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Develop Your Proposal

Slave Grave research


The Office of Research Administration can help with all aspects of proposal development. The steps that follow will ensure that your proposal has the best chance for success. Call 828-227-7212 to get your proposal underway.

Read and understand the RFP. The Request for Proposals is the most important document for a grantwriter. It may be called by other names (RFA - Request for Applications, FOA - Funding Opportunity Announcement, NOFA - Notice of Funding Availability). It provides guidance for composing and assembling the proposal components, satisfying review and evaluation criteria, meeting submission deadlines, and other helpful information. See the glossary of terms or consult an ORA staff person for assistance with RFPs.

Start planning early. A complex proposal may take months to write. Allow time for a thorough literature review, well-planned research strategy and methodology, and feedback from critical readers. You may also need time to develop collaborations with other institutions, produce preliminary research data, and prepare logic models or evaluation plans. Assistance with research design and research methods is available through Coulter Faculty Commons.

Talk to a program officer. Many sponsors encourage applicants to get feedback early in the process from a program officer, who has a wealth of knowledge and experience with the agency and its processes.

Get help with writing. Grantwriting is a skill that is distinct from academic writing.

Ten Simple Rules for Getting Grants

Why Academics Have a Hard Time Writing Good Grant Proposals

Grantwriting Tips from the University of Texas

One of the best ways to become a good grant writer is to serve as a grant reviewer. Contact the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, Health Resources and Services Administration, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Institute of Museum and Library Sciences or another agency in your area of expertise to become a peer reviewer.

Let ORA help with proposal components. ORA can fill out agency forms and proofread and offer feedback on proposal drafts. Our budget template will calculate fringe benefits, cost-of-living increases, and indirect cost rates. We offer assistance with biographical sketches, description of facilities and resources, budget justifications, other required proposal components. If contacted early, the Office of Research Administration can help with all proposal components. See our Proposal Resources page for samples and templates.

FAQ on Proposal Development

What are direct and indirect costs?

Direct costs are incurred directly by the project, for example, the cost of the project's laboratory supplies and the cost of the researcher's time to conduct project experiments are both direct costs. Indirect costs (also called facilities and administrative costs) are incurred indirectly, for example, the laboratory's building and electricity bill are indirect costs that benefit multiple projects. WCU's federally negotiated on-campus indirect cost rate is 33% of modified total direct costs.

What is the difference between academic salary and summer salary?

Many faculty are 9-month or 10-month employees. Effort committed to a grant-funded project during the academic year is paid by the grant, which replaces state (or other) funding sources for that period of time. Effort committed to a grant-funded project during the summer months will be paid by the grant, providing additional salary for that period of time.

What are allowable and unallowable costs?

Federal and other funding agencies specify which costs are allowed to be paid by grants. In general, costs must be reasonable, allocable to the funded project, and consistent. Be sure to consult the Uniform Guidance or other funder policies to determine which costs are allowable for your budget.

Can I submit my proposal directly to the funder?

Most grants are awarded to the institution, and not to individuals. The institution is responsible for authorizing the submission of the proposal, negotiating the terms of the award, and ensuring compliance with the conditions of the grant. A few fellowships and similar awards may be awarded directly to individuals. Although those do not require institutional approval, ORA offers assistance with proposal writing.

What is cost sharing?

Some funders require that the applicant cost share or "match" a percentage of the project funding, either as cash or in-kind contribution. For example, some National Endowment for the Arts grants require that the applicant provide a 100% match. A $1000 grant would require $1000 from WCU, for a total project cost of $2000. Please consult with your department before committing university funds or other sources for cost sharing.

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