Office of Sponsored Research

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:

It is important to discuss your proposed project with your colleagues, department chair, the Dean of the Faculty, and the Office of Sponsored Research as you refine the proposal. The Office of Sponsored Research staff are available to review and critique your proposal; their goal is to be involved from the earliest stage of your idea all the way through close-out of the award. Internal peer review of proposals prior to submission is highly recommended.

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:

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.