Prepare a Proposal
Once you have identified a funding opportunity, it's time to prepare a proposal. Some
federal agencies have specific application forms and/or their own web-based submission
systems. Download the most up-to-date version of the application forms, policies,
and procedures and adhere to the sponsor’s requirements.
Key Elements of a Proposal
Every grant proposal has its own special requirements for information that needs to
be included. At a bare minimum, all proposals require the following elements:
- eSPRoute: This electronic routing system provides important information about the project and
confirms that the proposal has been appropriately routed, reviewed, and approved.
- Institutional Information: Sponsors need to know basic information about the Principal Investigator’s institution,
including Congressional district, EIN number, DUNS number, F&A rates, etc.
- Statement of Work: The Statement of Work (SOW) is a document that lists and describes all essential
and technical requirements for the effort to be performed, including standards to
be used to determine whether the requirements have been met. This document may include
the following items, where appropriate:
- Reporting requirement and/or other deliverables
- Resources (if any) to be furnished
- Personnel requirements
- A list of detailed work requirements
- Period of performance
- Objective or purpose
- Budget and Budget Justification: A competitive budget provides a sponsor with a complete financial picture of the
proposed project. Budgets are reviewed by the sponsor to verify that the costs are
reasonable and necessary to carry out the proposed project and that it conforms to
the sponsor's instructions and format. The budget justification provides the sponsor
with a rationale for certain items in the budget. Sponsors may want clarifying information
on how budget calculations were made for faculty and staff salaries, fringe benefits,
F&A rates, special equipment, travel, subawards, etc.
Preparing an NIH Proposal
National Institutes of Health (NIH) proposals typically require a project summary/abstract,
project narrative, bibliography/references cited, facilities and other resources, equipment, biographical sketch(es), personnel justification, budget, budget justification,
specific aims, research strategy, rigor and reproducibility, and letters of support. The proposal may also require additional components, such
as human subject research protection, care and use of vertebrate animals in research,
consultants, facilities, and a leadership plan if your project will involve multiple
Visit the NIH Grants & Funding page for current forms and to view guidelines on writing and submitting your NIH application.
Preparing an NSF Proposal
National Science Foundation proposals typically require a cover sheet, project summary,
table of contents, project description, references cited, biographical sketch(es),
budget, budget justification, current and pending support, data management plan, facilities,
and supplementary documents.
Visit the NSF Grant Proposal Guide to view guidelines on writing, preparing, and submitting your NSF application.
When preparing a proposal, it is important to be aware of issues that require special
attention. These issues include the following:
- Conflict of Interest: As public employees of an institute serving the educational and public purposes of
teaching, research, and professional service, there is an obligation to conduct research
and official duties on behalf of the Institute in such a manner consistent with statutes
- Compliance: Researchers must comply with regulatory requirements relating to research involving
human subjects, vertebrate animal subjects, rDNA, synthetic nucleic acids, and export
- PI/PD eligibility: The PI/PD is responsible for determining the intellectual direction of the research
and scholarship. It is the policy of the Institute that the principal investigator
or project director must be a current member of the general faculty of the Institute.
- Contract/Agreements: There are many offices working together to support timely execution of research
contracts and agreements including Office of Innovation Commercialization, Sponsored
Program Administration, Office of Advancement, and Purchasing. Each has their own
routing process. A clearly defined set of pathways is laid out in the Contract and Agreement Routing Checklist
Additional guidance on preparing and submitting a proposal
Prepare a Budget
Preparing a fundable and competitive budget allows the sponsor to determine the financial
picture of your proposed project. Sponsors review budgets to verify that costs are
reasonable, necessary, and in keeping with budget guidelines.
The PI should only request funds that are adequate and do not include unnecessary expenses. In
preparing your budget, keep in mind that sponsored project costs fall into the following
The most significant direct costs for any sponsored project are typically salaries
and fringe benefits, but direct costs may also include travel, printing, materials
and supplies, subcontracting agreements, etc. If your budget charges the sponsor
for expenses that would normally be considered indirect costs (e.g., equipment, facilities,
administrative support, etc.), these items require a budget justification.
Additional guidance on allowable direct costs and unallowable costs
Facilities & Administrative (F&A) Costs
F&A costs are also known as indirect costs or overhead. F&A rates reimburse the university
for the indirect costs associated with a research project. It excludes equipment,
capital expenditures, charges for tuition remission, rental costs, scholarships, and
fellowships as well as the portion of each subgrant and subcontract in excess of $25,000.
View current rates
If a sponsored project has expenditures that are unallowable on a sponsored account
(e.g. overspent budget or budget category, expensed items that are not allowable by
the sponsor, or expenses that are inappropriate to the project), it is the Principal
Investigator’s/department’s fiduciary responsibility to move those expenditures off
the sponsored project promptly.
Unallowable Administrative, Operational, and Research Related Costs
Office supplies, pens, paper, basic software, etc.
Local telephone and fax; telephone line and equipment charges, cell phones
Postage, express mail (Freight to ship component parts necessary for the research
Hazardous waste disposal
Proposal preparation costs
Costs of reprints of articles on the research funded by the grant are allowable; other
printing costs may or may not be allowable depending on the circumstances
The costs of memberships in business, technical, and professional organizations are generally not allowable.
Books and periodicals (these are typically considered indirect costs supported by
the institutions library)
The following items are typical components of a budget.
Salaries and Wages
- To calculate total salaries and wages, list the amount of time that will be spent
by any individual serving in any paid capacity on the project.
- Departmental administrative and clerical staff salaries are considered Facilities
and Administrative costs (indirect costs) and are not typically charged to sponsored
projects. If the sponsored agreement has specific requirements that mandate the use
of administrative and clerical staff, or if the project requires significantly more
administrative effort or expense, this need must be documented in accordance with
the OMB Uniform Requirements and specifically identified in the sponsored agreement. These atypical administrative
costs must be described in the budget justification.
- When individuals are identified by name, their actual salaries should be used in the
- No employee may be scheduled for activities in excess of 100% of effort in any given
month; this includes research, teaching, and service.
- A principal investigator must devote a level of effort as required by a sponsor over
the term of the award. After the award is granted and accepted, the PI and key personnel
are committed to provide that proposed level of effort over the budget period unless
the sponsor permits otherwise.
- Sponsored activities may not result in any employees receiving compensation at a rate
in excess of their authorized salary or academic rate. For multiyear projects, the
budget should take into consideration any possible salary increases.
- The fringe benefit rate covers expenses associated with salaries, such as insurance,
retirement benefits, etc. These are a direct cost to a sponsored project, are clearly
related to the salaries and wages to be paid, and are shown as a separate entry in
- Full fringe benefit rates are applied to direct salary and wages of full-time employees
and to part-time employees who work at least 50% time.
- Partial fringe benefits are applied to direct salary and wages of part-time employees
who work less than 50% time at the Institute. These employees do not participate in
the retirement, group health, and other insurance plans.
- Enrolled students may be employed on sponsored projects, and they are not subject
to fringe benefit rate charges.
- AU's current fringe benefit rate is 34%.
- Capital equipment is defined as all property of a capital nature, complete in itself
(stands alone), which does not lose its identity, has an anticipated service life
greater than 2 years, and has a unit cost of $5,000 or more. The budget should specify
the name and manufacturer of the equipment whenever possible. Sponsors may want to
see the manufacturer's specifications and price list, particularly if the equipment
is very expensive. No F&A costs are applied to this budget category.
Materials and Supplies
- Materials and supplies are defined as (1) consumable supplies, regardless of cost,
or (2) equipment with a unit value of under $5,000 or a useful life of less than 2
- Costs for photocopying, publication costs, page charges, reference books and materials,
equipment/computer maintenance, service center rates, and contracted services are
also categorized as materials and supplies.
- General office supplies, such as staples and pens, may not be allowable on federal
grants unless they are related to specific project activities rather than general
departmental activities. Budgets that include such items must include a budget justification
unique to the project for such materials. A general descriptions of the type of supplies
included and a best estimate of their cost can support this budget category.
- For each trip, the budget must outline who will be traveling as well as the proposed
destination, purpose, and duration of the trip. An estimated breakdown of expenses
for each person traveling should include transportation costs (e.g., roundtrip coach
air fare), per diem or living expenses, and any other related expenses such as ground
transportation or conference registration fees.
- A subaward, also called a subcontract, subgrant, or subagreement, is a formal, written
agreement between AU and another party to perform a portion of the sponsored project.
Subrecipients, including subcontractors and consultants, must be identified in your
proposed budget to ensure that costs are calculated correctly, and so that appropriate
documentation can be included in the proposal. F&A costs apply to only the first $25,000
of each subcontract.
- The proposed subcontractor must prepare a statement of work and detailed budget signed
by an authorized representative of the contractor. Sponsor approval is required prior
to entering into a subcontract. If it is a vendor relationship, no sponsor approval
is required unless specified in the award terms and conditions.
- Individuals currently employed by AU should be listed under Salaries and Wages and
not included under Consultants. A consultant is an individual or a firm offering professional
or specialized services for a fixed rate or fee. AU only controls the direction of
the consultant's work with respect to work objectives and desired results and not
the methodology for achieving the results. If you plan to use a consultant, include
the following information in your budget and budget justification: consultant name
and title, daily fee, number of days engaged, and any other expenses (e.g., travel).
- There is considerable variation in sponsor policies relative to budget revisions.
Award terms and/or sponsor agency guidelines must be consulted when revisions are
contemplated. To the extent possible, budget revisions should reflect all necessary
reallocations of resources that are foreseen through the end of the budget period.
If prior sponsor approval is required for a budget revision, a request is made to
the program officer as designated in the award — either via an online system, email,
or a letter — sufficiently detailing the revision and justification. Once approved
by the sponsor, your contracts officer will make the revision.
Grant Writing Assistance
Health Research Associates/Stone Fence Collaborative
Through funding provided by the Augusta University Research Institute and Augusta
University, consultants from Health Research Associates (HRA) and Stone Fence Collaborative
have been engaged to assist faculty with grant proposal preparation and revisions.
Assistance is provided in preparation of specific aims, significance, hypothesis development,
and other sections of the grant application, as well as with responding to review
HRA consultants visits Augusta University twice yearly to meet individually with faculty
and to present grantsmanship seminars, and they welcome FAX, telephone, and email
communication. Dr. Batt primarily works remotely via email. Contact DSPA, email@example.com, to learn more about these programs.
Israel Goldberg, PhD
Stone Fence Contact
Carl Batt, PhD
Extramural Grant Reviews
All extramural research grant proposals should be reviewed internally by one or more
of your colleagues. To increase the probability of receiving an award, we also encourage
faculty to have one or two nationally or internationally recognized senior scientists
in the appropriate field outside Augusta University's review their proposals. These
individuals will have a strong track record of serving as principal investigators
on NIH grants. Of course, this will require that the draft of the proposal be prepared
sufficiently prior to the submission deadline to allow time for adequate revision
based upon the review.
The Office of the Senior Vice President for will pay a $250 consulting fee for up
to two external reviews of a major (e.g., NIH) grant proposal being submitted by any
Augusta University faculty member.
Prior to the Review
The Request for External Grant Review form, Non-Disclosure Form, a copy of the consultant's four-page NIH biosketch including other support or his/her
curriculum vitae, a copy of the most recent version of the grant proposal (i.e., specific
aims, background and significance, research design and methods), should be submitted
to the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research for approval.
After the Review
The Service Agreement Request , Contractor Determination Checklist, and W-9 should be completed and signed (except where the account number and Approver signatures
are required). Submit these forms along with a copy of the consultant's critique to
the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research, Attention: Rhea Obermeyer, Business Manager, CJ 3329, (706) 721-7075. The critique could be a standard NIH review and/or the
actual handwritten or typed editing, rewrites, suggestions, etc. Following receipt
of this information, review payment will be issued.
eSProute is AU's electronic routing system. To submit your proposal for review, log in to
eSProute and complete all required fields and upload all related materials. The system
will generate emails to the appropriate financial and administrative leaders for approval.
Cost-sharing commitments begin with the proposal. Cost-sharing commitments should
be indicated when the proposal is routed and delineated in the budget submitted to
the external sponsor. Cost-sharing commitments require approval by the Department
Chair and Dean’s Office. Charges will be recorded against the sponsored and cost share
accounts as directed by the Principal Investigator, on Personal Action Requests, check
requests, et cetera. Principal Investigators and their departmental administrators
are responsible for monitoring the activity in their cost-sharing accounts to ensure
that charges are necessary, reasonable, allowable, and allocable.