Proposal Development and Submission
Developing competitive proposals is an iterative process, particularly when writing a persuasive proposal narrative and creating a budget sufficient to carry out the work you want to do. Fortunately, resources abound to help you navigate through the process.
Proposal writing resources
Proposal writing has a style of its own distinctly different from other writing styles. Fortunately, freely available numerous resources exist that describe techniques for writing persuasive proposals. Additionally, sponsors’ program guidelines also provide specific instructions for applicants. Check out these selected resources designed to help you craft a compelling proposal narrative.
- New Faculty Guide to Competing for Research Funding–Authors Mike Cronan and Lucy Deckard provide a comprehensive overview of the proposal development process, including several chapters specifically focused on writing.
- Writing Proposals for ACLS Fellowship Competitions–Author Christina M. Gillis offers guidance for developing proposals for the various American Council of Learned Societies’ (ACLS) programs. It serves as a useful resource to assist applicants preparing proposals for submission to the ACLS.
- On the Art of Writing Proposals–Authors Adam Pzreworski and Frank Salomon propose multiple strategies for organizing research proposals for submission to the Social Science Research Council.
- GrantSpace by Candid offers a free collection of sample documents like letters of inquiry, proposal budgets, and proposal narratives. It often can be helpful (and enlightening!) to see how others have developed various proposal components.
The United States Government passed the Plain Writing Act of 2010, which requires federal agencies to be more clear in written communications. Proposals should be clear too! You can download the guidelines here, or read specific sections here. See also helpful examples of ambiguous wording made more explicit and wordiness made spare. These examples can help you make every word count in your proposal, which is particularly important given frequent sponsor-imposed page limits.
Your proposal budget reflects in numbers what you’ve described using words in your proposal. These two proposal components must be closely aligned. Common budget categories include the following:
If your proposal will involve additional space allocation or alterations to existing spaces, it’s important to communicate these proposed needs to Facilities Management in order accurately determine the associated costs as well as to seek institutional approval.
If your project involves land use on the Domain for education, research, or management, a plan must first be submitted to the Office of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability for review and approval. You can either complete the Domain research proposal form for proposed activities on the Domain or submit your proposal via email to OESSresearch@sewanee.edu for review and approval. For more information about what projects are required to be submitted for approval via the form, please visit the OESS website or email your questions to OESSresearch@sewanee.edu.
Cost sharing and matching funds
Unless specifically required by the sponsor, voluntarily offering cost sharing either as in-kind or matching funds is discouraged. If the sponsor’s program guidelines state in writing that cost sharing is required, contact Pollyanne or Tom for assistance.
The University’s indirect cost rate is of 43.5% Modified Total Direct Costs (MTDC) for on-campus grants and 24% for off-campus grants. Indirect costs are determined by applying our negotiated F&A Rate to a proposal's direct cost base, which includes all salaries and wages, fringe benefits, materials, supplies, services, travel and each subaward up to the first $25,000. Our MTDC base excludes items such as equipment (>$5000), capital expenditures, charges for patient care, student tuition remission, rental costs of off-site facilities, scholarships, and fellowships as well as the portion of each subaward in excess of $25,000. Recovered indirect costs are distributed according to the Grants Overhead Policy.
Alert! The University has a new indirect cost rate agreement effective July 1, 2020. Please contact Pollyanne or Tom if you are developing a proposal so that we can assist you with incorporating the new rates into your budget.
If you haven’t yet found what you’re looking for, this section may have what you need.
Data Management Plans: Many sponsors require applicants to include a data management plan describing how data will be handled during and after a research project ends. The DMPTool is a comprehensive resource provided by the California Curation Center of the California Digital Library. It offers over 36,000 examples of data management plans and includes sponsor-specific templates designed to facilitate the development of robust plans.
SciENcv–The Science Experts Network Curriculum Vitae (SciENcv) is a relatively new electronic system designed to help you create and maintain your professional profile (biosketch) in a format acceptable to many sponsors, including the National Institutes of Health, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Science Foundation. It’s free to use and you maintain control over what data is included in your biosketch.
ORCID–ORCID is an international resource providing digital identifiers (ORCID iDs) that uniquely identify researchers without revealing personally identifiable information. The service is free, and the ORCID iD is designed to be valid throughout your career. Read more about ORCID iD here, including instructions for creating your personal ORCID iD.
What to Say-and Not Say-to Program Officers–Michael J. Spires describes effective communication strategies for applicants to use when communicating with grant program officers.