The tutorial outlines policies and procedures that are in compliance with federal and state laws and UNC policies; and to clarify submission procedures for external sponsored program funds. The tutorial provides information and serves as a resource and as a guide to assist faculty and staff in developing fundable proposals. Policies and procedures and forms which are needed to meet all are necessary requirements to submit a proposal is available in this manual.
The Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) serves as the initial point of contact for all proposals and sponsored projects. Title III programs are handled through the Title III Office. Private corporate foundation/gifts are handled through the Office of Development for proposal other than research proposal.
All proposals must be submitted to the OSP no later than five (5) business days prior to the sponsor deadline. It is the responsibility of the OSP to obtain the signature(s) of the Provost (or her designee), and the Vice President of Business and Finance (if necessary) on all proposals and contracts.
OSP maintains a resource center, which is a library of resource materials on private, state and federal sponsors (numerous bulletins, newsletters, subscriptions, including the Grant Resource Center.
The Office of development will assist faculty and staff engaged in research studies with grants from foundations and governmental agencies (federal, state and local) with university data that is not research related.
Overview of Sponsored Programs Pre-Award
Sponsored programs are those projects and/or activities which are originated and conducted by members of the faculty. Such programs are supported wholly or in part by external restricted funds awarded to the University.
“Sponsored programs” refers to scholarly, professional, and creative activities that UNC personnel conduct with support from external funding instruments such as grants, contracts, cooperative agreements, or other agreements deemed appropriate by the UNC Board of Governors (Administrative Memorandum #408, dated November 17, 2000).
The Office of Sponsored Programs is a support structure and seeks to assist faculty members in a variety of ways - identifying funding sources; assisting with proposal/budget review and processing, and proposal submissions. In addition, the OSP alerts the administration on matters of regulatory compliance, internal sponsorship of scholarly activities and other related issues.
In general, sponsored activities should be directly related to the three-fold mission of the institution: research, teaching and service. Other support such as competitive or formula funds awarded to some other areas, but restrictive in nature, are also included.
Sponsored Program is research or programmatic activities funded by external sources. Sources may include the Federal Government, the State, or private foundations. Awards are made by a sponsor to the University; however, the proposal author is the Principal Investigator or Project Director.
Sponsored Programs differ from gifts and donations: Gifts are not used to fund sponsored programs which support a defined project. Gifts represent an unrestricted source of support for general University programs or activities with few restrictions. Generally, funds from private, non-government sources are administered as gifts when the funding source neither expects nor requires consideration in return for transfer of funds to the University.
Submission of grants and contracts for sponsored activities must be processed through the Office of Sponsored Programs to ensure that the proper guidelines have been followed and the proper university approvals have been obtained prior to submission of the proposal to a sponsoring agency.
The term “Principal Investigator” indicates the sole individual responsible for managing the sponsored program both project management and grant management. When this individual takes on the task of preparing a proposal for submission to an outside source, he or she agrees to manage the ensuing grant or contract in compliance with the terms conditions, and policies of both the sponsor and the University.
The principal investigator must be a member of the full-time faculty, professional, or senior staff, or be an administrative officer of the University. Depending on the nature of the proposal, individuals with other university appointments may serve as principal investigators. Naming an individual in the proposal who is not an employee of the University does not commit the institution to employing that individual.
Unless otherwise indicated in the proposal, principal investigators are expected to be in residence at the University during the period of project operation. Principal investigators seeking a leave of absence during this period must obtain written authorization from the sponsor through the Office of Sponsored Programs.
All sponsored projects that utilize campus facilities such as laboratories, classrooms, etc.; involve human subjects, animals, radioactive materials, toxic or hazardous substance; involve any other faculty, staff or graduate students as part of the project budget; or in any way affect the University, must comply with university regulations. All sponsored program requests must
be submitted through the OSP for university review and approval.
PI management responsibilities include:
- Complying with the sponsor regulations which govern performance of the program and special
terms and conditions of the award;
- Complying with applicable University policies and procedures during the conduct of the
sponsored research, including the WSSU policy on Responsible Conduct in Intellectual and
- Complying with fiscal agent (WSSU ) policies and regulations
- Overseeing the staffing and performance of the sponsored program;
- Approving expenditures as budgeted for personnel, goods, or services which directly benefit
the sponsored program;
- Ensuring timely submission of invention reports to Technology Transfer and Licensing.
- Reporting inventions to WSSU’s office of Sponsored Programs prior to any public disclosure.
- Complying with Close-out policies and procedures of the project.
The identification of potential funding sources for a research, training, or technical assistance project is the first step in designing a funding strategy. The OSP provides a number of valuable services to faculty at this stage of securing outside support.
Faculty may complete the Funding Opportunity Request Form which is located on the OSP Websites. Searches for various programs can also be executed through grants.gov or the sponsoring agency’s portal directly. The OSP staff will forward opportunities to the appropriate faculty/staff via university email.
After computer search, faculty will be prepared to choose one or more sponsors from whom they may wish to request financial support. Program descriptions, guidelines, and applications are available on-line through federal and state agency websites or through Grants.gov. Call or email the OSP staff for any assistance you may need.
Special Types of Funding
Government Fellowships: Some graduate fellowship programs sponsored by government agencies (such as the Fulbright-Hays and Patricia Roberts Harris Fellowship through the U.S. Department of Education) require submission through the University. Students cannot be principal investigators, even if the fellowship is intended for them.
Funding Opportunity Request Form
Individuals interested in conducting sponsored research, training, or technical assistance projects are advised to visit OSP to discuss their interest. A Funding Opportunity Request Form should be completed and returned to the OSP. This questionnaire will provide information about interest and/or expertise in sponsored projects. The form will provide an opportunity to inform OSP that faculty members have a specific sponsor or approach in mind. The OSP can then provide information on funding opportunities in their areas of interest as these opportunities arise. The Funding Opportunity Request Form may be forwarded to the Grant Resource Center in Washington DC to further the search. The center is a resource of support for the OSP and faculty members to help support the faculty members effort in the pursuit of proposal funding.
A. Solicitations are usually government - generated "Requests for Proposal", (RFP) "Request for Application" (RFA) or "Requests for Quotation" (RFQ) on a specific research, training, or technical assistance project. In such cases, the intended scope of work is pre-determined by the soliciting agency, and specific requirements for the format and content of both technical and cost proposals are presented in the published requests. The successful solicited proposal may result in either a contract, grant or a cooperative agreement. Government RFPs and RFAs are widely advertised in sources such as the Federal Register, Commerce Business Daily, and Grants.gov.
A proposal is a request for external or internal support of a research, training, or technical assistance project. A proposal to a funding agency for sponsored research may either be solicited or unsolicited. The information provided in this section will give you a general perspective and difference of proposal types and advise on how to interact with the agencies prior to the submission of a proposal.
Unsolicited proposals may be initiated by individuals at any time. Many funding entities have general requirements for the format of unsolicited proposals. The OSP staff can assist with finding and reviewing the guidelines or other indications of sponsor requirements.
It is wise to contact a program officer within a government or private funding agency to discuss a project idea before actually submitting a formal proposal. Most program offices welcome advanced contact to research areas of interest at their organizations. However, in no case, should a private foundation or corporate funder be contacted for donations without prior approval from the Office of Development.
Agency contacts are made through
- a telephone inquiry or agency visit;
- a letter of inquiry;
- a letter of intent; or
- a preliminary proposal.
- Letter of Inquiry
A letter of inquiry is a general presentation of a project idea designed to elicit feedback from a potential sponsor. As with telephone inquiries or agency visits, commitments cannot be made. A formal routing or review of a letter of inquiry may be required by Department Chairs or University Deans. Individuals are encouraged to forward a copy of such correspondence to notify the OSP of any pending proposal development resulting from such inquiries.
Individuals are encouraged to make telephone inquiries or visit a potential sponsor or on their own but may request assistance from the OSP staff. In some cases, the OSP staff may make the initial agency contact on behalf of the faculty or staff member. Throughout the course of such calls or visits, there cannot be any commitments of university resources or cash/in-kind matching.
Letter of Intent
A letter of intent expresses the intention to submit a proposal in response to a particular program announcement or Request for Proposal (RFP/RFA). Letters of intent are generally solicited by the sponsor in conjunction with announcements expected to generate widespread interest. Agencies generally require that such letters present only a general statement of the intended research theme. A copy of the letter of intent should be filed with the OSP. If the letter of intent contains budget estimates or ranges, it should be reviewed and processed through OSP as a mini proposal with proper approvals.
Preliminary proposals, like letters of intent, are generally solicited by sponsor agencies. A pre-proposal usually includes a one to five-page description of the project. It may also require an outline budget and some indication of the University's willingness to support the project through a commitment of resources. Any document that mentions budget figures or commits university space and other resources are to be processed through OSP as a mini proposal with proper approvals (Chairpersons, appropriate Deans, and the Provost). The appropriate staff in the Office of Sponsored Programs must review and sign the proposal.
- What is the need or problem to be addressed?
- How have you determined that there is a need or problem?
- What have others done about the need or problem? How have these efforts succeeded or
failed? What will you do that is different?
- What do you expect to achieve in relation to the need (goal)?
- What will you do to address the problem? Can these efforts be grouped together as
common activities that are measurable (objectives)?
- Specifically, what do you plan to do?
- How will you know you are doing it right?
- How much will each activity cost?
- Who will manage the project (PI/PD)?
- What are the qualifications/experiences of this person?
- What will receiving this funding enable you to achieve or do better?
- Which office provides assistance on statistics and other support data about the University?
Proposed General Format
Normally, most agencies provide a cover page. The cover page includes general information about the universities, the project director and the project. Grants.gov and the National Science foundation (NSF) Fastlane has a standard cover page and requirements for each respective electronic module. Please refer to the Grants.gov application guideline instruction and the NSF Fastlane grant proposal guide (GPG) for detail instructions. Other agencies will give you instruction on requirements for the cover page. Example of information provided on the cover page includes but not limited to the following:
- The title of the proposed research;
- The name and address of the sponsor to whom the proposal is submitted;
- Name and title of the principal investigator;
- The name and address of Delaware State University; (identify OSP as the office to which
all correspondence should be sent: Winston-Salem State University, Office of
Sponsored Programs, 601 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Winston-Salem NC 27110;
- The university department where the work will be conducted;
- The proposed period of performance;
- Total requested support (in multi-year projects, include the totals for each year for the
- Signatures of authorizing officials: The signature of the PI, his/her chair, dean and the
President of the University (or designee) are required on each proposal. NOTE:
University information can be found on the "Institutional Fact Sheet" on the forms page of
A table of proposal contents should be included immediately following the abstract page. A list of illustrations or tables should also be prepared, if appropriate. Since the abstract precedes the table of contents, the abstract is not listed in the table of contents.
The table of contents should list major sections of the proposal and give the specific page location where each section begins in the narrative. It need not include all subheadings but should be detailed enough to allow reviewers to find the section or sections they are interested in, without having to search through the entire proposal.
While an abstract is not required by all sponsors, it is a highly effective means of presenting a project to a reviewer or review board. The abstract should highlight the scope of the proposed research, including its objectives and the intended methodology, the anticipated results, a statement of potential significance, and the time span of the project. If no requirements are listed in the announcement, abstracts should be approximately 200-250 words and not exceed one typed, double space page. The abstract is the last section to be written.
The abstract should stand alone as a complete description of the proposed project. Do not refer to figures, tables, or literature appearing in any other part of the proposal.
Introduction/Statement of Need
While usually brief, the proposal introduction or statement of need is one of the most important parts of the grant application. The introduction should engage the reviewer's attention, encouraging a full reading of the proposal. Statistically, proposals that are read through at one sitting have a higher rate of success. Here are some general guidelines for the preparation of the proposal introduction.
- tailor the introduction to the specific guidelines or funding criteria of the sponsor;
- state the problem, but emphasize why you and/or the University should be funded to address
- mention your previous accomplishments in the area of research proposed;
- describe your ability to carry out the proposed project;
- construct the final paragraph of the introduction to lead into the next section of the proposal.
Description of Proposed Research
The description is a detailed extension of the proposal abstract. Indicate how the research will relate to and reflect the current state of the art. Explain project goals and methodology carefully. To the extent possible, describe in detail a research plan for six to twelve months.
The objectives must be articulated clearly. Objectives should state the intended outcomes of the project. These may be presented as specific and measurable expectations.
Objectives and Procedures
The objectives and the procedures are two of the most important sections. The principal investigator should go into as much technical detail as she/he feels is necessary to explain what she/he intends to do and how she/he will carry the project through. An objective should match every need stated in the introduction, and a procedure should describe how every objective will be accomplished.
The procedures section provides details of how the principal investigator will carry out the project. Procedures may be organized by activities tied to specific procedures; by functional categories such as planning; development; and implementation; or by major time blocks.
If the principal investigator intends to have participants in the project, she/he must briefly describe the skills/expertise of the person(s) to be chosen and explain their responsibilities to the project. One should also include an explanation of how the project will be administered and define the responsibilities of any advisory groups or organizations with which she/he plans to work. A proposal can be greatly strengthened if letters of agreement or letters of support from cooperating organizations or consultants are included in the appendix.
If needed, a time frame may be included as part of the procedures section or may be written up separately. Be sure to leave time at the end of the project for preparation of the final report for the agency. The writer of the proposal should be realistic about how much she/he can accomplish in the period of time set aside for each part of the project. A Gantt chart will be helpful. The persons reviewing the proposal will easily recognize an overly optimistic timetable. Please bear in mind that the agency limits the number of narrative pages. All materials necessary for review should be included in the body of the proposal. Only supplementary materials should be placed in an appendix.
Proposals must include a budget, a detailed breakdown of the financial support requested from the sponsoring agency and a budget narrative, a written narrative explanation of each of the components of the budget, which "justifies" the cost in terms of the proposed work. The explanations should focus on how each budget item is required to achieve the statement of need of the project and how the estimated costs in the budget were calculated. When a detailed budget is submitted, all items in the budget should be justified.
The OSP may be consulted for guidance in developing these estimates. While a proposed budget should provide adequate funds for producing high quality research, it should not request excess funds. Most sponsoring agencies will have established a generally acceptable list of budget items. If the agency has a budget format with specific line items, it must be followed as specified.
Note: Budgets that are to be prepared for other agencies may differ; however, essential line items are about the same for all agencies.
To assist you with the development of your proposal budget examples of basic budget categories and their related general requirements are provided.
This category is for all other project costs not captured in prior categories. Itemize the expenses, explain why they are needed to conduct the project, and explain how the costs were calculated.
Typically other project cost includes items such as:
- Printing and publishing
- Photocopying Publication costs, such as per
page charges and reprints
- Meeting expenses
- Space (leases or rental of off-campus space)
- Animal purchase and care costs
- Publication costs
- Equipment maintenance expenses
- Fees-for-service, such as commercial lab tests
- Communication and printing costs
- Project-owned vehicle expenses
- Costs of conducting a seminar series or symposium, such as facility use fees
- Rent for use of off-campus space
Indirect costs are expenses incurred by the University for its facilities and administrative services. Indirect costs are not profit, but are real costs to the University to support sponsored activities. As of September 7, 2011 the University’s indirect costs will be calculated on “Direct Salaries and Wages excluding Fringe Benefits” at a rate of 43.7% for “on-campus” programs and 19.3% for “off-campus” programs.
The budget justification may include a statement about the F&A cost rate (also referred to as indirect costs or overhead) that has been applied to the budget.
For proposals to federal agencies, state that the F&A costs included in the budget are based on WSSU’s negotiated F&A cost rate agreement, and provide the effective date of the agreement.
If the sponsor is a non-profit organization it is likely that the sponsor will specify the indirect cost rate that is allowed. In those cases, no justification of the rate is needed.
Matching Funds and Cost Sharing
Some grant programs require institutions to support part of the costs of performing the project. The terms used for this institutional support are "matching funds" (cash contributions) or "cost sharing" (cash or in-kind contributions. Cost sharing must have the approval of the Chair, Dean and Provost since their budgets bear such direct costs. Each school has the authority to commit resources for sponsored projects. Proposals that include cost share must have WSSU’s Matching Cost Share Form from the funding source (department, college or outside organization).
Since cost-sharing is examined and audited by the sponsored organizations, the budget proposal must specify the exact amount of contribution anticipated. Instead, the budget proposal should include the dollar value of all such services to ensure that the project receives full credit. Best practices show that a separate budget detail and justification for the cost share is more favorable during the review process. Contact the OSP for assistance with cost-sharing.
Cost sharing should not be promised routinely. It should only be offered when a sponsor requires it. WSSU policy requires approval for all cost sharing. Voluntary cost sharing is typically not approved.
Most sponsoring agencies have specific format guidelines for preparing proposals, including the required forms, character size and type, header/footer formatting, biographical data, page numbering format and budget. You should always follow the agency guidelines and requirements in completing you proposal section. This information is provided to assist you in developing the different sections of the proposal with general examples of content for the most likely sections of a proposal. In the absence of such guidelines, the following format may be useful.