Basics of Proposal Development

College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences

Submitting a grant with CAAS Research Services

Got an idea? First, Search for funding opportunities by searching on Grant Forward, asking colleagues, talking to program officers, or asking proposal specialists. Second, submit a request with CAAS Research Services Helpdesk. Third, a proposal specialist will contact you. Fourth, prepare and send proposal documents to proposal specialist. Fifth, submit to sponsored programs office SPO for review. Last, SPO submits to sponsor.

USU uses Kuali to review, submit, and track all grant proposals. All proposals must be prepared and submitted in Kuali for internal review and approval. A proposal specialist with CAAS Research Services can help you prepare your Kuali proposal. Use the CAAS Research Services Helpdesk to request help from a proposal specialist.

While PIs may prepare Kuali proposals on their own without the help of a proposal specialist, PIs are not authorized to submit proposals. All proposals must be submitted by an Authorized Organization Representative (AOR) in the Sponsored Programs Office (SPO).

Learn more about using Kuali from the Kuali Research page and schedule an appointment with Dan Perry to receive one-on-one instruction for using Kuali.

Proposal Development Timeline

After submitting a request using the CAAS Research Services Helpdesk, a proposal specialist will contact you to discuss a timeline for preparing your proposal. The sooner you submit a request the better! We typically request 6-8 weeks to allow sufficient time to prepare a proposal. At a minimum, we request 4 weeks for proposal preparation; however, this depends on the complexity of the grant requirements.
First, Identify target funding opportunity, Examine funding announcement, Meet with Program Officer, Establish a team, Submit letter of intent. 6 weeks before sponsor deadline, Initial meeting with proposal development team to discuss timeline, budget, writing support, and peer review; meet with business management; request personnel documents, letters of support, and subaward documents from collaborators. 5 weeks before sponsor deadline, send answers to standard Kuali questions; initial budget due. 4 weeks before sponsor deadline, narrative draft due for review; finalize budget. 3 weeks before submission deadline, narrative draft due to Greg Podgorski for review; personnel documents due; letters of support due; subaward documents due. 2 weeks before submission deadline, additional supporting documents due; review suggestions from Greg and team. 1 week before sponsor deadline, final narrative due; SPO submission deadline. Last, sponsor submission deadline.

Search for funding opportunities

Preparing your proposal

Budget considerations

Facilities & Administration (F&A)

F&A, also called indirect costs or overhead funds university operations (e.g. electricity, maintenance, administration cervices). F&A rates are federally negotiated and listed on the Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate Agreement (NICRA). 

F&A is calculated as a percentage of the Modified Total Direct Costs (MTDC) for a project. MTDC includes:

  • all direct salaries and wages,
  • applicable fringe benefits,
  • materials and supplies,
  • services,
  • travel,
  • and up to the first $25,000 of each subaward (regardless of the period of performance of the subawards under the awards).

All other direct costs are excluded from F&A calculations. Learn more about F&A.

Graduate Students

Any grant including a graduate student must also include both graduate student health insurance and tuition & fees on the same grant. Make sure to use current insurance premiums and tuition rates. Be aware that fringe benefit rates for students are different in academic and summer months.


When collaborating with investigators from other institutions, make sure to contact them early to request the necessary documents.

USU requires collaborating institutions to submit the Subrecipient Compliance Form, which must be completed by the collaborating institution's Authorized Organization Representative (AOR). In addition to the subrecipient compliance form, USU also requires the following documents (listed on page 2 of the form):

  • Letter of commitment (signed by the subrecipient's AOR)
  • Scope/statement of work (SOW)
  • Budget
  • Budget justification
  • Indirect cost rate agreement


Any single piece of equipment worth $5000 or more is considered capital equipment. Any equipment worth less than $5000 may be considered supplies.

Cost share/matched funds

When matching funds, make sure to plan your budget early and talk to both the program officer and the business manager from your department to ensure your matched funds are appropriate and acceptable. Unless directly required by the funding program or recommended by the program officer, matching funds is generally discouraged.

Writing and reviewing your proposal

Where to start

Get started early! Writing and reviewing a grant proposal takes time. 
Read the funding announcement. Take time to carefully read the program description to understand the goals of the program. Make a list of the required sections and documents needed to complete the proposal. 
Write an outline to plan your main points.
Talk to the program officer. Email a one paragraph description of your project proposal to the program officer to ask for feedback. Program officers can tell you if your proposed project is a good fit for the program. If it is not a good fit, then they may be able to suggest an alternative funding opportunity. Program officers are busy and may not have time to respond immediately, but continue to follow up. 
Keep the audience in mind.
Be brief, concise, and clear. 
Ask others for feedback. 
Read and re-read the RFP and check that your proposal meets all of the requirements.
Carefully proofread your proposal. Mistakes can be distracting to reviewers and convey a lack of professionalism.

Checklists for typical federal grant proposals

Please review the RFA/FOA/NOFO to ensure program-specific requirements are met.

National Science Foundation (NSF):

  1. Cover Sheet
  2. Project Summary
  3. Project Description
  4. References Cited
  5. Biographical Sketch (SciENcv)
  6. Collaborators & Other Affiliations
  7. Budget
  8. Budget Justification
  9. Subaward Budget & Justification
  10. Cost Sharing
  11. Current & Pending Support (SciENcv)
  12. Facilities, Equipment, and Other Resources
  13. Special Information and Supplementary Documentation
  14. Postdoctoral Mentoring Plan
  15. Data Management Plan
  16. Letters of Collaboration

National Institutes of Health (NIH):

  1. Cover Page
  2. Budget
  3. Budget Justification
  4. Project Summary/Abstract
  5. Project Narrative
  6. Bibliography & References
  7. Facilities & Other Resources
  8. Equipment
  9. Biographical Sketches (SciENcv)
  10. Research Plan:
  11. Introduction
  12. Specific Aims
  13. Research Strategy

  As applicable:

  1. Vertebrate Animals
  2. Select Agent Research
  3. Multiple PD/PI Leadership Plan
  4. Consortium/Contractual Arrangements
  5. Letters of Support
  6. Resource Sharing Plan(s)
  7. Authentication of Key Biological and/or Chemical Resources
  8. Appendix (FOA specific)
  9. Human Subjects and Clinical Trials Information

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA):

  1. Project Summary
  2. Project Description
  3. Bibliography & References Cited
  4. Facilities & Other Resources
  5. Equipment
  6. Letters of Support
  7. Biographical Sketch
  8. Current & Pending Support
  9. Budget
  10. Budget Justification
  11. Subaward Budget & Justification
  12. Data Management Plan

USU Internal Documents (as applicable):

    1. Target RFA/FOA/NOFO
    2. F&A Allocation Agreement Form
    3. Indirect Cost Rate Agreement
    4. Cost Share Commitment Form
    5. Consultant Letter
    6. Proof of Nonprofit Status
    7. Subaward Compliance Form:
      • Letter of Commitment
      • Statement of Work
      • Budget
      • Budget Justification
      • Indirect Cost Rate Agreement

Make the most of USU Library resources

USU Library

You received an award, now what?

All awards are handled by the Sponsored Programs Office (SPO) and Sponsored Programs Accounting (SPA).

Please visit the SPO and SPA websites to find out who is assigned to work with your department. They will work with you and the sponsor to negotiate final terms of the award.