The Pre-award phase of the grant life cycle involves activities from finding funding, proposal and budget development, internal review of the proposal, proposal submission to the sponsor, and tracking the status of the submitted proposal until the sponsor provides a funding outcome. A process flowchart is provided as a visual aid for those considering applying for extramural funding.
A: Find Funding
OSP provides a variety of tools that UWO faculty and staff can use to seek out extramural grant funding. Tools include Grants.gov to search for federal funding sources, the Grants Resource Center (GRC) GrantSearch for both federal and non-federal funding sources, and Pivot –RP for all non-federal and federal sources. Pre-Award staff are able to utilize Pivot-RP to set up a funding newsletter and curated search for your funding needs. Newsletters and curated searches are one way to filter and search for funding that meets your needs or research interests
B: Notify OSP of Intent to Submit
Once you’ve identified a funding opportunity to pursue, contact OSP to notify the Pre-Award team of your intent to submit a proposal. It is helpful to share a link to the specific solicitation with the Pre-award team. Early notification is also key to allowing the Pre-Award team to provide the highest level of support for your grant development efforts. Faculty are also encouraged to notify their Department Chair and Dean of their intent to submit.
If your proposal will involve human or animal subjects, biohazardous materials or r-DNA, you will need to obtain approval by the respective oversight committee for these types of research. When you notify the Pre-Award team of your intent to submit, it is also a good idea to notify the respective compliance unit of your research needs (IRB, IACUC, IBC).
C: Compliance with Sponsor Requirements
The majority of sponsors will publish a set of application instructions that applicants use to ensure a compliant proposal is developed. This document may also be known as a Request for Proposals (RFP), Request for Applications (RFA), Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), Package Instructions, or simply, a solicitation. Both the PI/project team and the Pre-Award team need to be familiar with the submission requirements. The PI should share a link to the solicitation with the Pre-Award team. The Pre-Award team will review the guidance and then set up a SharePoint shared folder that includes helpful guidance and templates. The project team will be granted access to the folder and the space can be used to collaborate on the proposal development.
D: Write the Proposal
The PI and project team will have responsibility for writing the proposal narrative, including any supporting documents such as biosketches, abstract, references cited, and supporting documents. The Pre-Award team will assist with development of the budget and budget justification in addition to providing pre-reads and support during the writing phase. Information in the proposal narrative should strongly presented and in enough detail to give reviewers a clear and concise understanding of the proposed project. Consider using SMART objectives to write your narrative (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound).
E: Budget Development
Contact the Pre-Award team in OSP when you are ready to begin budget development. The Pre-Award team can help ensure all institutional rates, such as fringe benefits and indirect cost rates, are budgeted according to UWO policy. When considering how to build personnel compensation into your budget, reference the Title & Total Compensation Library (TTC) for appropriate salary ranges for many positions, in addition to the compensation types below:
1: Course buyout
Buyout costs allow a faculty member to buy release time from course loads. The grant covers the buyout plus associated fringe benefits. Typically, buyout is calculated as a percentage of the individual’s base salary. A 3-credit course is equivalent to 12.5% of base salary (3 credits/24 credit load = 12.5%). Course buyout results in the grant being charged for salary rather than the charge going to the standard department/home account.
2: Compensation for Additional Services
(aka CAS or summer compensation)
Summer CAS becomes an extension of a 9-month contract to add one or more new summer months of effort. Summer CAS can be budgeted for faculty and staff on 9-month contracts but not for individuals with 12-month appointments. Summer CAS is restricted to two (2) months per year, or 22.22% of base salary (or 11.11% for one month of effort) following UWO. Approval by the Provost and Dean is required for special circumstances requiring an individual to commit more than 2 summer months effort.
3: Reassigned Time
This is a compensation option for individuals on 12-month contracts or where summer CAS or buyout is not an option. Reassigned time allows the grant to pay for a percentage of time for the individual to work solely on the grant rather than on their standard institutional duties.
Overload payments are for work of an unusual, short-term and non-recurring nature as defined under UW System Operational Policy TC3: Compensation. Overload creates a scenario where the individual’s workload exceeds 100% of the employee’s time and must be pre-approved by the Provost and Dean, in addition to approval from the sponsor either by approval of the grant proposal or during the performance period, in writing. There is an $18,000 limit on the amount of compensation an employee can earn as overload per calendar year. Individuals are encouraged to consider course buyout, summer CAS, or reassigned time first, before overload is considered as a payment option.
D: Cost Sharing
Cost sharing is the portion of total project costs that are paid by the non-federal entity (i.e. UW Oshkosh or a third-party partner). Cost sharing can include cash contributions, or in-kind donations such as donated services or use of existing facilities. Some sponsors have mandatory cost sharing thresholds while other sponsors do not allow cost sharing (i.e. NSF). Cost sharing should only be included in a proposal budget if it is mandatory per the sponsor’s solicitation. In most cases voluntary committed cost sharing is not included in a grant proposal. The PI should work with their department chair and dean’s office to develop a cost sharing plan for the proposal. The Pre-Award team is available to offer suggestions for allowable cost sharing.
If a UWO PI plans to work with a collaborating entity, the OSP will perform a determination to ensure the subrecipient entity is categorized properly as either a subrecipient or a consultant/contractor/vendor. During the pre-award phase, entities determined to hold a subrecipient role will be required to submit the following documents to OSP:
- Subrecipient Commitment Form (OSP can provide)
- Letter of Commitment
- Scope of Work
- Budget & Budget Justification
- Other documents as required by the sponsor’s solicitation
H: Internal Review
Requests for extramural support (i.e. grant funding) that involve the University’s name and resources must be approved through an internal review process prior to submission to the sponsor. This includes proposals where UWO is a subrecipient (non-lead institution). The internal review phase allows institutional approvers such as the Dean, Department Chair, Controller, OSP Director, and Grants Accountant to review and approve the proposal for submission. Internal review is documented on the Internal Review Form (IRF). The PI is responsible for completing the IRF and sharing it with the Pre-Award team. The Pre-Award team will attach it to the proposal and route it for approvals. OSP asks for the IRF, in addition to the final budget and budget narrative, and the drafted project narrative, a minimum of seven (7) business days prior to the sponsor deadline. Pre-award staff perform a full compliance review of the packet. Pre-Award team will contact the PI if their review results in necessary changes to the budget or other documents. The Pre-Award team will then circulate the proposal for internal approvals. The PI should anticipate that internal review will take approximately 3-5 days to complete.
I: Submit the Proposal
If the proposal is a federal request for funding, Pre-Award staff will submit the proposal for you, through one of the various e-submission platforms (Grants.gov, Research.gov ASSIST, etc). It is optimal to submit the final proposal two (2) business days prior to the deadline to allow time to address possible submission errors or system-to-system issues. Upon submission, many platforms will assign a proposal tracking ID which can be used to check on the status during the panel review phase. Once submitted, PIs should expect that most federal submissions will take six months or more for full panel review and award decisions to be released.