Proposal Development & Submission
What constitutes a proposal?
For the purposes of this guide, the term "proposal" can refer to any of the request types listed below:
- Letters of intent, white papers, and other forms of preliminary proposals. These provide, at most, an overview of the proposed work. Many sponsors do not require detailed budgets or work plans at this stage, but may use these initial descriptions as the basis for decisions on whether to solicit a full proposal.
- New proposals. These provide a full description of the proposed work, including detailed budget and project plans, information on personnel, and appendices if required.
- Continuation and renewal proposals. These request support for ongoing funded work. Continuations request support for the next year of a funding cycle already approved by the sponsor, e.g., for the third year of a five-year award. Renewals request additional support after a funding cycle has been completed, e.g., for an additional five years.
- Supplemental proposals. These request additional funding for work under way, e.g., for inclusion of undergraduates in a laboratory-based research project.
- Revisions of elements of proposals and/or budgets. These are responses to requests by prospective sponsors prior to making a funding decision.
- Transfers of proposals or awards. These occur when a faculty member with active funding changes their institutional affiliation. Certain sponsors require action by both the forwarding and new institutions and the faculty member in order to affect a transfer.
Who may serve as a Principle Investigator on an MU sponsored program?
The term "Principal Investigator" (PI) indicates the individual responsible for the oversight of the sponsored program. PI management responsibilities include:
- Compliance with the sponsor regulations that govern the performance of the program and special terms and conditions of the award.
- Compliance with applicable MU policies and procedures during the conduct of the sponsored research, including the MU policies on Responsible Conduct of Research and Objectivity in Research.
- Compliance with MU financial policies and procedures, including procurement, travel, and compensation policies.
- Oversight of the staffing and performance of the sponsored program.
- Approval of expenditures as budgeted for personnel, goods, or services which directly benefit the sponsored program.
- Disclosure of any inventions resulting from the sponsored program.
- Submission of all interim and final progress reports according to the terms and conditions of the award.
Finding funding for your research, scholarship, and other creative activities
OGSPR manages the institution's subscription to Grant-Forward, a funding opportunity database. Grant Forward offers active searching, automated opportunity matching, and daily opportunity notifications.
- Anyone with access to an MU computer can perform a quick search simply by visiting Grant Forward.com
For personalized training, you may contact OGSPR at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upon identifying a funding opportunity and deciding to apply for funding, please begin communications with our office by filling out the Notice of Intent to Submit a Proposal form.
There are several internal funding opportunities for which MU faculty are eligible to apply. View Internal Funding Opportunities.
Preparing Your Proposal
- Determine Eligibility
- Develop Your Budget
- Direct Costs
- Consortium Proposals
- Facilities and Administrative Costs
- Cost Sharing
Once you have decided to submit an application/proposal, please begin communications with our office by filling out the Notice of Intent to Submit a Proposal form.
Each sponsor sets its own application requirements, including the required content, format specifications, budget allowances, submission procedures, submission due dates, and eligibility both for the applicant and often for the PI. It is critical to review and follow all program guidelines, ensuring a complete application in accordance with sponsor requirements. Failure to follow program guidelines is the most common cause for rejection without review, but, with care, can be avoided. It is ultimately the responsibility of the PI to ensure the proposal packet is fully completed and adheres to sponsor guidelines.
One question that comes up frequently regarding applicant eligibility has to do with MU's tax status. MU is a state institution of higher education and, as such, is eligible to receive charitable contributions under Section 170(c)(1) of the IRS Code. It is also exempt from state and federal taxes. However, MU does NOT have 501(c)3 status under the IRS Code. MU is not eligible, therefore, to submit applications in response to funding announcements that specifically limit eligibility to organizations that are tax exempt under the section 501(c)3 of the tax code.
Develop Your Budget
One of the major roles of the OGSPR in the preparation of proposals for both intramural and extramural funding is in providing budget development support. Accuracy and completeness are critically important in project budgeting, whether it is for a small internal grant, a major federal application, or for MU's participation in a proposal submission by another institution or university.
OGSPR has developed a comprehensive Budget Development Tool in the form of a multi-tabbed Excel workbook to assist investigators and their support staff in developing an appropriate budget for their projects. Investigators are strongly encouraged to use this spreadsheet, linked above, to develop their budgets and as a means to communicate the project scope with members of the OGSPR staff. For personalized assistance, you may contact Rene Munoz at email@example.com.
If your project will include hiring personnel for grant-funded positions, please contact Human Resources at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Direct Costs" are those costs that can be assigned directly to a particular sponsored project, an instructional activity, or any other institutional activity, relatively easily with a high degree of accuracy. They include such costs as:
- Salaries for personnel directly engaged in the activity charged
- Employee Benefits
- Operating Expenses
- Consulting Services
- Lab Supplies (not Office Supplies)
- Animal Care Charges
- Graduate Assistant Tuition and/or Fee Remissions
When a portion of the project is going to be carried out at another institution or organization, a subaward or subagreement between MU and the consortium institution is required in order to ensure compliance with sponsor requirements. Documentation from each subrecipient's authorized official, including an itemized budget and budget justification, a statement of work to be performed, and qualifications to do that work should be incorporated into the proposal. Details regarding the documentation required to propose and establish a subaward are outlined in the MU Subrecipient Policy.
Facilities and Administrative Costs (F&A; also called "indirect costs", "IDCs", or "overhead")
F&A costs are those project or program-related costs that cannot be directly assigned to a specific project. Instead, they are calculated as a percentage of the direct costs of the project or program based on rates determined by the institution's cognizant federal agency through a complex financial application and negotiation process.
MU negotiates its federal IDC rates with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and enters into an IDC rate agreement with DHHS. This agreement obligates MU to consistently apply these negotiated rates to all like sponsored projects, independent of the sponsor type. Therefore, the same IDC rates apply to local, private, state, and federal awards. The exception is when a sponsor has a written policy that it either limits or disallows IDC on its awards.
Separate IDC rates are negotiated for organized research, training/instruction, and "other sponsored activities." The definitions for each of these activity types are included in the MU Policy on Sponsored Program Costs. It is important to accurately categorize the proposed activity to ensure the assignment of the appropriate IDC rate.
Cost sharing is sometimes required by the funding sponsor and MU policy allows proposals to include cost sharing only when required by the sponsor as part of the eligibility criteria. Cost sharing under a federal grant is subject to certain federal regulations, which stipulate that cost-sharing must come from non-federal sources. Proposals listing cost-sharing must explain how the cost-sharing commitments will be met and PIs are advised that cost sharing will be proposed only in accordance with MU Policy on Cost Sharing.
Proposal authorization and submission
- Internal Review & Approval Procedures for Proposals
- Elements of a Proposal Package
- Internal Deadlines
- Submission Procedures
- Electronic Submission
- Hardcopy Submission
- Just-In-Time Submissions (NIH)
Internal Review & Approval Procedures for Proposals
All proposals for "sponsored projects" submitted to external sponsors by MU employees must be reviewed and approved internally before they are submitted to the sponsor. As soon as you have decided to submit a proposal, please notify our office by completing the Notice of Intent to Submit a Proposal form.
OGSPR is responsible for completing the proposal approval form and routing this form, along with the grant proposal, to the appropriate PI, Department Chair and College Dean for review and approval signatures.
Signatures are also required from all key personnel who are committing university effort on the proposed project, as well as their Department Chair and College Dean. PIs should consider the complexity of their proposed team and leave adequate time to collect the necessary approvals prior to submission.
Once the documents have been reviewed and approved at the department and college levels, they will be routed to the OGSPR for final review and approval by the Director and the Associate Vice President of Grants, Sponsored Programs, and Research.
Elements of a Proposal Package:
Because the internal review and approval process can be time consuming, we highly recommend that PIs begin routing grant proposals at least 5 business days prior to the date the documents need to be submitted to a sponsor. PIs (and any key personnel) should check with their respective department/college/division regarding additional internal approval procedures that may be required prior to routing the final documents to OGSPR, and plan accordingly. See the OGSPR Proposal Page.
OGSPR cannot ensure the successful submission of an error-free proposal if the final, corrected application materials are not received by OGSPR at least 24 hours before the proposal deadline. OGSPR will not be responsible for deadlines missed as a result of the submission of proposals received less than 24 hours prior to the deadline.
Each sponsor establishes its own application process, be it electronic and/or paper, so it is critical to review and follow the sponsor-specific guidelines. Some systems require the PI to complete the submission once obtaining institutional approval, while others require the sponsored programs office to complete the submission following review, signifying the institution's approval.
The vast majority of grant applications are submitted to the funding agency electronically. Most funding agencies require that the application be either submitted directly by the "business office" or "authorized official" or be signed by the "authorized official" prior to submission by the PI. Either way, institutional review and approval by way of the internal routing procedures outlined above is absolutely required prior to submission of the application to the funding agency. Do not submit a grant application or a contract to an external organization before it has been routed internally as described above, even if it's technically possible to do so. Once the proposal has been reviewed and authorized, either the PI or OGSPR will complete the submission according to the requirements of the funding agency.
Many grant-making agencies and organizations utilize some kind of online electronic grant administration system. The federal grant-making agencies, with few exceptions, have standardized their solicitations and applications and manage their funding announcements and application submissions through the website www.Grants.gov. The National Science Foundation still uses its stand-alone online system called NSF FastLane. Other sponsors maintain their unique electronic systems. MU is a registered applicant in Grants.gov, NSF FastLane, and all of the agency-specific e-grant systems. If you are considering a submission to a sponsor that requires that the applicant register online, check with the OGSPR. When required, OGSPR staff can assist you in obtaining a username and password within the sponsor's e-grant system (for example, NIH eRA Commons, NSF FastLane, NSPIRES, etc.).
If the sponsor allows the PI to submit a proposal, the PI must first route their proposal for institutional approval prior to submission. If the proposal is submitted via email, the PI should copy the OGSPR (email@example.com) on the email.
Some sponsors still utilize a hardcopy proposal submission mechanism. In the case of a hardcopy submission, it is the PI's responsibility to make the necessary copies and mail or hand-deliver the proposal to the sponsor.
Just-In-Time Submissions (NIH)
In some cases, a sponsor may require additional information after a proposal has been reviewed and before a funding decision is made. Typically, this information includes updated "other support" information and evidence of approval from one or more research compliance committees. Applicants will be notified (primarily by email from NIH) when this "Just-in-Time" (JIT) information is needed. This notification is not a Notice of Award nor should it be construed to be an indicator of possible funding. Applicants should only submit this information when requested. In most cases, JIT information must be submitted by staff in the OGSPR.
A list of commonly used templates for proposal development are located on our Forms page.