External Grants and Contracts: Developing a Proposal
DEVELOPING A GRANT PROPOSAL
Developing a grant proposal can be a time consuming process. To assist the principal investigator during this time, the Office of Sponsored Programs has developed several resources to aid with grant development and writing. To make sure there is sufficient time to receive all the necessary approvals for grant submission, please review the Proposal Development Timeline.
THE LETTER OF INQUIRY
Begin the process by researching a funding agency's website to understand their funding agenda and grants recently awarded. Feel free to call the funding agency to inquire about their current funding priorities and award ranges. Briefly explain your project/research/program and ask if it is a good fit or if they have any further suggestions. If you are encouraged to apply, ask if you should submit a proposal or a letter of inquiry. When applicable, a letter of inquiry is an effective way to approach most foundations for potential funding. It is similar in format to a proposal but shorter in length and gives a glimpse of the project.
THE LETTER APPLICATION
The letter application format should be used when applying to small foundations and corporations who do not have an established format for a grant application. It combines the proposal and cover letter into one document and contains the narrative, budget, mission, history, philosophy, and supporting documentation.
CONTACTING A PROGRAM OFFICER
Prior to submitting a written proposal, contacting a program officer helps determine if the research project is a good fit with the program's goals and objectives, uses the right approach in project design, identifies the most important components of the proposal and desired institutional support, addresses a current “hot” topic to increase the chance of being funded, or other recommendations to strengthen the proposal. The chance of being awarded increases if your proposal fits well with the research endeavors the program manager is charged to fund. Refer to the Contacting a Program Officer brochure for more information.
Many sources are available to assist in grant writing and proposal development. Check out Developing and Writing Grant Proposals sponsored by the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA). Grants.gov, the main portal for federal grant submissions, also provides guidance on how to write a federal grant proposal, which is also applicable to other types of funding sources. To assist in searching and preparing grant opportunities, it is helpful to familiarize yourself with the associated language and definitions. More ideas are also available in the 12-Step Program for funding your best ideas. When developing the proposal narrative, take into consider the top reasons proposals are rejected.
Viewing grant applications which have been funded can help you prepare a better proposal narrative. Please access sample grant applications through D2L by selecting the Grant Information module under Semesterless. For additional information on successfully funded grant proposals submitted by St. Cloud State University, contact the Office of Sponsored Programs.
There are many aspects to consider when developing the grant budget. Click here for detailed information on salaries/wages, fringe benefits, travel, equipment, supplies, contractual, subcontracts/subawards, other direct costs and participant support costs. You may use the Budget Spreadsheet to enter in specific costs and have the spreadsheet perform the calculations for you!
There may be times when the funding agency is requesting cost sharing either in the form of hard- and/or soft-cash match. Any matches should be documented in the budget narrative and the grant budget in a column labeled match, if space is provided.
Indirect costs are a necessary part of budget development and all externally funded projects must include these costs (sometimes called facilities and administration costs). It is the responsibility of the principal investigator to include indirect costs in the budget. Click here for additional information related to indirect costs. For federally funded projects, the federally negotiated rate should be used. When using the federal rate, costs are calculated using modified total direct costs as noted in the Federal Rate Agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services. All other projects use the standard indirect cost rate.
- 33.2% - Federally Negotiated Rate for On-Campus Activities
- 15% - Federally Negotiated Rate for Off-Campus Activities (use of non-SCSU facilities for which rent is paid by the project)
- 12% - Standard Rate for All Non-federal Sources
FREQUENTLY USED DATA
Most grant applications request frequently used data such as various identification numbers, governmental districts, fringe benefit rates and authorized officials. The Office of Sponsored Programs maintains this information on the website for your convenience.