Please note that completed grant proposals must undergo an internal review process prior to submission. Please send your completed proposal to the director of faculty grants 10 business days before the deadline. Trinity College policy requires that all grant/project proposals be submitted through the CFGR office.
Preproposals and Letters of Intent
Some funding programs require the submission of a preproposal as a means of managing grant competitions with large numbers of applications. If you plan to apply to such a program, you should treat the preproposal with the same care that you would a full proposal: the budget should be as accurate as possible and all approvals must be obtained via the internal transmittal form. A letter of intent is also used by some funding agencies to gauge expected submissions; in most cases, the letter is not an instrument in the selection process. Contact the director of faculty grants if a letter of intent is required.
To be successful, grant proposals for research or project funding must answer a core set of questions:
- What question/problem/topic do you intend to investigate and why is it important?
- What do you expect to find/prove and how do you intend to go about it?
- How will you measure progress or impact?
- What qualifications and accomplishments make you the right person for this project?
- Is your project well suited to the funder’s program guidelines?
- Does it include work plans and budget requests that are realistic?
Some things to keep in mind
- Start early – Allow plenty of time to discuss your ideas with colleagues and others outside your discipline before you start to write. These discussions may help refine your argument and methodology and may bring related research to your attention. If possible, complete a first draft with enough spare time to share the text with critical readers.
- Read the guidelines carefully and follow all directions – This includes requirements about length, format, type sizes and page margins. These may seem trivial, but they are not: some federal funders will not review a proposal, however meritorious, if it does not meet these practical requirements.
- Be sure to address all aspects of the review criteria. Describe how your work serves the purpose of the grant and where possible, mirror the grantmaker’s language.
- Proofread – Errors in grammar and spelling make a bad impression on busy reviewers.
- Check out the Research Policy page for required forms that may apply to your project
Don’t be discouraged if your proposal is not accepted– Preparing grant applications is challenging and time-consuming; it is always a disappointment when the answer is negative. Many grants competitions have very high applicant-to-grant ratios, but success is still possible. Federal funding agencies such as NSF and NIH will provide reviewers’ comments to unsuccessful applicants and often encourage resubmission. Keep looking around: A proposal that is turned down by one funder may be adapted for submission to another.
Useful websites for proposal writing
An increasing number of funding agencies are requiring that proposals be filed electronically. Online submission can make proposal preparation more streamlined and efficient, but it does not supersede the College’s institutional approval requirements. In other words, even if the technology permits the principal investigator to complete, upload, and send the proposal completely independently, he or she should not do so until the project has received institutional approval via the internal transmittal form.
Federal funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), use the online portal Grants.gov; the National Science Foundation (NSF) uses FastLane and Grants.gov. Contact the director of faculty grants for more information about online proposals for your specific project.
Faculty members who plan to submit proposals to federal funding agencies should contact the director of faculty grants two weeks before the deadline, to ensure that the necessary accounts and permissions have been set up. Early online submission allows us to correct any mistakes that pop up. Proposals to federal entities can only be submitted by the director of faculty grants and only upon completion of the institutional approval process described above.
All grant proposals will ask you to create a budget for submission. The director of faculty grants can provide budget templates and detailed information specific to certain funders.
Although the funder and needs of your project will determine your content and format, these common elements are usually found in all budgets:
Cost-sharing and matching
Cost-sharing and matching refer to a financial commitment on the part of the College. Cost-sharing refers to the reallocation of already budgeted resources from the department or college to support part of the costs of a sponsored project. Sponsors usually indicate what kinds of contributions are eligible for cost-sharing. Cost-sharing may be mandatory or voluntary. Mandatory cost-sharing means that funds are required by the sponsor in order for the proposal to be eligible for funding. Recently, federal funders have been prohibiting cost-sharing as a way of leveling the playing field.
Matching occurs when the College agrees to allocate new funds beyond those provided by the sponsor to support a project. The ratio of the match is usually set by the sponsor. Any cost-sharing or matching funds must be outlined in the budget and approved via the internal transmittal form
Facilities & administration costs (F&A/Indirect costs)
Federal regulations (OMB Circular A-21) define cost principles for educational institutions. Facilities and administrative costs are defined as those “that are incurred for common or joint objectives and, therefore, cannot be identified readily and specifically with a particular sponsored project, an instructional activity, or any other institutional activity.” Facilities covers college borne costs such as depreciation and use allowances, interest on certain debt, equipment and capital improvements, operation and maintenance expenses, and library expenses. Administration covers general administration and expenses, departmental administration, sponsored projects administration, student administration and services, etc.
F&A rates for most federal grant requests are set every three years, in negotiation between the College’s Budget Office and federal auditors from Region I of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The current rate, in effect from June 3, 2014, through June 30, 2017, is 67 percent of salaries and wages. For research projects that take place off-campus, the rate is 28 percent of salaries and wages.
It is the College’s policy to recover indirect costs as allowed by funding agency guidelines. Proposals submitted by members of the faculty should use the predetermined F&A/indirect rate whenever allowed. If the funding agency will not permit the full rate to be charged, consult the CFGR office.
For most research proposals, faculty members may request summer salary support for up to two months, calculated as 2/9 of the academic year base salary. Grant requests to support non-faculty personnel (e.g., administrative positions, student assistants) must conform to the salary scale and benefit eligibility of regularly budgeted college positions. Grant-funded positions of six months’ duration or longer, and of half-time or greater are eligible for benefits as defined in the College’s benefit plan. The funding request must cover the full cost of salaries and benefits for any grant-funded position.
Benefits may include the employer’s contribution to FICA, worker’s compensation, unemployment insurance, medical coverage, life insurance, and pension plans, depending on the person and period of time in question. The current average benefit rate for regular, full-time employees is approximately 31 percent. However, the actual rate to be included can vary: for example, in most cases when a faculty member is requesting summer salary for himself/herself, the only applicable benefit is the employer’s contribution to FICA, at 7.65 percent. Faculty members are urged to consult with the director of faculty grants on personnel costs in grants budgets. Benefits costs are treated as direct costs in proposal budgets, but are not counted against the salaries and wages base for the purposes of calculating the F&A amount.
Salary supplements or substitutions for teaching during the academic year must be negotiated on an individual basis. Any grant that requires that the faculty member take a leave should be reported to the dean of academic affairs responsible for that department as soon as possible. Please refer to the dean of the faculty's website
for policies regarding leave.
Project proposals that cover more than one year should factor in a salary and wage increases of 2-3 percent in subsequent years. Please check with CFGR when preparing the budget as salary increases will affect the amount budgeted for benefits.
Grant-funded student research assistants working during the summer months should be paid at the rate of $10.00/hour; this is based on the rate currently used by the Faculty Research Committee for the Student Research program. For grant-funded student work with lesser responsibilities, refer to the rates set by the Financial Aid Office for work-study
Grant requests for student summer support should add the cost of the employer’s FICA share at 7.65 percent. Full-time students are exempt from FICA withholding during the academic year.
Principal investigators/program directors (PI/PDs) are responsible for making summer on-campus housing arrangements as needed for student research assistants. Contact Jen Douglas
in the Office of Residential Life, as soon as possible. The cost of summer housing and board (currently estimated at $160/week) is sometimes contributed by the College when students’ stipends are paid by a grant.
The College's rate for mileage reimbursement is $0.575/mile; grant requests should not exceed this rate. All budgeted travel charges should be based on reasonable and customary costs.
Cost Rates, Tax & Compliance Information
The Faculty Grants Office maintains a copy of each submitted proposal or application, budget information, completed internal transmittal form and correspondence with the granting agency. When an application is submitted, one copy of the entire proposal should be sent to the director of faculty grants. The comptroller’s office retains the budget and transmittal form following approval.
It is important to keep CFGR up to date on the status and outcome of all grant proposals. This facilitates tracking, identification of checks and award letters, post-award compliance, and informs future applications to the granting organization. Please communicate all decisions to CFGR regardless of outcome.