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Proposal Development

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Writing a proposal

Funding opportunities typically come in the form of a Request for Proposal (RFP) or Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO). These documents are provided by the grantor and include detailed instructions and any specific forms required by the funding agency. When writing a proposal, it is important to follow the requirements of the RFP or NOFO. Please forward potential funding opportunities to, so that we can assist with meeting these requirements.

Funding agencies have a team of reviewers who will evaluate your proposal against many others to determine which get funded. Clarity and consistency with the RFP or NOFO will make this process easier for reviewers. Take care to include required sections, label them clearly, and thoroughly address specific topics according to the RFP or NOFO.

Write for your reviewers–that is, for an audience with the necessary background to evaluate the effectiveness of your project plan. However, unless you know otherwise, do not assume that the reviewers are technical experts in your field. Be clear and concise.


Budget Development

The budget serves to identify the costs of the project to the sponsor. The budget also serves as a further measure of the Project Director’s capabilities, since there must be a reasonable correlation between the project as described and the Project Director’s assessment of the various cost elements.

The budget is composed of 3 parts—Direct Costs, Indirect Costs, and Budget Justification.

Direct Costs: Direct Costs are costs that can be distinctly identified as supporting or benefiting the project–such as salaries and fringe benefits, travel, supplies, third-party contracted services, and equipment dedicated to the project. Please contact the Office of Sponsored Programs for additional guidance on direct cost categories. Also see the Budget Template.

Indirect Costs: Indirect costs, also known as Facilities and Administrative (F&A) costs, are costs of doing business that are not distinctly identified as supporting or benefiting a specific project or cost objective, but that are necessary for the general operation of the organization and conduct of the activities it performs. Indirect Costs are calculated as a percentage of direct costs in the budget (not as a percentage of the total award). FSU uses its Federally negotiated indirect cost rate as a basis for calculating and charging indirect costs on a project. The indirect cost rate may be limited by the funder, in which case the rate used in the budget should comply with the funder’s requirements.

Budget Justification: The budget justification provides an explanation for each budget line item, its purpose, how it was calculated, and why it is necessary to carry out the project objectives.


Cost Share

In some cases, a funder may require that FSU cost share, or match, a portion of the total project cost. Cost sharing requirements may be expressed as a ratio between the sponsor’s share and the applicant’s share or as a percentage of the total project costs. For instance, a “1-to-1 match” (a ratio) means that each party contributes the same amount toward total project costs. A “50% match” (a percentage) means that the applicant is responsible for 50% of the total project costs. A “1-to-1 match” and a “50% match” mean the same thing expressed in different ways.

The University’s match may come from several sources:

• Other support for the same project (for a Federal grant, non-Federal funds only)
• Faculty members’ time spent on the project during the academic year for which no funds are being requested
• Funds from the University Department or College
• Unrecovered or waived indirect costs (special approval is required)
• Funds from the University Matching Fund (special approval is required)

Cost share, or match, should only be included in a proposed budget when explicitly required by the sponsor.


Policies & Guidelines