Grant Writing

Proposal Application Major Components

The sponsor application guidelines provide the framework for the sequence and content of the proposal. While the format and terminology used will vary from one agency to another, a sponsor usually requests that certain basic information be grouped into components that are common to many proposals. The typical components of a proposal may include:

▼   Institutional Information & Certification
Sponsors usually furnish a Face Page or Cover Sheet form to provide institutional information about the applicant (the University), the PI and/or Project Director and the Authorized Organizational Representative authorizing submission of the proposal. The form also often includes references to various legal assurances and certifications the University must agree to follow when conducting the project. This is especially true when the sponsor will fund the project with federal dollars. The form may or may not require a physical pen-and-ink signature by the PI and an Institutional Official.
▼   Abstract / Summary - CRITICAL PROPOSAL SECTION
The abstract is a significant part of the proposal. The reviewers will probably read this section first to gain an overview of the proposed project. A clear and concise abstract will immediately capture the attention of the reviewers. The content should center upon the objectives and purposes of the project and how these will be achieved.
▼   Introduction / Review of Literature
A limited explanation of the subjects, the theory behind the proposed research, and the efforts that have been devoted to the proposed research in the past are typical kinds of explanations. This section must demonstrate that the applicant has a familiarity with current thinking on the topic and an awareness of how this project relates to present trends.
▼   Needs Statement / Statement of the Problem - CRITICAL PROPOSAL SECTION
The needs or problem statement explains why the program, services, or research is needed at this time, or in this particular institution, or for this particular population. The sponsoring agency must be convinced that there is a measured or verifiable need for the activities described in the remainder of the proposal and  the proposal responds to the agency’s identified needs.
▼   Objectives
The purposes, aims, and goals of the project are contained in this section. In establishing objectives, it is essential to be  specific. Avoid vagueness, generalities or platitudes.
▼   Plan of Action / Methodology
The activities or methodologies to be employed must be carefully detailed. Reviewers are especially concerned about the relevance of these to the project objectives. The most important guideline concerning the procedures section is that it must detail  how the project will be carried out in a logical sequence.
▼   Personnel
The personnel section of the proposal should convince the reviewers that the project team members have the expertise and resources to conduct the proposed activities. For some sponsors, it is important to properly classify or categorize the project personnel based upon each one’s role and contribution. Sponsors also frequently want this section to contain a brief biographical sketch of the project’s key personnel.
▼   Facilities
The emphasis should be on the institutional facilities that are beneficial to the project. Facilities such as libraries, special service units, research apparatus, special purpose equipment, laboratories, conference space, or media equipment may be described in a proposal.
▼   Time Frame
The time frame should specify dates for completion of all activities or tasks and their sequence and interdependence. The ability to stay on schedule is one of the most important aspects of project management.
▼   Evaluation
An important part of a project is a well-designed plan for evaluation. Sponsoring  agencies highly stress the importance of  proper assessment of the achievement of project goals and objectives. Evaluation can be formative (process) and summative (product). Formative evaluation provides feedback as a program progresses; it facilitates appropriate decision making on a day-to-day basis. Summative evaluation measures program attainments, including the outcome of the project and the achievement of goals.
▼   Dissemination
To be useful, research results must be disseminated. This section of the proposal should describe who will be informed of project results, which results will be reported, and in what form the results will be disseminated.
▼   Budget and Budget Justification

Use the budget forms provided by the sponsor or the sponsor’s format as specified in its guidelines to present a correct & concise budget that details the costs necessary to carry out the project. Refer to the Sponsored Projects Administration website for details on developing budgets for a sponsored project.

The budget justification is a narrative, usually two to three pages, explaining the calculations used to determine the total cost for each budget category. Details MUST be used to show how each total cost was obtained. The budget justification MUST match both the budget and the proposal narrative. For example, if the Principal Investigator is committing 25% of his/her time to the project, the 25% should be indicated accurately in the proposal narrative, in the budget, and in the budget justification. Funding agencies are very knowledgeable of appropriate budget costs for what you propose to do. Underestimating or overestimating your budget could create, in the funding agency, a lack of confidence in your ability to successfully complete the grant. Preferably, the budget should be close to the average award size. If a significantly lower or higher budget is proposed, be sure to explain why, in detail, in the budget justification.

▼   Resumes or C.V.
Include as an attachment resumes or C.V. for all key project personnel, if appropriate. Some sponsors want this information in the "Personnel" section and others want it as separate attachments. Some sponsors also specify the length of a resume/CV or its particular format. Always follow the sponsor’s specifications from the program guidelines.
▼   Letters of Endorsement or Commitment / Collaboration
If the proposed project includes collaborations with other institutions or organizations, many sponsors want a letter from an appropriate official endorsing the collaboration. If the project will subcontract work to another entity, sponsors may want a letter from the prospective subcontractor entity that commits to its participation. Generic Letters-of- Support from persons not affiliated with the project may or may not be wanted; check the sponsor’s guidelines carefully.
▼   Appendices
Check the guidelines carefully to see what is and is not allowed as an appendix and follow those specifications closely. Do not use an appendix to circumvent page limitations elsewhere in the proposal. Important information may not be read if it is included within an appendix instead of being within  the body of the narrative. The agency may not return any original or one-of-a-kind attachments.