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, NIH
A 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 — what are the methods that will achieve the objectives?
- How will you know it works — what are the 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 Office of Sponsored Research can secure program guidelines and application materials for you. Read the guidelines carefully and follow any instructions published by the prospective sponsor. Typical application components include the following:
- Cover Page
The cover 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 cover 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 College, 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, Dissemination and Broader Impacts
Many sponsors, particularly the National Science Foundation (NSF), require a plan to evaluate the success of the project, plans for the dissemination of results, and how it maximizes outreach associated with the project.
Include current curriculum vitae for all professional personnel critical to the completion of the proposed project.
Facilities and Other Resources
Describe the availability and adequacy of the existing equipment and facilities necessary for the conduct of the proposed project. The Office of Sponsored Research has numerous templates available that can be tailored for the purposes of your application.
Current and Pending Support
Include a brief summary of current and pending support from other sources.
A current bibliography of the pertinent literature should be provided.
- Budget and Budget Narrative
A key component of a competitive proposal is a credible and intelligible budget. To allow ample time for revisions, involve the Office of Sponsored Research 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 fringe benefits for faculty, students and staff
- Participant stipends
- Project / conference travel (lodging, meals, airfare, etc.)
- Consumable Supplies
- Consultants / subcontractors
- Publications and Duplication Costs
Institutional priority is to engage undergraduates in research (broader impacts, presenting at professional regional or national meetings, etc.).
Cost Sharing: Show the amount and provide evidence of financial commitment by Skidmore College (typically in the form of a letter from the Dean of the Faculty). Note that cost-sharing is generally not allowed by NSF.
Indirect Costs: The federally negotiated indirect cost rate for Skidmore College is 63% of direct salaries and wages. 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 negotiated rate, this too should be noted on the Form.
AppendicesAppendices may include abbreviated curriculum vitae for key personnel, letters of support, survey instruments, 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 include information central to your proposal.
Private foundations and corporate sponsors occasionally request a brief (2-3 page) concept proposal often in the form of a letter. Such sponsors may prefer to invite applicants to submit full proposals based on the appeal of the concept proposal. A good concept paper is not merely a letter of introduction or inquiry, but should reflect the essence of the full proposal. These letters (pre-proposals) should be crafted in partnership with the appropriate administrative office.