When you identify a potential funding opportunity, proceed by ensuring you meet the necessary requirements for that opportunity. If you are not eligible, return to your search. If you are eligible, and you would like to submit your proposal to that opportunity, then begin the proposal preparation process.
Make sure you Qualify
The primary considerations of the funding announcement you must address are:
A funder's requirements will vary even within a single agency; if you fail to comply with the guidelines, your proposal will likely be rejected without further review. Throughout the proposal development process, remember the following:
- Adhere to the funder's guidelines.
- Determine if the submission date is a postmark or a receipt date.
- Determine the correct mailing address; some funders require proposals mailed to different locations.
- Adhere to page limitations, font size, margins, and other format requirements.
- Determine if the proposal will need to be submitted electronically, in hard copy, or both.
- Know the number of copies required for submission.
It is critical that you read the funder's guidelines and follow them explicitly. If there are various sources for program announcements, be sure to conduct an exhaustive review of these various sources, so as to receive a complete picture of the requirements and instructions. Pacific's grants officers are available to help you throughout this process. You must "think and feel" like the funder. You must put yourself in their shoes and consider what the funder wishes to fund, and not what you yourself would like to have funded. If you can think like the funder, and determine the funder's priorities, then you will have a better chance of receiving funding for your project or program.
Principal Investigators/Project Leads are encouraged to contact the funder's program officers to clarify any questions you may have. Guidelines include the following topics: Submission deadlines and eligibility, proposal format, award levels, margins, spacing, evaluation process and restrictions on the number criteria of pages, etc. Review timetable, budgets, funding goals and priorities and primary contact, geographic restrictions and other submission requirements.
Principal Investigators or Project Leads must understand the current guidelines to ensure that there are compatible interests between the funder's interests and that of the University. Questions to ask are:
- What are the Funding limitations that will affect the scope of the research?
- As the Principal Investigator or Project Lead, are you a U.S. Citizen or a permanent resident? Does your field of expertise cover the research focus? Some opportunities are explicitly for new faculty members and require that your Ph.D. was received within the last five years. Do you qualify?
- Are there realistic costs – Direct Costs, Facilities & Administration (F&A) costs, equipment needs, etc. – as well as rights to the research at the conclusion of your grant that will affect the successful implementation of the project?
- How about administrative costs? If you are seeking federal support, remember that OMB Circular A- 21 prohibits most administrative costs from being directly charged to grants and contracts. Will this affect your budget and thus your proposal?
- How about the use of consultants? Some funders may cap fees or establish what constitutes "consultant costs."
- Have you looked at compliance issues? For example, if there are potential export control issues, will the research limit you in fundamental research?
- Does the opportunity indicate that the institution be a Minority or Hispanic-serving institution or land-grant institutions? Pacific does not qualify.
- Are there geographic limitations based on state or country? How about population type or ethnicity within the research focus?
- Does your research or service interest fit into the types of support the funder covers? Examples are building or renovation, continuing support, equipment, program development, research, etc.
Various factors concerning feasibility should be addressed before you can start writing your proposal. These are:
- Time: Will there be sufficient time to prepare a strong and competitive proposal with the necessary collaborative agreements, equipment, matching funds and approvals, in order to meet the funding deadline.
- Cost Sharing: Will cost sharing or matching funds be required? Can your department chair, dean or director agree to the requested commitments? Or is this something for which the University will be required to make a commitment; in this case, your proposal must be reviewed by Cabinet.
- Compliance: Every federal agency will require regulatory compliance based on the research or service being accomplished. Can you and your fellow researchers comply with human subjects (IRB), animal care and use (IACUC), etc.? If not, is there sufficient time to process your application?
- Facilities: The project calls for sufficient laboratory and/or classroom space? Does Pacific have capacity, or will other space need to be acquired or rented?
- Facilities and Administrative (F and A) Costs: Pacific’s current indirect cost rate is 36 percent (as of 2010) unless the funder otherwise restricts the recoverable costs to a specific amount or percentage (or does not allow for F and A to be charged to the grant). Please note that F and A (also known as Indirect Costs), are costs that refer to those incurred for common or joint objectives and therefore cannot be identified readily and specifically with a particular sponsored project (source: Office of Management and Budget standards; OMB Circular A-21). The F and A rate applies to federal and non-federal grants and cooperative agreements unless the funder in question specifically indicates in writing other terms and conditions that restricts or relinquishes the use of Pacific’s F and A rate.
- For salaries and wages that are attributed to the grant (excluding student wages), the University currently charges 35 percent fringe benefit rate, on full-time, part-time and temporary employees. If this is not allowed to be charged to the funder, then your department must subsidize your project for the difference or full amount.
- Collaborative Partners: Is there sufficient time to gather the required data, authorization and matching funds required by grant collaborators?
- The mission of the institution: Do the funding guidelines support the mission and the academic focus of your institution?
- Responsible Conduct of Research: Are there areas for possible conflict of interests, be it financially, research or technology transfer issues with partners?
- Travel: Does the funding opportunity present problems of travel that will intrude on your other scholarly work? Do you require release time from your research activities?
- Other Research: Do you have other research, service or projects that you are leading that may cause disruption in your time and effort of this new project? Could there be conflicts within your existing research, service or projects?
There will be times when your expertise is insufficient and thus the research will require a collaborative effort from a broad cross-section of researchers from various disciplines and/ or institutions. Co-Principal Investigators (Co-PIs) may also be required to accomplish the work. It is important to determine whether the Co-PIs will have adequate time and can effectively do this work. Typically the Co-PIs must also provide Pacific and the funder with a summary of their present research work. Be sure to determine whether their current work causes a conflict of interest. If you do not use Co-PIs to do the work, are you considering subcontracts, vendors, or consultants for support? These additional items must be considered in the budget and outlined in the budget justification. They will also affect the size of the proposed budget required.