Research and Sponsored Programs

Competitive Grants

The development and submission of a competitive proposal involves many steps. The following information provides an overview of recommended strategies and practices and make you aware of the requirements of submitting a proposal at St. Cloud State University. 

While the information is presented in a series of consecutive steps, depending on your timeframe, it may be necessary to execute some of steps concurrently.

The earlier you engage the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (RSP), the more help we can provide throughout the development process.

Proposal development timeline

3 Months to 1 Month Prior to Submission Deadline
1 Month to 2 Weeks Prior to Deadline
2 Weeks Prior to Deadline
Submission Week

Contact the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs

Finalize proposal narrative and budget with pre-award support staff

Obtain University approvals to submit, coordinate submission timeline and requirements

Research and Sponsored Programs submits your proposal

Roles and responsibilities of proposal development

Principal Investigator (PI) is the individual(s) leading the proposed project/program, and are responsible for the preparation, execution, and administration of a grant/contract in compliance with applicable laws and regulations and institutional policy governing the conduct of sponsored research.

  • Originates the idea for research or project.
  • Studies sponsor guidelines and submission instructions.
  • Understands institutional policies and procedures as they relate to sponsored projects.
  • Develops the implementation plan for the research or project, including personnel needed for project and corresponding effort requirements.
  • Authors the proposal components required by the funding opportunity based on the implementation plan.
  • Develops the project/program budget in collaboration with Dean/VP/supervisors and RSP.
  • Discloses potential conflict of interest to Dean/VP/Supervisor.
  • Discusses participation expectations with other stakeholders/departments.
  • Requests approval from Department/Dean/VP/Supervisor for resources required for the implementation/execution of a project (i.e. equipment, space and support). If resources are not available, that support must be requested in the proposal.
  • Completes the Proposal Approval Form and routes proposal for internal review and approvals, allowing for a minimum of four business days for RSP to review and obtain final approvals

Principal Investigator’s Dean/VP/Supervisors

  • Assesses the alignment of the proposal with the University’s mission and vision.
  • Reviews and approves the proposal budget.
  • Reviews and approves any cost sharing/matching commitments, and approves the source of the cost share/matching assuring necessary commitments will be in place prior to the award.
  • Reviews any potential conflict of interest and must manage, eliminate or minimize any conflicts as required by Minnesota State Statue.

Research and Sponsored Programs

  • Assists in identifying funding opportunities for both general University information and specific areas of interest to research faculty.
  • Assists with proposal and budget development.
  • Advises PIs and University staff regarding federal, state, local government and other funding agencies' rules, regulations and procedures.
  • Reviews proposals prior to submission (including revisions, supplements and continuations) for accuracy, correctness and legal sufficiency considering agency requirements and University policies.
  • Communicates with PI(s) about any revisions that may strengthen the proposal.
  • Reviews the Proposal Approval Form and coordinates final University approvals.
  • Coordinates submission plan.
  • Submits proposals that are authorized by delegated representatives of the University.

Step 1 - Evaluate your idea or project

Obtain feedback and insights from others will assist you in developing a competitive proposal.

Discuss your idea with other stakeholders

  • Discuss with your department, department chair/director and dean/vice president/supervisor* to amplify the idea and determine key concepts.
  • Request feedback from colleagues and peers.
  • Schedule a meeting with your contact at Research and Sponsored Programs to discuss idea/funding opportunities.

*Prior to the submission of any proposals, the internal approval process must be completed (refer to Step 6).

Consider type of funding needed to support your idea or project

  • Service Contracts are based upon a scope of work to provide expertise for a list of mutually agreed upon deliverables within a given timeline.
  • Grants are competitive in nature and are non-repayable funds awarded by a funding agency often a government department, corporation, foundation or trust, to a recipient (in this case, an educational institution, team, department or Principle Investigator).
  • Research Grants fund research investigations made by individuals, universities, and other groups to build knowledge generation to a given field.
  • Service Grants provide support for students and/or the community in areas of education, health, human services and the arts. Capital Grants provide funding for acquiring or development of capital assets.

Step 2 - Identify potential funding sources

If you have an idea for a research project or program, please reach out to the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (RSP) to help find the best fitting grant and funding opportunities. 

Likewise, it is common for RSP to watch for opportunities that fit the University’s mission and vision as well as each department’s mission and vision. Staff and faculty may occasionally receive correspondence on grant opportunities that meet these criteria through email communication.

Find external funding opportunities

St. Cloud State offers many resources to aid in the search for external funding opportunities.


GrantForward constantly updates their database of sponsors and funding opportunities, allowing thousands of grant opportunities to be gathered from over 9,000 US sponsors. Please sign up for a researcher profile and GrantForward will send you grant recommendations related to your field and research interests.

MN Grants

MN Grants provides a single entry point to Minnesota grant opportunities. Grant seekers can search for grant opportunities by state agency or by subject area through following the appropriate link.

Find internal funding opportunities

Internal grants are available to support St. Cloud State University faculty and staff scholars.

Step 3 - Analyze the funding opportunity you are considering

Proposal development is time-consuming, therefore, it is critical to verify that your idea/project aligns with the intention of the funding opportunity you are considering.

Understand the request/call for proposals

  • Familiarize yourself with the program requirements and sponsor priorities
  • Thoroughly read the proposal guidelines, application instructions, agency guidance, budgetary limitations, required attachments, formatting expectations and/or other key informational resources.
  • Note any elements such as required cost-share/match, IRB requirements, limitations on the use of funds, PI or participant eligibility restrictions, etc.
  • Seek clarifications or additional information regarding any points of uncertainty.
  • Verify the submission deadline date and time (including time zone)

Understand your qualifications

Funding agencies consider the credibility and competence of the requester as they evaluate a proposal. The following are key components considered:

  • Publication record in top journals,
  • Demonstrated success in previous competitive grants,
  • Institutional endorsement, and
  • Proven collaborative experiences

Review and update your CV/Biographical Sketch in accordance with funding agency’s formatting requirements.

Consider contacting the program officer

  • To introduce yourself and provide an overview of your proposed plan, clarify any points of uncertainty, and glean any feedback or insights that the program officer can offer.
  • Email is a recommended method to initially contact with program officers. Thinking about how your project aligns with the program’s objectives, provide a concise (1-2 paragraph) overview of your project and request a brief phone conversation to discuss future.
The chance of being funded increases if your proposal fits well with funding agency’s program and priorities.

Step 4 - Schedule a meeting with your contact in Research and Sponsored Programs

Individual(s) planning to submit a proposal on behalf of the University are known as Principal Investigator(s) [PIs] and are responsible for the preparation, conduct, and administration of a sponsored project.

Meeting discussion

At this meeting, the PI(s) will discuss the following aspects with their RSP Contact:

  • the requirements of the funding opportunity,
  • steps in developing your proposal,
  • budgetary needs of the proposal (using the budget template, please bring a preliminary budget to the meeting)  
  • facilitating the internal approval process (see Step 6), and
  • outlining plan for the submission prior to the deadline


Step 5 - Plan and develop your proposal

In the proposal development process, as the subject matter expert, the PI(s) author the proposal.

Engage additional stakeholders

  • Build your proposal development team, enlisting additional faculty and staff members as needed.
  • Contact external partners or stakeholders, if necessary based on the nature of your proposal. Identify and make a plan to secure any approvals, letters, signatures, or documents needed from external partners.

Develop your submission checklist

Typical items required for submission include (but are not limited to):

  • Application Form
  • Proposal Narrative/Description
  • Proposal Abstract/Summary
  • Budget, and justification
  • Supplementary Documents, if applicable
    • Bios/Resumes
    • Letters of Support/Commitment
    • Others, as defined by funding agency

Understanding compliance requirements associated with your project

Depending on the elements of your project and funding agency, supplemental compliance process may be required. Please refer to Award Compliance.

Recommendations for successful proposal development

  • Have others review your draft proposal narrative.
  • Work on your budget in tandem with the proposal, making sure that your budget reflects that activities and outcomes you are proposing in the narrative.
  • Discuss and secure preliminary approval for items such as faculty/staff reassignment, cost-share commitments, use of institutional facilities, research involving human/animal subjects, hazardous chemicals, etc.

Step 6 - Secure internal approvals for submission

Proposal being submitted on behalf of the University require review and approval by a delegated authority with authorization to submit. To initiate the review/approval process, complete the Proposal Approval Form and attach a working draft of your proposal and budget, then route for approvals. Upon Dean/Vice President approval, submit to the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (RSP) in AS210 a minimum of 4 working days prior to submission deadline.

The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs will facilitate the final approvals by Associate Provost for Research/Provost.

Only those with delegated authority (i.e. President, Provost, and Associate Provost for Research) are authorized to sign agreements with external agencies and the Proposal Approval Form is the mechanism required to obtain such signature.

Proposals requiring nomination

Eligibility of St. Cloud State University faculty and staff members for grant awards is dependent upon the funding agency’s requirements. Guidelines should be followed as posted in the applicable grant notice and application. 

If a funding agency requires faculty/staff to be nominated, potential eligible candidates will be identified through the Dean’s Office of the respective college(s) with name(s) forwarded to the nominating official, which is the Associate Provost for Research, about one month prior to the application deadline. Nomination of one or more candidates will be facilitated by the nominating official in consultation with the Scholarship Research and Creative Achievement Committee (SRCA).

The Associate Provost for Research will handle the administrative responsibility related to the grant award nomination on behalf of St. Cloud State University.

Step 7 - Coordinate submission plan with Research and Sponsored Program

When proposal are submitted on behalf the St. Cloud State, it is the RSP’s responsibility to review, coordinate approvals, and submit the proposal.

Proposals submitted through an online portal must be submitted through an institutional portal, not Faculty/Staff portal.

Step 8 - Await response from the funding agency

The response from a funding agency will likely take one to eight months depending on the funding agency.

Complete required supplemental processes

  • Research with Human Subjects, submit IRB
  • Research with Animals, submit IACUC

If your proposal is awarded

Congratulations, RSP will work with the funding agency on the award negotiation. Upon mutually agree upon terms, RSP will process your award.

If your proposal is denied

Evaluate reviewer feedback/comments, if available, and meet with RSP to discuss a potential rewrite and resubmission.