Writing a winning grant proposal can be a long and, at times, difficult process, so it is beneficial to begin early. If you are new to the grant writing process, the task may seem overwhelming. It is easy to want to cobble together text from previously written documents, such as the author’s dissertation, prior journal articles, or previous proposals. However, taking time to write a unique, targeted, thoughtful response will produce far more readable and successful results. A good outline and a sound understanding of proposals in general can make the grant-writing process less daunting. Please take time to review the following overview, guidelines, and suggestions.

  1. Understand General Proposal Requirements

    The aim of a proposal is to provide a compelling justification for a project to receive funding, usually under a specific program solicitation. Answering all the reviewer’s questions in a clear, well-organized manner helps make the proposal compelling. The sponsor will determine what information is required and specify this in the program solicitation. Most government agencies are very precise in their requirements in order to allow fair, unbiased competition and evaluation for funding. Some requirements (such as number of pages, margins, font size and type, funding priorities, and specifically requested information) are so strict that deviating from them will cause a proposal to be rejected without review. Please review the program solicitation carefully for all requirements.

    Proposals can range from very large, detailed manuscripts to one-page documents. There are several basic types of proposals of varying lengths and purposes:

    Letter of Inquiry (to a foundation or private, non-government agency) – 1 page. A letter of inquiry is a brief summary of your project that is intended to assess the interest of the funder in receiving a full proposal. The letter allows funders to determine whether or not a project or activity is suitable to their funding purposes. The letter should be attention getting, succinct, and demonstrate a good match with their funding priorities. It should request an opportunity to submit a full proposal

    Letter of Intent (to government) – 1 to 2 pages. A letter of intent indicates your non-binding intention to submit a full proposal to a funding program, due at a later date. Funders use the information to gauge the number of proposals likely to be submitted and to identify the types of review expertise that will be required to evaluate the proposals. Letters of intent usually ask for a brief synopsis of the project design and activities, as well as specific identifying information about you, your project team, and your institution.

    Concept Paper / White Paper – 2 to 5 pages. The purpose of a concept paper is to explain your project to potential funders to garner their interest or support. Concept papers may be requested by the funder, but may also be used informally in meeting personally with potential funders.

    Pre-proposal – generally short, 3 to 6 pages. Pre-proposals are often requested by funders of large grant competitions. They are usually much shorter than full proposals and do not request a detailed budget or supplemental documents. Reviewers will request full proposals from among those applicants they find most promising. This process is meant to save proposers the time and expense of submitting proposals that are unlikely to be funded.

    Proposal Letter (to foundations) – 2 to 3 pages. If a foundation indicates that applicants should submit a proposal or letter and no other instructions are given, they expect to receive a letter of 2 pages, possibly 3 pages with the budget. The letter should be persuasive as to the need addressed, the viability of the proposed solution, and the significance of expected outcomes for program participants.

    Online Proposal (to foundations). To be in compliance with UVU policy, online proposals must have their accounts setup by and be submitted by the Director of Contracts and Foundation Grants. OSP will complete the required forms and attach institutional documents. You will be asked to prepare the text of required fields in a Word document and submit this to OSP to be uploaded. Often the text fields only allow for a limited number of characters.

    Full proposal, short (foundation, state or federal government) – 5 to 12 pages. These proposals usually have specific requirements from the funder. If not, follow the general outline provided below.

    Full proposal, long (state or federal government) – 12 to 60 pages. These proposals have specific requirements from the funder that should be carefully followed. They will probably require supplemental documents and may allow for appendices.

    Contract bid (state or federal government) – generally long. Contract bids always have specific requirements from the funder.

    Whether the proposal is short or long, the body of the proposal generally follows the structure described in Write the Body of the Proposal. Having a good foundational knowledge of the general parts of a proposal will help you organize the information you want to convey in a way that meets the reader’s expectations and presents a clear picture of what you propose to accomplish.

    1. General Elements of a Proposal

      Proposals must be clearly organized, well written, and easily understood by reviewers. Reviewers expect that a proposal will follow the order and format dictated by the solicitation, if given. PIs/PDs should study the program solicitation for the specific required elements for the proposal and follow these completely. The following section is provided to give an overview of proposals in general and an outline in those cases where specific instructions are not given. Most proposals contain the following elements (discussed in the subsections that follow).

      1. Cover Page (AKA Face Page / Cover Sheet / Introductory Letter)
      2. Abstract (AKA Executive Summary, Project Summary, etc.)
      3. Table of Contents
      4. Body of Proposal (AKA Narrative, Statement of Work, Project Description, etc.)
      5. Résumés (AKA Biographical Sketches)
      6. Budget
      7. Budget Narrative (AKA Budget Justification)
      8. Other Sections or Appendices
        • References Cited
        • Current and Pending Support
        • Facilities and Equipment
        • Job Descriptions
        • Project Timeline or Research Plan Tables
        • Data Management Plan
        • Letters of Commitment and Support
      9. Certifications and Representations

    2. Document Specifications in the Solicitation

      Most program solicitations prescribe the format of the proposal, specifically the body of the proposal. The solicitation will usually indicate the page limits, font size, margins, and spacing for text and for tables and charts. If these are not indicated, the standard is one-inch margins on all sides and 12-point font. The font should always be of a legible size – generally no smaller than Times New Roman 11 point or Arial 10 point. The font in tables, charts, and diagrams may be smaller if permissible, but must also be legible on a printed page.

      Note: Some agencies, such as NSF and NIH have agency-specific proposal guides in addition to specific program solicitations. The writer needs to be aware of these published guidelines and follow them in addition to the solicitation. For example, the NSF Proposals and Awards Policy and Procedures Guide prescribes the font types that may be used, the required sections, and information that should and should not be included in the proposal. The funder expects that you will have read and followed these instructions.

    3. Document Formatting

      Remember that reviewers must evaluate many excellent proposals in a short time. A well-organized document with clear, logical formatting will make your proposal stand out for reviewers and help them find the information they need for their evaluation. In many cases, they will have a checklist of the grant requirements, and if they cannot easily locate the elements they are supposed to evaluate, your proposal’s rating could suffer. Make sure the proposal structure makes it easy for the reviewers to find what they are looking for.

      Some solicitations specify the structure of the proposal by identifying specific topics, headings, or criteria that applicants must address. In these cases, use their precise wording, in the order given, even if you think another arrangement makes better sense. Some solicitations provide the evaluation criteria that the reviewers will use to rate the proposal. The evaluation criteria can be used as an effective structure for the proposal. Here is some advice for structuring your proposal:

      • Start by creating an outline that complies with the requirements and is easy for evaluators to follow—using headings that match the solicitations requirements. Organize the required information and the additional information you wish to convey within this structure.
      • OSP can help you develop a detailed outline and structure for your response. It may also be useful to obtain a copy of a funded proposal for the program you are applying to see how the authors organized their document.
      • Write the proposal in paragraph format with identifiable topic sentences and supporting evidence. Avoid extensive use of bulleted lists.
      • Use subheadings in addition to the required headings to alert readers to the key points in the text and to help them relocate information in the proposal quickly as they write their reviews.

    4. Review Criteria

      When the review criteria or scoring rubric is provided, write specifically with these criteria in mind. You may include additional information if appropriate, but be certain to address the criteria by which the proposal will be evaluated. These suggestions may help:

      • Write a direct response to the specific prompt or criteria. Support the response with evidence and detail.
      • After you have drafted the proposal, review each section one by one, comparing the prompt to your response. Is your response thorough? Have you left out something? Is your response clear to a lay reader?
      • Have another person read your proposal in the same manner, checking each section against the review criteria. Suggest that they review and score each section or make notes of what might need more detail or clarification.

  1. Write the Body of the Proposal

    The body of the proposal is sometimes referred to as the Proposal Narrative, Project Description, or Statement of Work. The body of the proposal should define the problem or need to addressed, formulate the goals and objectives in response to that problem, and explain the specific actions that will be undertaken to fulfill those goals and objectives. The proposal should also address potential pitfalls, how the project will be evaluated to determine its success, and whether it will be sustainable after the funded project period has ended.

    The body of the proposal should accurately reflect what the proposers intend to do with the project, why it is being done, and how what is done will be evaluated. The quality of the proposal should be sufficient to compete with other proposers at a state or national level. The description of the need for the project and the explanation of what will be done should be truthful, thoughtful, and accurate. The statement of outcomes or deliverables should be both ambitious and attainable. The proposal should only propose what can realistically be completed within the time and dollars available to the project.

    Again, the writer should study the program solicitation for the specific, required elements of the narrative and follow these completely. The writer should also identify, generally speaking, who the proposal reviewers will be and use sentence structure, language, etc. that is appropriate for that audience. The following sections are generally included in a proposal narrative, although they may be called by different names.

    1. Problem to Be Addressed

      Problem to Be Addressed, sometimes called the Statement of Need, and may include the following:

      • A discussion of the nature and scope of the problem to be addressed with supporting evidence; an assessment of the needs of individuals the proposal will target.
      • The context, background, reason for a proposed innovation.
      • The context, background, reason for proposed research within the scientific/academic community, including a literature search to build your case.

      The importance of the problem should receive considerable and persuasive attention. This section is critical, because if you do not convince the reader that there is a problem, then the other sections of the proposal are irrelevant. The section should include relevant citations from verifiable and reliable sources. It may include tables, charts, diagrams and other visual information that accompanies the written text. Here are some suggestions to strengthen your problem section:

      • If the proposal addresses a local problem, be sure to use local data to build a case. If the proposal addresses a national or global problem, use national or global data. If the problem is both local and national, discuss the problem at both levels.
      • Take time to adequately discuss the problem. Do not rush over the discussion, assuming that the reader agrees with you without any supporting evidence.
      • Explain the significance of supporting evidence or data. Do not assume the reader will understand what the data means. Explain the salient points of tables and charts – do not leave the reader to interpret. Answer the question, “So what?”
      • Be sure to focus on the problem and not the plan. Many writers quickly shift from discussing the problem to presenting their solution. The solution or plan will come later in the proposal. Be sure to give adequate presentation of the problem.
      • Clearly identify the gap. For service-oriented proposals, this means the gap in existing services. For innovation-oriented proposals, it means the gap in existing solutions or methods. For research-oriented proposals, it means the gap in current knowledge or methodologies.
      • Avoid problem statements that declare the problem as "the lack of " or "the need for" the very solution you are proposing for funding. Such as, “The problem with our math program is a lack of peer tutors. Thus, we propose an activity to provide peer tutors." This type of statement usually contains circular reasoning.
      • Avoid general statements like “too high” or “too low.” Instead, explain what is “too high” and why, giving comparison data to justify this assertion.

    2. Goals and Objectives

      The goals and objectives specify what the proposer intends to achieve and are generally the heart of a proposal. The goals and objectives should correlate directly with the statement of need, the project activities, and the project evaluation. The following definitions differentiate between goal and objective:

      Goal – a broad statement of the intent or overall outcome of the program, conceptual and more abstract than the objectives. The goal might use visionary words such as develop, decrease, deliver, establish, improve, increase, produce, and provide. For a research proposal, this may be the hypothesis.
      Objective – represents a step toward accomplishing a goal. In contrast to the goal, an objective is narrow, precise, tangible, concrete, and can be measured or accomplished in a specific timeframe. Here are some helps in articulating strong objectives:
      • Objectives should be stated in quantifiable terms.
      • Objectives need to be realistic and capable of being accomplished within the grant period.
      • Objectives should be ambitious in relation to the stated needs or problems, and attainable in relation to the plan of work or services to be provided.
      • Objectives should usually be stated in terms of outcomes (outcome objective).
      • Objectives may specify the result of an activity (process objective).

      Additionally, service-based or program proposals should include statements of intended outcomes, either in the Goals and Objectives section, or in the Evaluation section.

      Outcome – benefits that occur to participants of a program. Typically, outcomes represent an achievement or a change in behavior, skills, knowledge, attitude, status or life condition of participants related to participation in a program. Well-designed programs usually choose outcomes that participants would recognize as benefits to themselves.

      Research-based and innovation-based proposals should discuss the significance or impact that the achievement of the proposed objectives would have on the target audience, the institution, the community, the academic or research community, or others. For proposals to NSF, this could the section to include the required Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts statements. Note that a separately labeled section for each the Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts are now required in the Project Description. See the discussion of these criteria in the section describing the Abstract and the discussion of the Merit Review Criteria in theNSF Proposals and Awards Policy and Procedures Guide.

    3. Implementation

      The section of the proposal that describes what will be done is often called Implementation, Plan of Work, Project Design, Research Design, or something similar. This section sets forth in detail the plan of action to be taken in the proposed project. The plan should correlate directly with the statement of need and with the project goals and objectives.

      Remember that no matter how good your ideas or noble your intentions, you must translate them into a specific set of activities in order to secure funding. Whether you want to establish a training program, demonstrate a novel approach to service delivery, or conduct basic research, the task of moving from an idea to a practical work plan is the same. Detail is key. If you don’t know how something will be done, find out. Funders never give money up front for a plan that will be developed later. This section is generally the largest section of the proposal and may include:

      Activities – specific statements that identify the plan of action to be initiated in order to carry out the objectives. Each objective may have several activities identified.

      Implementation Plan – a description in narrative form of how the proposers plan to implement the activities described for each objective, encompassing the how, when, and why. Tables and charts to clarify the project may be appropriate to accompany the text. The plan should take into consideration things that may go wrong and how they will be addressed.

      Participant Selection – if the project requires the selection of participants, scholarship recipients, or the like, you should explain how they will be recruited and the criterion by which they will be selected. Indicate what strategies you will use to target specific audiences, if appropriate. Cite the institution’s non-discrimination policies.

      Rationale – the scholarly basis for approach taken. For research proposals, a discussion of prior research results may be appropriate here. Academic literature might be cited showing that the approach is a proven best practice or as the basis for proposing a new approach. This section gives the project credibility.

      Timeline Table – a table that lists in short form each objective and activity and gives the start time and completion time for each; it should also name the person or persons responsible and may give milestones for achieving project objectives. Sometimes this table can go in an appendix.

      Note: If proprietary information is included, you should mark all pages containing replication-enabling information about an invention as Proprietary and Confidential to avoid release of such information upon award.

    4. Project Management

      Management Plan. This section explains how the project will be organized and managed so that the proposed activities successfully achieve the project objectives. The Project Management Plan might include the following information or subsections:

      Project Organization – who is responsible for what and to whom; who is fiscally responsible. A project organization chart may be appropriate here. The section may describe the utilization of staff meetings, oversight committees, advisory boards, etc.

      External Partnerships – a description of each of the partners and their roles and contributions to the proposed project.

      Institutional Capacity – evidence that UVU supports the project and has the capacity to assist in achieving project objectives. If not provided separately, this section might describe the facilities, equipment, personnel, funds, and other resources UVU will commit. It may include a description of previous institutional efforts and successes that strengthen the proposal. This section is generally supported by letters of commitment or collaboration in an appendix.

    5. Key Personnel

      This section should include a description of the role and duties of each person identified in the implementation plan and the budget, and their time commitment to the project. Résumés or Biographical Sketches (usually two pages or less) may be attached in an appendix for most proposals.

      The personnel section may also include a summary of the qualifications and duties of people who may be hired or who have been designated to work with the project. For new hires, include a description of the institution’s equal opportunity and non-discriminatory hiring practices. Human Resources should be consulted in preparing job descriptions. Some funding programs allow job descriptions to be attached in an appendix.

    6. Evaluation

      The evaluation section explains how the proposers will know whether or not the outcomes of the project are of value. Keep in mind that funders want to know that their dollars will serve their intended purpose. Thus, a strong plan to evaluate the results, outcomes, and impact of the project is an essential part of a winning proposal.

      Effective evaluation plans are built into the fabric of the proposal, not tacked on at the end. One of the best ways to do this is to describe how the success of each objective will be evaluated. If objectives are written to be measurable, this should not be difficult. An evaluation table might be created that lists each objective (in a shortened form) and explains how each objective will be evaluated to assess its effectiveness. Columns in the table could include: Area of Evaluation, Measurement Tool, Measurement Methods, Benchmarks and/or Anticipated Outcomes. Robust evaluation plans generally utilize both quantitative and qualitative measures.

      Quantitative measures – are designed to measure or count data. They attempt to answer the question: "How much?" using statistical analysis such as averages, means, percentiles, etc.

      Qualitative measures – use direct or indirect contact with people. They can consist of interviews, observation, open-ended questionnaires, or review of relevant documents.

      The accompanying text should explain who will be responsible for project evaluation, who will keep records and obtain data, and how it will be done. The text should explain who will be responsible for compiling and analyzing data, how will it be done, and how it will be reported. Evaluation tools, especially nationally normed tests or tools created for the proposed project (such as surveys and matrices) should be described. An evaluation plan should include both formative evaluation and summative evaluation.

      Formative evaluation – designed to determine the extent to which progress is being made toward a stated objective. It occurs during the course of the project and may be used to modify or improve the project in order to best accomplish the objectives. Formative evaluation should be accompanied by a managerial process for reviewing the findings and making needed adjustments in a timely manner.

      Summative evaluation – designed to determine the extent to which the objective was accomplished. It occurs at the end of an operating cycle (project year) and at the end of the project. Findings typically are used to help decide whether a program should be adopted, continued, or modified for improvement. Note that in a multi-year project, the summative evaluation of one year may be used as a formative evaluation for the next year. Summative evaluations are used for the final project report to the funding agency.

      For most proposals, a robust evaluation requires significant expertise that is outside the PI’s qualifications. The use of either an internal or external evaluator has become common in fields such as education and the social sciences and required by some funding programs. It is often useful to get the evaluator on board as the proposal is being developed to assure the project’s goals can be adequately evaluated. (See Section 3.f.1 on Locating and working with an external project evaluator.)

    7. Sustainability / Institutionalization Plan

      This section explains how the project will continue past the funding period. For service-based grants, it might explain how the institution will adopt the changes introduced and begin funding those aspects that require continued funding. For innovation-based grants, it might explain the plan to continue to grow or expand the innovation. For research grants, it should explain what is planned next and how it will be funded.

    8. Dissemination

      This section describes how the proposers will tell others in the professional/academic community about what they have learned through this project. For some service-based grants, this could include papers and presentations about how best practices were implemented at the institution. For innovation and research grants, this section is critical; it should tell how the proposers will get the word out to other interested parties. If peer-reviewed journal articles or conference presentations are planned, indicate which journals or conferences will be targeted. If a website is planned, indicate how you will drive traffic to the site or link to other sites that could direct traffic. Other more active forms of dissemination are encouraged, which include sponsoring workshops or having colleagues at other institutions test, evaluate, or implement the products of your project. Be sure to include monies in the budget to cover the dissemination activities or indicate how they will be funded.

  1. Write the Other Proposal Sections

    In addition to the body of the proposal, almost all proposals have additional requirements, which vary by funding program. The most commonly required sections are discussed in this section.

    1. Cover Page (AKA Face Page / Cover Sheet / Introductory Letter)

      Some funding agencies have a special format for the cover page that must be followed. This may be a form generated by an online submission program (such as Grant.gov, FastLane, etc.). The standard form used by many federal agencies is the SF-424. Alternatively, an additional page of information may be required. In the absence of such a format or application form, a basic cover page should be attached. The cover page would include information such as the name of the funding program, applicant institution (Utah Valley University), project title, amount of funding requested, project time period, name and contact information of the PI or PD, Co-PIs, and the name and contact information of the signature authority of UVU. The title should be brief, clear, and as descriptive of the actual project as possible. It should be suitable for use in the public press.

    2. Abstract

      The abstract may also be called the Project Summary, Executive Summary, or Project Aims. The abstract should, in general, be no more than one page though some abstracts are limited to a certain number of words. The abstract or summary should give the reader a good overview of the proposal as well as provide suitable text for publication should the proposal be funded. It should be easily understood by a lay audience. An abstract should generally include the following information:

      • A compelling, engaging rationale for the project.
      • Who is forwarding the proposal (first sentence).
      • A succinct description of the problem, need, or reason for the proposal.
      • A short description of the project, including the project goals and objectives, what will take place, the intended outcomes, how many people will benefit.
      • An explanation of the potential impact of the project, its innovativeness, the scope of its benefits. (For NSF proposals, this would be the required Broader Impact and Intellectual Merit statements.)
      • Funding amount requested (optional).
      • A brief description of the organization and its expertise (optional).

      For NSF proposals, theNSF Project Summary must contain the statements of Intellectual Merit and Broader Impact, as described below. Other proposals would benefit from addressing these issues where appropriate in the abstract.

      Intellectual Merit – the potential of the proposed activity to advance knowledge. This section might address:

      • How important is the proposed activity to advancing knowledge and understanding within its own field or across different fields?
      • How well qualified is the proposer (individual or team) to conduct the project?
      • To what extent does the proposed activity suggest and explore creative, original, or potentially transformative concepts?
      • How well conceived and organized is the proposed activity?

      Broader Impact – the potential of the proposed activity to benefit society. This section might address:

      • How well does the activity advance discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training, and learning?
      • How well does the proposed activity broaden the participation of under-represented groups (e.g., gender, ethnicity, disability, geographic, etc.)?
      • To what extent will it enhance the infrastructure for research and education, such as facilities, instrumentation, networks, and partnerships?
      • Will the results be disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and technological understanding?
      • What may be the benefits of the proposed activity to society?

    3. References Cited

      Sometimes a separate section is allowed for references (as opposed to including them as footnotes in the body of the proposal). Each reference must include the names of all authors (in the same sequence in which they appear in the publication), the article and journal title, book title, volume number, page numbers, and year of publication. If the document is available electronically, the internet address also should be identified. Proposers must be especially careful to follow accepted scholarly practices in providing citations for source materials relied upon when preparing any section of the proposal. This section should not be used to provide parenthetical information.

    4. Résumés and Biographical Sketches

      A proposal résumé is a summary of the relevant qualifications of the key members of the project team. Résumés for proposals are generally limited to two pages, though they could be more or less. They are usually included in an appendix or as an attachment. The résumé should be tailored to the proposal, and not just a condensed version of the curriculum vita.

      The proposal résumé should be written to convince a reviewer that the personnel are qualified to conduct this particular project. It should emphasize experience related to the project and any special qualifications that uniquely qualify the person for the team. A proposal résumé generally includes the following:

      • Name and position on the project team (Project Director, Project Coordinator, etc.)
      • Education – institution, field of study, degree earned, year of degree.
      • Experience – list in reverse chronological order professional appointments, employment, and consulting jobs.
      • Publications – list in reverse chronological order relevant and/or important publications in professional journals. Give the complete reference including the title of the paper. Articles that have been accepted for publication may be included.
      • Presentations – list lectures given at professional meetings, research institutes, universities, etc. Emphasize those that relate to the proposal content.
      • Assignments – list professional committees, editorial boards, leadership roles, etc.
      • May include other information relevant to the project, such as courses taught or developed, student mentoring, past grants awarded or participated in, research interests, patents received, etc.

      Note: Do not include personal information such as contact information (phone number, email or mailing address, etc.), date and place of birth, hobbies and interests, and family information.

      NSF Biographical Sketches are a more specific type of proposal résumé. Specific guidelines for the Biographical Sketch are found in the NSF Proposals and Awards Policy and Procedures Guide, and they are summarized with helps and examples in OSP’sRequirements for an NSF Biographical Sketch document.

    5. Job Descriptions

      An appendix containing job descriptions for new hires of key personnel is sometimes requested. The job description should include the required qualifications, major responsibilities, and time commitment to the project. Human Resources should be consulted in preparing job descriptions.

    6. Project Timeline or Research Plan Tables

      Sometimes a detailed project timeline or research plan is requested to be included as an attachment or appendix. A project timeline might list activities to be accomplished during a year or other project period and indicate the time period or completion date. It may name the person or persons responsible and may give milestones for achieving project objectives. A research plan should break the methodology section into discrete actions and list these in table format, including the method, timeline, and milestones.

    7. Data Management Plan (NSF)

      Some funding agencies require a Data Management Plan. This supplementary document should describe how the proposal will conform to federal and agency policy on the dissemination and sharing of the products of research. The strength of the Data Management Plan is an indication of the project’s potential for broad impacts. Specific guidelines for the Data Management Plan are found in the NSF Proposals and Awards Policy and Procedures Guide. OSP has an NSF Data Management Plan – Instructions and Template and examples of Data Management Plans upon request.

    8. Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources (NSF)

      The Facilities, Equipment, and Other Resources section is required for NSF proposals. This section is used to provide an aggregated description of the internal and external resources available to the project from the sponsoring institution and its collaborators if the proposal is funded. This includes both physical resources and personnel whose time is being contributed by the University (not paid for out of grant funds). This section, in conjunction with the letters of collaboration, will be used by reviewers to determine whether or not the resources available are sufficient to accomplish the scope of work described in the body of the proposal.

      All resources necessary for, and available to, a project should be described in narrative format. The section should describe only those resources that are directly applicable to the project. The requested information should be provided in this section, rather than in other parts of the proposal. The description must not include any quantifiable financial information. Although these resources are not considered cost sharing, NSF does expect that the resources identified in the Facilities, Equipment, and Other Resources section will be provided, or made available, should the proposal be funded.

      For proposals requesting major equipment, this section should describe the physical facility where the equipment will be located, including floor plans or other appropriate information. It should also include a description of the source of funds available for operation and maintenance of the proposed equipment.

      The commitment of resources described in the Facilities, Equipment, and Other Resources section should be substantiated in the letters of collaboration, with a letter from each institution or organization agreeing to provide these resources. For more information about this section, see the NSF Proposals and Awards Policy and Procedures Guide.

    9. Letters of Collaboration, Commitment, and Support

      Many proposals require letters of collaboration, commitment, or support from UVU administrators, partners, and other collaborators. The following descriptions explain the general differences among these types of documents:

      Letter of Collaboration – indicates the signatory’s intent to collaborate and/or commit resources as described in the proposal, should the proposal be funded. Note that NSF now only allows letters of collaboration (unless otherwise requested) and specifies how they should be written in its Proposals and Awards Procedures and Policies Guide. Please see OSP'sNSF Letters of Collaborationand theNSF Letters of Collaboration Template.
      Letter of Commitment – indicates the signatory’s intent to commit resources to the funded project as specified in the letter. May also give the partner’s rationale for supporting the project and point to strengths of the organization that could be of value in implementing or sustaining the project.
      Letter of Support – expresses the organization’s knowledge and support of the project, including why the project is important and how it relates to the organization’s mission or expressed goals. May address the proposer’s qualifications or abilities to complete the project. Such letters can add much additional information to strengthen the proposal.
      Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) – a document stating intention of a common line of action between two or more parties. An MOU indicates voluntary agreement among organizations to assist with the implementation plans of a grant-funded collaborative project. Generally, the document defines each partner, sets forth the action that they will accomplish (goals and objectives), and specifies what each partner will contribute to this action. The MOU is signed by the authorized signatory of each participating organization, not the PI.

      Please see the document Letters of Commitment, Collaboration, and Support for examples of each.

      The PI should solicit letters well in advance of the due date so there will be time for signatures. Letters from partners should represent true, collaborative partnerships. The PI should keep a signed original copy of the letter in case the proposal is funded and audited. Letters from a UVU Vice President or Dean require a week for approval; letters from the UVU President, which are rarely requested, require two weeks (10 business days). Those requesting letters should provide the administrator with a copy of the proposal Abstract and, for NSF proposals, the Facilities, Equipment, and Other Resources section. Please speak with the appropriate OSP Project Director if you have questions about who should submit letters for your project.

    10. Certifications and Representations

      Due to federal mandate, the University must certify that it conducts its activities in accordance with specific federal laws or regulations associated with the obligations of entities that received federal funds. These assurances to the federal sponsors constitute a promise on the part of the University that it understands the sum and substance of the regulations and that the University will do its best to comply with the regulations. Acting as the certified official, the Senior Director of Sponsored Programs will sign any certifications or representations requiring a signature.

      Representations and certifications required to be submitted with the proposal vary, depending on the agency and contract amount. The forms are generally part of the grant application package for Grants.gov and FastLane, but sometimes a form may need to be added to an application. The grant application or the solicitation will clearly specify which certifications are required. If there are special forms required, please alert the OSP Director of Sponsored Research. Examples of commonly required certifications are:

      • Lobbying certificate
      • Debarment and suspension
      • Drug free workplace
      • Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) statement
      • Procurement integrity
      • Certificate of current cost and pricing data
      • Contract pricing proposal
      • Statement of intent to establish a consortium agreement
      • EPA procurement system certification
      • Section K certifications
      • Certificate of environmental and safety compliance
      • Financial audit information
      • Small business and small disadvantaged business subcontracting plan.

      Many agencies have a single form that covers a general set of certifications regarding employment assurances such as non-discriminatory practices, accuracy of cost and pricing data, employer identification number, etc.

      Because certification requirements are constantly changing, OSP monitors federal requirements in these areas. Whenever there are questions about required certifications and representations please direct them to OSP.

  1. Prepare the Final Budget and Budget Narrative

    As explained in Step 3, preparation of the budget for a proposal is generally a multi-stage process as depicted below. Stages 1 and 2 were described in Step 3 and an explanation of budget items are provided as a separate printable document entitledProposal Budget Line-Item Guidance.

    Budget Narrative Flowchart

    Stages 1 and 2 were explained in Step 3 of the Grant Life Process. Stage 3 is described in this section. Stage 4 is described in Step 5.

    1. Prepare the Budget for Routing and Submission

      Using the budget spreadsheet (generally theOSP Budget Worksheet)you prepared in Step 3 and reviewed with the appropriate OSP Program Director, prepare the budget in the format required for submission. The budget format generally consists of the budget sheets (tables) that accompany a proposal submission file, such as Grants.gov with the standard SF-424A form and FastLane with an NSF-specific form. Always check the program solicitation to see what format is required. The solicitation will have a section devoted to budget requirements. Study this carefully and address all requirements.

      Standard forms for federal programs consolidate costs under specific budget categories (as in the last page of theBudget Worksheet), including both direct and indirect costs. The forms generally require you to give the combined total for each category. Some programs require you to submit a budget for each year of the project with an additional budget summary page that contains the cumulative total in each category for all years. Other programs only require that you submit a budget for the first year of the program. (These are generally programs that base subsequent years’ funding on the program’s performance each year.)

      The specific budget categories are described in detail in the documentProposal Budget Line-Item Guidance. Here is some guidance to help as you review your budget.

      • Remember to address all the budget issues suggested by the OSP Program Director of Sponsored Research (for federal and state grants) or the OSP Program Director of Contracts and Foundation Grants, your chair, your dean, and others who must approve the budget.
      • Check to see that everything described in the body of the proposal that requires project funds is included in the budget. Many proposals have been rejected because the budget did not cover all the costs necessitated by the proposed plan.
      • Check to see that everything described in the budget is included in the body of the proposal. Budget line items not described in the proposal will be stricken from the budget by funders (if the proposal is even funded). The budget, the budget narrative, and body of the proposal must correlate with one another.
      • Remember that reviewers examine the budget in the context of the program narrative to ascertain whether sufficient and appropriate funds, including project personnel to perform the work, have been included, and match the overall budget to the proposed work and timeline.
      • Make sure that the budget sheets and budget narrative add up to the appropriate amount and that they agree with one another.
      • Review the program solicitation to see that you have included all of the required expenses, such as annual participation in funder-sponsored conferences, an independent evaluator, or program participant support.
      • Check to see that you have not included budget items that are disallowed by the funder or by federal policies.

    2. Prepare the Budget Narrative for Routing and Submission

      The budget narrative is sometimes referred to as the budget justification and is considered a companion document to the budget forms. The budget narrative serves two purposes: it explains how the costs were estimated, and it justifies the need for the cost. It may be attached as a supplemental document or included as part of the body of the proposal. The budget narrative should breakdown costs for each of the major cost categories (salaries, fringe benefits, equipment, travel, supplies, other direct costs and indirect costs), as well as any additional categories required by the sponsor. Each item must correlate to specific activities described in the body of the proposal; cumulative totals for each category must correlate with the budget tables.

      The budget narrative should describe each line item in the budget and show the calculations used to derive the costs. The format of the budget narrative may be entirely narrative text, a combination of narrative text and accompanying tables, or one-line item table with text explanations in the table (seeBudget Narrative Examples).Every item in the budget narrative should relate to the body of the proposal, and every expense in the body of the proposal should relate to the budget narrative. Explain items of the budget in detail, especially items that may not be clear to the reader or may need further discussion to establish their necessity. For instance, if the budget includes funds for travel, explain how many people will be traveling to attend what conference for what purpose and include an estimated itemization of expenses. Or you might explain why purchasing one piece of equipment is preferable to another. The information should be sufficiently detailed to address all sponsor concerns with respect to cost and need.

      The documentProposal Budget Line-Item Guidance describes the specific budget categories in detail and gives suggestions about addressing these items in the budget narrative. Common explanations in the budget narrative include, but are not limited to:

      • Explanation of project salaries including percent of effort and total salary base.
      • Explanation of fringe benefit calculation for each employee classification.
      • Explanation of what travel is for and details on the number of persons traveling, lodging, per diem, etc.
      • Explanation of how expenses were derived for supplies, analyses and/or equipment i.e., from past experience, quotes, etc.
      • Explanation of UVU’s indirect cost rate calculation (currently 38% of salaries, wages and fringe benefits).
      • Explanation of consulting and contracting costs.
      • Justification of any restricted items (unallowable costs) and specifications of why they are unique to the particular project.

      Note: Some proposers mention in the budget narrative that additional effort not listed in the budget will be provided. In other cases, they indicate that the funds requested are insufficient for the proposed activities and will be supplemented from other sources. This is considered a cost-sharing commitment. PIs may offer cost share only if it is required by the sponsor and approved by the University. Please refer to the Budget Elements – Cost Share, Match and Leverage section for further information.

  1. Facilitate Subcontracts with OSP, if Applicable

    The primary organization to submit a proposal and be awarded for a sponsored program may choose to allocate a portion of the scope of work to another organization to complete. A subcontract will be generated to obligate a specified amount of funding to the receiving organization to complete a defined portion of work. For federal awards, OSP will help to determine if the receiving organization qualifies as a sub-recipient or contractor/vendor.

    Federal guidelines in 2 CFR 200.330 help distinguish these roles by the following criteria:



    Determines who is eligible to receive what Federal assistance;

    Provides the goods and services within normal business operations;

    Has its performance measured in relation to whether objectives of a Federal program were met;

    Provides similar goods or services to many different purchasers;

    Has responsibility for programmatic decision making;

    Normally operates in a competitive environment;

    Is responsible for adherence to applicable Federal program requirements specified in the Federal award; and

    Provides goods or services that are ancillary to the operation of the Federal program; and

    In accordance with its agreement, uses the Federal funds to carry out a program for a public purpose specified in authorizing statute, as opposed to providing goods or services for the benefit of the pass-through entity.

    Is not subject to compliance requirements of the Federal program as a result of the agreement, though similar requirements may apply for other reasons.

    In a sub-recipient arrangement, UVU is the project lead; in a sub-award arrangement, UVU is a collaborator to another institution who is the project lead. It is the responsibility of the project PI/PD or the lead at UVU to notify OSP about any sub-contractual agreement and facilitate the work required by OSP, as described below.

    Documents required for submission when UVU is the lead. The project PI/PD should submit to the UVU OSP:

    1. A completed NOI, well in advance of the proposal submission deadline, indicating that there will be one or more subcontracts.
    2. The contact information for the project lead at the other institution and for that institution’s Office of Sponsored Programs (or similar office).
    3. A copy of the sponsor guidelines, either as a web link or PDF file.
    4. For NSF proposals, the name and NSF registration number of the project lead for the institution and for any other faculty of the institution who may serve in a Co-PI position.
    5. The complete grant application/proposal, including the final budget and budget narrative, one week prior to submission.
    6. Complete the Grant Proposal Submission Approval Routing Form (don’t link) for UVU with signatures of the cognizant and authorizing administrator(s) (dean and/or vice president).

    The sub-recipient’s OSP should submit to UVU OSP:

    1. Contact information for the project lead (PI/PD) at that institution, and for the OSP administrator on the project, the financial official (accountant) for sponsored programs, and the Authorized Signing Authority for the institution.
    2. AStatement of Work for a Grant Subcontract document describing the work to be done by the other institution, one week prior to submission.
    3. The Budget and Budget Narrative documents, one week prior to submission.
    4. A Sub-recipient Commitment Form.

    Documents required for submission when UVU is subcontracted. The project PI/PD should submit to the UVU OSP:

    1. A completed NOI, well in advance of the proposal submission, indicating that UVU intends to be a sub-awardee to another institution.
    2. The contact information for PI/PD at the other institution and for that institution’s Office of Sponsored Programs (or similar office).
    3. A copy of the sponsor guidelines, either as a web link or PDF file.
    4. A Scope of Work document describing the work to be performed by UVU.
    5. The Budget and Budget Narrative documents for UVU’s scope of work, in time to meet the lead’s project deadlines.
    6. Complete the Grant Proposal Submission Approval Routing Form for UVU with signatures of the cognizant and authorizing administrator(s) (dean and/or vice president).

    The lead organization’s OSP should submit to UVU OSP:

    1. Contact information for the project lead (PI/PD) at that institution, and for the OSP administrator on the project, the financial official (accountant) for sponsored programs, and the Authorized Signing Authority for the institution.
    2. Any sub-recipient forms required by that institution’s OSP.
    3. The complete grant application/proposal.

  1. Peer Review

    Review of the proposal and budget by the project team and by other peers is critical to getting a proposal funded. Reviewers see things that the writer(s) may have overlooked. They can identify issues that are unclear, lack sufficient explanation, or may raise reviewer concerns. Reviews by both those who are familiar with the project (the project team) and by those who are unfamiliar with it (other experts in the field) will be helpful. If someone on your project team is not a good copy editor, find someone who is to review the proposal carefully. It is useful to have a non-expert provide a review to ensure the content is easily understandable and free from disciplinary jargon and acronyms. The document needs to be stylistically clean, easy to read, and free from grammatical error.

    1. Self & Project Team Review

      The proposal should be reviewed by the writer(s) and members of the project team. The reviewers’ time and effort will be more productive if they are given some guidance or asked to respond to some specific questions. Reviewers might be asked the following, in addition to questions of your own:

      • Does the proposal address all of the program solicitation requirements?
      • Does the proposal clearly explain the problem the project will address? Is the supporting evidence convincing? Are there issues that should be considered that have not been?
      • Are the goals and objectives clear and unambiguous? Do they describe what we intend to do and hope to accomplish?
      • Does the implementation section articulate what we intend to do? Is there anything that may be unclear to the reader? Are there project elements that have been left out? Is the project timeline workable?
      • Is the project management plan effective and agreeable to all? Is everyone’s role clearly defined and are we in agreement about this? Are there others who should be included on the project team or in an advisory capacity to the project?
      • Will the evaluation plan effectively assess the project? Have the most important aspects of the project been selected for evaluation? Are the measurement tools and anticipated outcomes appropriate? Are intended outcomes both ambitious and attainable?
      • Is the budget adequate? Does it include everything that should be included? Is it cost-effective? Does the budget narrative give adequate explanation of costs that may raise concerns?

    2. Peer Review: Technical & Scientific Experts

      The PI/PD should seek other reviewers who have expertise in the field or similar fields but who have not been part of planning the project. These reviewers might be faculty members or administrators at UVU or another institution. (UVU OSP has a list of some UVU faculty or retired faculty who would be willing to serve as reviewers.) Again, reviewers’ time and effort will be more productive if they are given some guidance or asked to respond to some specific questions. Reviewers might be asked the following, in addition to questions of your own and the questions above:

      For research proposals:

      • How important is the proposed activity to advancing knowledge and understanding within its own field or across different fields? Do the authors present a compelling and thorough review of the literature and locate their project within this context?
      • Is the proposer (individual or team) well qualified to conduct the project? Is there sufficient internal, and possibly external, expertise to make the project successful?
      • To what extent does the proposed activity suggest and explore creative and original concepts? Is the work innovative or potentially transformative?
      • How well conceived and organized is the proposed activity? Is there a clear plan of work that defines the roll of the project team and sets forth a realistic timeframe? Does the plan follow standard research protocols for its field of study?
      • Does the proposal anticipate and answer the reader’s questions? Does it clearly eliminate every possible criticism?

      For service-oriented proposals:

      • Is the target audience clearly defined? Are their needs well understood and articulated? Is there an effective plan for recruiting and selecting participants?
      • Is it clear what the proposers intend to accomplish? Will the intended outcomes be of value to the target audience? Will they be of value to the community or others? Are the intended outcomes cost effective, considering the expense, time, and energy?
      • Are the proposed interventions grounded in evidence-based practices? Is there a clear link between the scholarly justification and the proposed activities? Is there compelling justification indicating that the proposed activities are likely to produce the desired outcomes?
      • Is there a valid connection between the proposer’s goal and the University’s mission and/or core values? Do the aims of the project align with the institution’s values and objectives?

Proposal Development Resources

The Office of Sponsored Programs has created and compiled a number of proposal development resources to aid you in proposal preparation. Some are general to most proposals and others are specific to the National Science Foundation. Please go toGrant Writing Resourceson the OSP website and become familiar with this selection.