Notes on Preparing Proposals for External Funding
At Skidmore College, faculty and academic departments are encouraged to seek external funding to support individual and institutional research and other sponsored program activities including infrastructural and curricular development, training, and service programs. Sponsors can be state or federal agencies, foundations, nonprofit groups or private-sector entities.
External support contributes to the development of an expanded resource base for the college, enhances institutional and individual recognition and is a critical component to enhanced faculty/student intellectual development and advancement. Proposals can be individually initiated, part of a departmental, interdisciplinary or inter-institutional collaboration or the result of an institutional initiative.
Whom to Contact
The Sponsored Research Office (SRO), a division of the Office of the DOF/VPAA, is a service unit that assists college faculty, staff and students in their research and creative endeavors. The SRO is responsible for coordinating and stimulating research and creative activity at Skidmore College for individually or collaboratively initiated research and other sponsored program activities. Contact Person: William Tomlinson, Director of Sponsored Research, 436 Palamountain Hall, ext. 5177, email@example.com.
SRO staff provides assistance with the identification of funding sources, processing of proposals, including administrative review and sign-off and negotiation of external award agreements in conjunction with other institutional administrative units as applicable. Assistance with the development of the proposal narrative and budget is also provided. SRO’s post-award responsibilities include fiscal management but not fiscal reporting. The SRO also provides administrative support for the IRB and IACUC.
The Office of Foundation and Corporate Relations assists with proposals that exhibit institutional emphasis such as support for infrastructural and curricular development, training and service programs. Most of the information that follows regarding proposal development, preparation and submission pertains to individual research grants. For information regarding faculty involvement in, or sponsorship of, institutional grants, please contact Barry Pritzker, Director of Foundation and Corporate Relations, North Hall, ext. 5654, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Working with faculty and staff to increase external funding and to provide opportunities for professional growth is critical to the overall health of the college. Both offices are committed to supporting Skidmore faculty and administration in realizing the institution’s Engaged Liberal Learning Plan 2005–2015, as well as supporting the development of its faculty and professional staff.
The SRO can assist at the earliest stages of proposal development by identifying potential sponsors for your project. The SRO maintains up-to-date reference materials on program schedules and sponsor guidelines and policies. Computer searches are also available for the identification of grant opportunities. Discussions with the SRO can help to broaden the pool of possible sponsors for your project.
If you have a sponsor in mind when developing a proposal for a research grant, current information about the program deadline, the review process, allowable costs, past and present funding priorities, grantor policies and sponsor program, personnel contacts are available through the SRO.
Submitting a Proposal
Before a proposal may be forwarded to a sponsor, it must receive administrative approval. Your proposal will be reviewed by appropriate administrative personnel for completeness (i.e., have the grantor requirements been met and is the proposal structured as directed by the program guidelines), accuracy (i.e., is the budget adequate to accomplish the proposed tasks, are the proper rates used, does the budget calculate properly) and compliance with applicable college, sponsor, state and federal guidelines.
In order to facilitate the administrative review process, a Statement of Commitments and Proposal Approval form has been developed to insure that a proposal is properly routed, reviewed and approved by all required parties. The Proposal Approval form is an internal document and should not be submitted to the sponsor. One copy of the proposal, with a final budget and the completed Proposal Approval form, should be on file in the SRO at least seven working days prior to the due date of your proposal.
If submission of paper copies of the proposal is required by the sponsor, the PI is responsible for the timely submission of these documents. The SRO is responsible for the electronic submission of proposals unless sponsor guidelines specify submission by the PI.
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—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?
It is important to discuss your proposed project with your colleagues, department chair, and DOF/VPAA as you refine the proposal. SRO personnel are available to review and critique your proposal as time allows. 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 DOF/VPAA should be contacted early in the proposal development proces 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:
o Need for the project;
o Project objectives and rationale;
o Project design;
o Feasibility of the project; and
o 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, email@example.com) 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:
o 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.
o Fringe benefits—Applicable items may include FICA, retirement, health and/or disability insurance for each itemized salary or wage.
o Stipends for participants in the project from other institutions.
o Lodging, meals and other incidentals.
o Consumable supplies.
o Essential durable equipment including computer software.
o Travel related to project performance and presentation of results.
o 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, the Vice President for Academic Affairs and/or 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 (including 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 checklist.
Appendices may include abbreviated curriculum vitae for key personnel, letters of support, survey instruments or 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.
Private foundations and corporate sponsors occasionally request a brief (two- to three-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 (preproposals) should be crafted in partnership with the appropriate administrative office. Individuals should not submit proposals without the involvement of either the SRO or the Office of Foundation and Corporate Relations.
Submission of the Proposal
Proposals will be submitted to the funding agency either by the SRO, subsequent to the approval of the DOF/VPAA, or by the Office of Foundation and Corporate Relations. The routing and review of finalized proposals should be completed at least seven business days prior to the grantor’s deadline.