OSP does not write proposals, but can meet with faculty and staff to edit and brainstorm on proposal narratives. Generally speaking, sponsors are interested in the thoughts and credentials of the individual applying for funding. The proposal is the best way to outline your ideas and abilities in a particular area.
OSP staff can meet with university faculty and staff to discuss opportunities and strategies in external funding. In addition, OSP can provide institutional information that is frequently requested by sponsors. This information can include: general university capability statements, lists of past awards and examples of similar projects. OSP also completes all the business forms necessary for a proposal submission and assists with sponsor requests for university financial information including: financial statements, the tax exempt letter, and the AU annual report.
You should notify OSP of any planned proposal as soon as possible. Please provide a link to or copy of the guidelines and the due date. This early notification will provide time to read the guidelines and assist with the development of a comprehensive budget. It will also provide time for the internal approval process at the university.
Assuming a reasonable length of time between proposal development and submission, you can expect that your grant and contract manager will:
- Review the guidelines and make you aware of any special or unusual requirements
- Put forward any internal pre-approval necessary
- Complete all business forms and provide general university information
- Coordinate and work with you to verify any unusual requirements or institutional commitments, like space or cost-share
- Assist with budget development
- Route the completed proposal package through the university
- Submit the proposal to the sponsor
- Check on the status of the proposal both internally (with you) and externally (upon request)
- Maintain the complete proposal file until the proposal is either accepted or declined
Proposal writing workshops are offered during the academic year. Please check our website for the next session. In addition, there are several excellent web sites that provide tutorials and general information on proposal writing. These include:
- New Investigator Guide to NIH Funding
- Common Mistakes in NIH Applications
- NSF: A Guide for Proposal Writing
- Social Science Research Council: The Art of Writing Proposals
- The Foundation Center: Proposal Writing Short Course
- American Council of Learned Societies: Writing Proposals for ACLS Fellowship Competitions
It is sometimes possible with federal programs to make an appointment to see copies of previously funded proposals for a particular program. Your OSP staff member can help you ascertain whether this service is offered and can make the appointment for you. It may also be useful to have a colleague review your proposal and offer a critique.
The terms and conditions of a federal project are governed by the rules and regulations of the federal government. Programs are generally announced and have legal due dates. Proposals or letters of inquiry to Foundations are governed by the terms listed in the Foundation information. Your OSP staff member can help you with the review of the guidelines for either type of organization to determine specific requirements.
A letter of inquiry is a short (usually 1-3 pages) proposal to determine whether your idea for funding intersects with the interests of a particular organization. You are strongly encouraged to discuss letters of inquiry with your Dean's office, or to ask for help from OSP with budgeting. Many organizations provide a letter of inquiry template which must be followed. If there is no template, a letter of inquiry generally includes:
- Summary of the request for funding (including the amount)
- Statement of need for the project or research
- General overview of the activities associated with the project
- Specific outcomes
- Credentials that highlight your ability to carry out the project
Sponsor guidelines should be reviewed to determine if the sponsor requires specific information in the letter of inquiry. For reference, links to sample letters of inquiry can be viewed here:
If the sponsor has no guidelines about the structure of a proposal, do you have a sample outline I can use?
Always check the guidelines for sponsor-specific proposal content and format requirements. A generic checklist below is provided for cases in which such guidelines do not exist.
To ensure the quality of the technical proposal, Principal Investigators should prepare answers to the following:
- What title or project name will reflect the essence of the proposed research?
- What is the research problem or need for this activity? Have you reviewed current literature to determine the need for such a project or conducted a needs assessment?
- What do you hope to accomplish specifically as a result of this project?
- How will you accomplish the project goal? Why is your approach particularly suited to the problem? Discuss the activity concept, project structure, and/or formal methodology.
- How will you prove your results? An evaluation plan, complete with measures of efficiency, effectiveness, or outcomes as appropriate to the project design and methodology should be described.
- What special compliance issues and risks are associated with the project?
- Where will the project be conducted? Have space needs been evaluated?
- When will work on the project begin? When will it conclude?
- What are the qualifications for serving as the Principal Investigator on this particular project? Identify other skills and qualifications necessary to the activity and where/how you will provide that expertise.
- How much will it cost for you to perform this work? (This question can be fully answered only after the cost has been prepared with the assistance of the OSP staff. Effective technical proposals, however, should indicate bottom-line costs, along with the levels of effort to be invested by the Principal Investigator and other key project personnel.)
What does it mean if my Grant and Contract manager tells me he/she has to "coordinate with development" before I can apply to a foundation?
The university is a large organization and has many on-going initiatives to seek external funding. Submissions to private foundation are coordinated with the Office of Development so that the university is aware of all requests going into a particular foundation at a given time. Some private foundations also restrict the number of inquiries that can be submitted by the same organization.
My proposal application requires proof of 501(c)(3) status, the audited financial statement, the EIN number or other kinds of information. Where can I get these?
Request for this type of information is very common in grant applications. Your OSP staff member will be able to provide all this information as part of our service.
A Request for Proposal is also known as an RFP. An RFP can be issued by either a private or government organization. Typically, the RFP provides specific information about a program or line of research that the sponsor wishes to fund. The RFP also provides information about budget parameters, mandatory forms, additional information required, any restrictions, the legal due date, and submission format. Your OSP staff member can review the RFP with you to ensure that the administrative requirements are met.
An IPA is an Intergovernmental Personnel Assignment. It allows an AU employee to work at a federal site and have their salary and benefits be provided by the agency, but paid through the university. The agency will require a proposal and budget to execute this type of agreement. The proposal should be budgeted and routed through OSP before agreeing with the agency on firm figures. IPAs do not incur indirect costs. Some academic units consider any type of assignment to another organization an IPA and request that it be budgeted and routed through OSP. Consult your Dean's office for the process if the IPA is for an organization other than a federal agency.
The costs of my project are primarily for tuition because I am presenting a course or a program. How do I get the costs and university approval for that?
If the program is for a specific group of individuals and any part of the tuition is paid by the sponsor for the cohort, contact your OSP staff member.This is considered an Instructional Revenue Center (IRC) which is a program contracted by and outside agency to offer credit or noncredit training that is closely related to the academic mission of the sponsoring teaching unit, and is designed primarily for an audience external to the existing student population. The Office of Sponsored Programs will assist with the proposal and coordinate with the Dean's office as outlined on page five of the Budget Office's IRC Manual (PDF). The pricing of these programs is a joint effort between your Dean's office and the Budget Office. For further information on the guidelines for these programs, please see the IRC Guidelines on the Budget Office's website.