Developing a Proposal

A detailed project budget and proposal narrative (and/or scope of work) are essential and required components of all sponsored project applications. Every external organization has different requirements in terms of a proposal’s content and format, whether you are preparing a Letter of Intent/Inquiry (LOI), pre-proposal, scope of work and budget, or full proposal to submit to an external organization.

Upon request and with adequate lead time, Office of Research Support (ORS) staff can provide informal feedback on proposal application materials prior to final internal routing and sign-off.

Budget Resources

In grantseeking, everyone at the university is required to follow federal regulations for developing a competitive, cogent, and compliant proposal budget. The budget can quickly illustrate for a program officer or panel reviewer the scope of work and what is really involved in the project, and helps answer the basic question: What is the requested funding specifically being used for?

Our template has pre-populated formulas to help you develop a budget that is feasible and realistic about project costs while being compliant with federal regulations. Grant budgets are a combination of key project personnel time (e.g., salary and fringe costs for the PI or co-PIs, RAs, post-docs on a project) calculated as a percentage of time over a specified grant period, other-than-personnel costs (e.g., estimated travel, event costs, equipment, consultants/vendor services, subrecipients, participant costs/stipends, tuition), and the university's facilities and administrative (indirect) costs.

Please access our Overview of Grant Budgeting Principles for a summary. 

Recommended Resources for Developing a Proposal Budget

The following materials are found in the Policies, Procedures, and Forms section of the website:

  • Follow the Budget Preparation for Restricted Grants instructions in completing the Grant Budget Template.

  • Always download the current Grant Budget Template from the website to your computer; this ensures all the pre-populated formulas meet current regulatory, funding agency, and university requirements.

  • Refer to the Proposal Fast Facts sheet for institutional information requested by sponsors.

  • Review the Common Budget Cost Categories and Justification for information about the level of detail needed in a proposal budget; this information is also required in order to establish a restricted fund if the proposal is awarded.

Please work with your school budget officer/staff in your Dean's Office to develop your proposal budget before providing a draft to Research Support. The Budget Template addresses items such as fringe rates, indirect costs/facilities and administrative (F&A), and other project costs. Research Support staff can address questions about policies and can assist with planning issues in coordination with the Dean's Office, prior to proposal routing and submission.

Please note that a final budget should be provided to ORS at least one month before the submission deadline; this time is needed for ORS to work with the PI/PD to ensure that the final budget meets the requirements of the grant program and the Uniform Requirements of 2 CFR 200prior to internal review, which often must start at least 12 business days prior to the submission deadline.

Project Narrative Resources

Please refer to the Policies, Procedures, and Forms section for additional information and for an outline of these common elements.

The list of resources below provides insights, tips, and advice for writing and developing competitive proposals.

PIs should also consider using the following resources when drafting a project narrative:

  • The Foundation Center has valuable resources, a public library, and publications that delve deeper into the topic of grantwriting.

  • Many federal research agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and National Institutes of Health (NIH), provide additional resource documents about grantwriting and framing a proposal to align with programmatic criteria and funding objectives.

  • Some major foundations and government agencies list on their program websites all recent grants awarded, by date, program, topic, amount, and geographic region, which can help PIs refine their focus or get a sense of the landscape of recently funded projects.

  • ORS occasionally offers information sessions and workshops throughout the year. Email ORS to inquire about the possibility of a grantwriting workshop. Our staff can also help to review and comment on drafts aligned with an RFP or program solicitation and can assist with providing resources and templates and editorial assistance, given sufficient lead time and staff availability.