposal. In such cases, the collaborating organization will submit its own budget and budget justification. Additionally, we will need to work with the other institution's Sponsored Programs Office to coordinate approvals and submission of the proposal. Such coordination can take time.|
|Travel and Subsistence||Proposed projects involving travel need to estimate detailed expenses for lodging, air transportation, ground transportation, personal mileage, and per diem.|
|Indirect Costs||Indirect costs are charged by the university to cover the costs of administering the project, as well as expenses related to providing office space and equipment for personnel working on the project. The university has a federally negotiated rate that is charged on personnel expenses. Other rates are used depending on guidelines provided by funders.|
Routing Process and Purpose
Proposals are submitted by Sponsored Programs on behalf of the university. Each proposal is routed through a Dean or the Provost, the Budget Office, and Vice President for Finance/Chief Financial Officer. The purpose of the process is to confirm that the university can meet all the obligations implied in the project proposal.
Sponsored programs must approve all proposal budgets to determine if expense categories (salaries and benefits, equipment and supplies, and contractors and consultants) are correctly calculated and indirect expenses applied.
A budget narrative must be approved that supports all project expenses with appropriate detail.
Course releases must be approved by an appropriate Dean.
Any project element that exposes the university to financial or liability concerns must be approved by the VP for Finance/CFO.
Human subjects approvals must be in place or planned, as well as clearances involving treatment of vertebrate animals and hazardous substances.
All in-kind donations and foregone indirect costs contributions must be approved by the Budget Office, Dean or Provost, and VP for Finance/CFO.
As noted elsewhere, the Sponsored Programs Office typically submits proposals on behalf of the university. Accordingly, while faculty and other proposal writers can initiate proposals with funders, ultimately it is the Sponsored Programs Office that submits proposals or provides the green light for submission.
Although the federal government has a single gateway site for submission of grants and contracts (Grants.gov), all submissions of federal proposals are unique and most have special documents and processes unique to an agency or subdivision of an agency. Many of the major research funding agencies also still maintain their own electronic submission sites and either give the institution the option or use aspects of both.
Almost all agencies either allow or require proposal writers to initiate the start-up process of a grant. However, all federal agencies require that the proposal can only be submitted by a responsible institutional officer – an Authorized Representative Official (ARO) or Signing Official (SO). For this reason, submission of proposals must be coordinated through the Office of Sponsored Programs.
The major federal electronic grant gateways are:
Grants.gov The centralized gateway for all federal grant submissions
NSF FastLane: The NSF’s grant submission and management gateway
NIH eRA Commons: The NIH interface where grant applicants, grantees and federal staff access and share administrative information relating to research grants.
NASA NSPIRES: The NASA Solicitation and Proposal Integrated Review and Evaluation System. Used for both proposal submission and administration.
Other Governmental Funders, Private Foundations, and Corporations
Most funders have some sort of online system for submitting proposals. Many allow proposal writers to develop and submit proposals on their own. Other systems require approval from one or more officials at the university. In all cases, proposals should not be submitted without approval from the Sponsored Programs Office.
Role of Principal Investigator
The University delegates responsibility for both the technical and financial management of externally supported projects to the Principal Investigator (PI) or Project Director (PD). PI/PD responsibilities include:
Ensuring compliance with all University and sponsor requirements pertaining to the sponsored project, including but not limited to:
Adherence to all University and sponsor procedures applicable to sponsored programs.
Timely submission of progress reports.
Effective and responsible use of sponsor’s funds in accordance with the award terms and conditions and University policies.
Ensuring that expenditures are reasonable, necessary, allowable under the terms and conditions of the award, properly allocated in proportion to the benefit received by the award or other funding sources, and limited to the funds awarded for the project,
Acquiring and maintaining training, approvals or licenses required to comply with all applicable federal and state laws and statutes, such as human or animal protections, environmental and personnel safety, or export controls.
Individuals who consistently fail to demonstrate adequate management of sponsored projects, including fulfilling the above responsibilities, may be subject to sanctions including the loss of privileges to apply for external support.
Role of Dean/Provost
The Deans and Provost are academic leaders with programmatic, managerial and fiscal responsibilities for all internally and externally funded projects and activities within their department, school, or University.
Review, Approval and Management of Proposals and Awards
The Dean and Provost review and approve Grant Routing Form for:
all activities within their department/school/University
academic and programmatic review
requests to reduce or waive indirect cost rates
requests to modify on-campus space
requests for the University to provide the matching funds
requests for the University to provide additional resources to support the project
approve all faculty buyout
Acceptance of Awards
The University of Redlands is the legal recipient of all external funding. All awards must be signed by an authorized representative.
The Principal Investigator (PI) in conjunction with the Office of Sponsored Programs and Grants Administration is responsible for reviewing all conditions of an award prior to acceptance by the University. Both parties are also responsible for ensuring that the sponsor’s requirements are compatible with the University's policies and procedures.
The Office of Sponsored Programs and Grants Administration has primary responsibility for resolving any disagreement between the sponsor and the University in regard to the terms and conditions of the award.
Acceptance of a sponsored project binds both the sponsor and the University to specific financial and programmatic commitments as outlined in the approval and acceptance of the final budget and award.
Faculty are expected to request from a sponsor the full cost of their time from a released course. If six courses are taught per academic year, then for one course release, a one-sixth amount of salary support must be requested. All course release must be pre-approved by the appropriate Dean.
Faculty overload is generally discouraged. Overload must be approved by the Dean and must be pre-approved if part of a proposal to be submitted.
All proposals are expected to request indirect costs at the University’s approved federal negotiated rate unless limited by the sponsor. All proposals with less than full indirect costs must be approved by the appropriate Dean prior to submission.
Conflict of Interest
Faculty will certify at the time of each proposal submission (via the Grant Routing Form) that no financial conflict of interest exists and will report any conflict of interest that arises in the course of a grant pursuant to University policy. In addition, NIH and NSF require that all individuals performing research and reporting results certify on an annual basis that no conflict of interest exists. The Office of Sponsor Programs and Grants Administration will provide forms to affected parties as necessary.
Cost Match/Cost Sharing
Though most federal sponsors no longer require cost match or sharing, many non-federal sponsors still do. Cost match or sharing is a legal obligation and requires proper documenting. The method of cost match or sharing must be discussed with the Office of Sponsored Programs and Grants Administration staff prior to budget and proposal finalization. All proposals with cost match or sharing must be pre-approved by the appropriate Dean.
Each sponsor and each award has specific reporting requirements. Sponsoring agencies routinely require final reports that may include financial statements, a final technical report, and a final inventory report. Specialized program reports are also typically required.
As PI, you are expected to submit all periodic technical reports (non-financial or cost-sharing) prior to the reporting date (for final reports, usually within 90 days of the project's termination date). Copies of these reports must be forwarded to the Office of Sponsored Programs and Grants Administration. Typically, sponsors will withhold final payments on grants and contracts until all final reporting requirements are met. If you fail to submit the required reports on a timely basis, you may jeopardize future funding from the sponsor for other members of the University community.
As an awarded PI, you will receive email messages regarding upcoming due dates for required technical reports from your sponsor.
The Office of Sponsored Programs and Grants Administration will also send reminders to faculty approximately one month prior to a report due date.
Time and Effort Reporting
All personnel receiving compensation from federal funds are required to certify their time and effort spent of a project. The Office of Sponsored Programs will provide reports for certification.
Equipment purchased on sponsored funding is owned by the University or sponsor and not by the individual. Computers and other equipment must be returned to University inventory at the completion of an award or project.
The University uses a cash basis of accounting. As such, vacation time is charged to a project at the time it is taken. When technical staff and others who accrue vacation end their University employment, accrued vacation time that must be paid out will be allocated proportionally to appropriate funds including sponsored funds.
University of Redlands
1200 East Colton Avenue
PO Box 3080
Redlands, CA 92373-3720
Authorized University Signatory:
Vice President for Finance / CFO
Dr. Steven Moore
University of Redlands
1200 East Colton Avenue
PO Box 3080
Redlands, CA 92373-3720
Type of Organization –
Private non-profit educational institution
Tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code; letter dated July 11, 1971
Dun & Bradstreet Number (DUNS):
Employee Identification Number (EIN):
Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) Code:
Human Subjects Federal-Wide Assurance Number:
Fringe Benefit Rate
Full Time Faculty: 26% of salary
Part Time Faculty: 15% of salary
Administrative Staff: 28% of salary
Staff/Administrative (Non-Exempt): 35% of wages
Students: 10% of wages
Indirect Cost Rate Agreement
Indirect Cost Rate: 51.4% (effective 7/1/19 - 6/30/2023)
Type: Salary and Wages
Cognizant Federal Agency: Health and Human Services
Agreement Date: May 24, 2018
A list of current and future opportunities is maintained on Sharepoint. Access the document by clicking this link. (University of Redlands credentials are required to access the document)
Dr. Steven Moore- Sponsored Programs Director, Federal Grants
Katie Millsom- Financial Reporting and Compliance, Budgets
Attention: Sponsored Programs
University of Redlands
1200 East Colton Avenue
P.O. Box 3080
Redlands, CA 92373-0999
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