Preparing Proposals for External Funding
Preparing Your Proposal
There is no grantsmanship that will turn a bad idea into a good one, but there are many ways to disguise a good one.—William Raub, Former Deputy Director, NIHA good proposal has at its core a good idea. It takes considerable time and effort, however, to develop a good idea into a solid proposal and it may take multiple submissions to refine the proposal prior to receiving an award. In general, be prepared to address the following questions as you develop a concept paper (generally required for foundations) or proposal:
- What is the question or problem to be addressed; or what is the educational or scholarly
objective of the project?
What do you want to do?
- How will you do it—methods that will achieve the objectives?
- How will you know it works—means of assessing the outcome?
- How will others find out about the project and its results?
- Is there a need to continue the work after completion of the project?
- How will your project, when completed, impact others - what are the broader implications of the proposed project?
- What are the specific costs, space and personnel requirements?
If you anticipate that a financial obligation or additional space not already allocated to you will be required from the College as part of your request for funding, the Dean of the Faculty should be contacted early in the proposal development process and if approved a commitment letter should be obtained.
Once you have identified a potential sponsor, the SRO can secure program guidelines and application materials for you. Read the guidelines carefully and follow vigorously any instructions published by the prospective sponsor. If instructions are not provided by the sponsoring agency, the following proposal outline is recommended:
- Title Page
The Title Page should include the project title, the name of the agency to which the proposal is being submitted, desired start and completion dates, name of the Principal Investigator and his or her departmental affiliation and the name and address of Skidmore College as the applicant institution.
The abstract follows the title page and provides the reader with the first view of the project. It is important that it be carefully written as it will set the stage for the rest of the proposal.
- Institutional Description
Provide a brief description of Skidmore, its history and programs as they pertain to the proposed project.
- Project Narrative
The main body of the proposal should clearly describe what you propose to do and how you will carry it out. This section should include the following components:
- Need for the Project
- Project Objectives and Rationale
- Project Design
- Feasibility of the Project
- Project Timeline
- Project Evaluation and Dissemination
Many sponsors require a plan to evaluate the success of the project and plans for the dissemination of results.
- Description of Available Resources
Include current curriculum vitae for all professional personnel critical to the completion of the proposed project. Describe the availability and adequacy of the existing equipment and facilities necessary for the conduct of the proposed project. Include a brief summary of current and pending support from other sources.
Many sponsors prefer that you avoid literature citations in the text of the proposal; however, a current bibliography of the pertinent literature should be included at the end of the proposal narrative.
A key component of a competitive proposal is a credible and intelligible budget. To allow ample time for revisions, involve SRO staff (Anita Miczek, ext. 5178, firstname.lastname@example.org) as early as possible in the proposal development process. Provide a budget narrative that links budget line item requests with the specific activities of the proposed project.
Direct costs may include:
- Salaries, wages and stipends for faculty, students and staff. The time committed to the project for each itemized salary or wage should be reported in the budget plan.
- Fringe benefits - Applicable items may include FICA, Retirement, Health and/or Disability Insurance for each itemized salary or wage.
- Stipends for participants in the project from other institutions.
- Lodging, Meals and Other Incidentals.
- Consumable Supplies.
- Essential durable equipment including computer software.
- Travel related to project performance and presentation of results.
- Publications and Duplication Costs.
Cost Sharing: Show the amount and provide evidence of financial commitment by Skidmore College. This is generally provided in the form of a letter from the Dean of the Faculty and the Director of Financial Planning and Budgeting.
Indirect Costs: The federally negotiated indirect cost rate for Skidmore College is 63% of direct salaries and wages. Indirect costs are those costs incurred by the institution in the course of conducting the sponsored activity. These costs include administrative services (incl., Purchasing, Business Services, Sponsored Research, Human Resources, and Departmental Administration), use of office and laboratory space, library services, heat, light, power and janitorial services.
If payment of indirect costs is not allowed by the sponsor, a copy of the sponsor's statement to that effect should be provided with the Statement of Commitments and Proposal Approval form. If the sponsor has an established indirect cost rate that is less than Skidmore's federally audited rate, this too should be noted on the form.
Appendices may include abbreviated curriculum vitae for key personnel, letters of support, survey summaries or other materials that support and strengthen your proposal. The restrictions on the length of the proposal set by the sponsor usually do not refer to appended materials. However, appendices should not be abused and should not include information central to your proposal.
The Office of Sponsored Research serves faculty who seek external funding to support their pedagogy, scholarship and research. The Director of Sponsored Research and the Assistant assist faculty as they search for appropriate funding agencies, develop proposals, design related budgets, secure matching funds from the College, and transmit requests to governmental and to private foundations. The SRO is the College NSF FastLane officer, the signing official for NIH Commons, and the Authorized Organization Representative for Grants.gov.