Project Conceptualization: Before developing a concept, it may be helpful to assess your capability as a potential awardee on a project. Determining you have the necessary resources, skills, and staff to perform the work you would like to propose may alter the concept you develop. Also, you may find it helpful to consult colleagues, review the literature, develop a clear-cut statement of the need for your project, and write a short description of your project to help identify appropriate funding sources. The Grant Writing Laboratory (GWL) can assist with project conceptualization.
Identification of Funding Sources: There are many sources for external funds, including federal, state, and local government agencies, and private foundations and corporations. All of these sponsors have various funding priorities and submission requirements, which are spelled out via agency-specific Requests for Proposals, Program Announcements, Grant Application Guidelines, Fellowship Opportunities, and Small Grant Applications, for example. Determining the most appropriate funding source takes careful research and preparation. The Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) can assist in researching funding opportunities, communicating with the funding agencies, and with obtaining and interpreting guidelines and applications.
Proposal Preparation: After a funding opportunity has been selected, the principal investigator/project director is responsible for preparing the proposal, with assistance available from the GWL and the OSP. The OSP and GWL can provide information on various aspects of proposal preparation (i.e., outlining the proposal format; obtaining current University-wide boilerplate information; proposal editing; identifying sponsor and University requirements; developing the project budget and justification; and completing forms and required assurances). The extent to which these offices can assist is contingent upon the lead time provided by the principal investigator/project director.
Early in the proposal development process, it is critical to discuss your project with your dean or director, as appropriate, to enlist their approval and support for the project. Release time, space, cost sharing, and other center or institutional issues should be clarified early in the proposal development process in order to avoid delays in proposal submission. Informing appropriate parties early in the process allows any institutional issues to be addressed in a timely fashion and successful proposal submission. The Preliminary Grant Development Guide form may be used for this purpose.
Each funding agency has its own set of guidelines for the proposal narrative section. However, there are certain general characteristics that apply to most proposals submitted for external funding:
- State clearly the need for, and the objectives of, the project.
- Match the stated priorities of the funding agency as closely as possible.
- Make clear the ways in which your project is innovative, necessary, timely, and significant.
- Clearly describe your project, including timeliness charts, and graphs as appropriate.
- Collaborate with other individuals, agencies, or organizations whenever possible.
- Carefully follow any instructions from the funding agency, including page limitations, deadlines, and review criteria.
- Include, if requested, a current, clean copy of your curriculum vitae, and biographical sketches of other key personnel.
- Determine if you will need approval for projects involving human subjects, animal subjects, copyrights, etc., in consultation with the OSP, well before the agency deadline.
It is sometimes helpful to have others (a colleague, the GWL, and/or the OSP) review your draft proposal before a final version is prepared. This helps to ensure clarity and completeness.
Proposal Budget: A proposal budget and line item justification are prepared in conjunction with the proposal narrative. Many agencies have specific budget restrictions and guidelines, as well as forms to be used with proposal submission. The OSP can assist with developing your budget and can provide information regarding personnel, fringe benefits, use of consultants, equipment, and facilities and administrative (indirect) costs. Please contact your OSP Grant Officer early in the proposal development stage for help in preparing a proposal budget. Also, please see the NSU Forms tab above for a link to a budget template.
Proposal Review and Submission: Completed proposal documents and completed/signed internal forms, including the Proposal Approval Record, should be forwarded to your OSP Grant Officer for final pre-submission review and signatures. If electronic submission is required, the OSP will submit the proposal. By signing the Proposal Approval Record, the OSP indicates the University's official approval. Every effort should be made to have necessary proposal documents, with appropriate forms and approvals, to the OSP at least five days prior to the funding agency deadline to allow time for sufficient review and troubleshooting, when necessary, to ensure a successful submission, especially where proposals must be transmitted electronically and technology issues may arise.
Planning and Preparation Time: The time from proposal preparation and submission to award can be as long as six to nine months. Generally, the process will take longer than expected. If you plan to use the resources of the GWL or OSP, please contact their offices early in the process of proposal development.