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Proposal Development Guidelines

All proposals to external sponsors seeking funding for research, service and training purposes must be routed through ORA for review and approval prior to submission to the sponsoring agency. Most proposals require a signature from an authorized official. The authorized officials for sponsored projects at UMassD are the Director of ORA and Pre-award Managers.

Applications submitted without the review and approval by ORA are not considered official submissions and may be administratively withdrawn if the applications are found to be noncompliant with Sponsor, University, State or Federal policies and procedures. 

All proposal submitted for external funding is expected to be consistent with the goals and objectives of the department, college, or institution and should also assess the impact of the project on the future resources of the organization and any changes in the level of institutional support which may result from the acceptance of an award.

The principal investigator (PI) is the individual designated by the University to be responsible for preparing the proposal and the research and scholarly work once the proposal is funded. The PI is also responsible for the administration and management of the sponsored project once awarded.

Category I: Tenure track individuals with the following titles are eligible to serve as a principal investigator:

  • Professor
  • Associate Professor
  • Assistant Professor
  • Chancellor Professor
  • Commonwealth Professor
  • Research Professor – all ranks

Category II: Other full-time benefited employees with the following titles are also eligible to serve as principal investigators:

  • Provost
  • Vice Provost
  • Associate Provost
  • Vice Chancellor*
  • Associate Vice Chancellor*
  • Assistant Vice Chancellor*
  • Dean
  • Associate Dean
  • Director of Center*
  • Other non-academic ranks will require the permission of the Division Head and Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation (VCRI)

Category III: Eligible with the approval of the Department Chair, the Dean, and Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation (VCRI)
Their approval is indicated by their signature on the proposal routing form.  

  • Emeritus
  • Research Associates
  • Clinical Professor – all ranks
  • Teaching Professors – all ranks

There shall also be a Co-Principal Investigator or Co-Investigator from Category I. Co-Principal Investigator or Co-Investigator accepts full grant responsibilities, including fiscal and administrative, should faculty from Category III not be able to fulfill their grant responsibilities. If a Co-Principal Investigator or Co-Investigator is unavailable, the Department Chair and the Dean shall accept full grant fiscal and administrative liability and responsibility for the actions of the Principal Investigator included in this category.

Adjunct faculty at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth must be approved by the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation in order to serve as investigators or senior personnel on grants originating from UMass Dartmouth.

Approval requires the following:

  1. In order to be eligible to serve as a co-Investigator, an adjunct faculty member must have a sponsoring faculty member or full-time employee who is the PI. The PI shall agree to take on the responsibilities of the grant.
  2. An adjunct with a primary full-time appointment elsewhere must provide evidence that his/her home institution approves his/her activities as a co-investigator on a grant at UMass Dartmouth.
  3. The Chairperson and the Dean of the department/program where the co-investigator is appointed as an adjunct must support the request for approval.

The following positions are not normally eligible to serve as an investigator:

  • Visiting and other short-term appointees
  • Post-Doctoral Fellows, except for fellowship awards
  • Part-time Lecturers/Faculty

Post-Doctoral Fellows, with the approval of the department chair and dean, are eligible for Fellowship awards.

Approval is indicated by signature on the Internal Routing Form.
The Post-Doctoral Fellow’s tenure track mentor must be listed as a co-principal investigator. The mentor assumes overall responsibility for the technical and fiscal management of the award.

* - Must also hold an academic position or must be approved by the Provost, VCRI, or Chancellor


Principal Investigator

It is the responsibility of the PI and his/her staff to notify their respective ORA proposal reviewer as soon as possible of the intent to submit an application, along with the Request for Proposal (RFP) #, the program description and/or any other identifying information. Prompt notification will allow ORA time to review the guidelines in order to provide guidance and interpretation to ensure that all submission requirements are met.

The PI is also responsible for ensuring that the following forms are completed, including appropriate department and college signatures, and sent to ORA prior to submission of each proposal:

Proposal Routing Form

Disclosure Summary Form

The PI must also ensure that a Participation Agreement is on a file for all named individuals in the proposal and for all employees hired subsequent to receipt of the award.

The PI is responsible for preparing all forms required by the sponsor and assembling the final proposal package, both electronic and hard copy proposals. The PI is responsible for understanding the proposal format requirements and ensuring the proposal meets those requirements. The PI is also responsible for ensuring all budgetary detail as required by sponsor and ORA is provided and that projected costs are compliant with federal, state, university and sponsor guidelines and requirements.

The PI is responsible for ensuring that any pre approvals required for use of human subjects, use of animals in research, or export controlled technologies are obtained.

The PI is also responsible for providing required supporting documentation to ORA prior to proposal submission. Requirements include verification of all cost share and match included in the proposal by the individual responsible for providing the cost share or match. See the section on cost share/match for additional information.

Department Chair and Dean

The appropriate Chair (or equivalent) and then the Dean of the School or College or his/her designee approve the programmatic aspects of proposals. This review should ensure that the proposal is consistent with the goals and objectives of the department, college or institution and should also assess the impact of the project upon the future resources of the organization and any changes in the level of institutional support which may result from the acceptance of an award.

Prior to signing, the Chair and/or the Dean must confirm the availability of space, major technical resources and equipment, institutional support personnel, and must endorse commitments for cost sharing, matching funds, or any proposed retention of project-supported personnel after the expiration of the award. If such confirmations and endorsements cannot be made, the Chair or Dean should refer the proposal to other appropriate campus officials for resolution.

Office of Research Administration

Office of Research Administration responsible for proposal development and submission is responsible for ensuring that all forms and documentation required by the sponsor or ORA are received.

The Office of Research Administration is responsible:

  • For ensuring that requirements of the proposal have been met and advising the PI to the correct font, format of attachments and so forth.
  • For assisting with budget development such as obtaining salary and wage information, proper calculations of fringe benefits and Facilities and Administrative costs.
  • For ensuring the proposal is compliant with federal cost accounting principles.

Office of Research Administration Director and Manager of Pre and Post Award are responsible for signing all proposals on behalf of the university.

Proposal Routing Form: A Proposal Routing Form (PRF) shall accompany all proposals through the review process.

Disclosure Summary Forms:  The appropriate form, depending to what agency a proposal is being submitted, is required to be filed for every proposal and should accompany the Proposal Routing Form.

The Disclosure Summary is required for all personnel involved in the design, conduct, or reporting of the proposed or sponsored research and asks the individual completing the form to indicate any personal financial connection to the project.

If a financial interest is indicated a second form must be completed and the conflict reviewed by the University Conflict Committee to determine if the conflict can be managed. Work cannot be performed on an award until the management plan has been approved. See the University Policy for Conflict of interest in Research and Scholarly Activity.

Sponsors often provide required forms and guidelines specifying the format of the proposal. If forms are provided, you must use them. The recommended format must be followed as it will be directly related to the criteria used in reviewing the proposal. In addition, be sure to remain within page limits and font size specified. 

If there are no specified guidelines the proposal might include the following: 

Cover Page

  • Project Title
  • Name of Applicant Organization
  • Name of Funding Source to which the proposal is being submitted
  • Proposed project period (beginning and ending dates)
  • Funds requested (for multi-year projects, note total and first-year request)
  • Names, title, and signatures of the project director (principal investigator) and authorizing officials
  • The project director may want to include his academic unit, campus address, and campus telephone.


Should be a condensed version of the proposal, usually about 250 words. It should concisely state the proposed project's objectives, methods, and significance. The abstract is vital in creating a favorable first impression. Proposal writers often write the abstract last. If the proposal is being submitted to a foundation or corporation, some of this information may also be included in a cover letter.

Table of Contents

Project Description to include:

  • A reasonably well-documented statement of the problem or need to be addressed by the proposed project.
  • A clear formulation of the project's specific objectives as related to the overall problem defined above.
  • A detailed description of the methods to be used in conducting the project.
  • This section may include a discussion of general methodology and a detailed work plan (complete with time line).

Evaluation - some sponsors will require a detailed discussion of how you will objectively measure your success in meeting the project's objectives.

Resources should Include:

  • a description of the facilities and personnel available to conduct the project. 
  • Curricula vitae for key staff are usually included in the appendices.  
    Key to a successful proposal and smooth administration of the potential award is clearly identifying the major players in the project itself.  
    This includes identifying by name individuals whose particular expertise and skills are crucial to successfully undertaking the project.  
    Include their affiliation, status on the project (Co-PI, Consultant, new hire) and justification for their involvement.

Budget - a detailed account of the estimated funds required to conduct the project.  
Should be directly related to the project description and include a budget justification section explaining all items. 

Office of Research Administration will assist in budget preparation and calculation of F&A/indirect costs and determining the granting agencies budget restrictions.

Future Funding - an important issue if the project could be reasonably expected to continue beyond the end of the proposed project period.

Significance - since most sponsors have to justify their awards to someone, a general statement about the project's significance can be helpful both in making decisions about awarding grants and in reporting on grants awarded.

Subawards (if there will be a subawardee all the following must be received)

  • budget
  • budget justification
  • scope of work
  • letter of commitment (LOI) signed by an authorized official of the subrecipient organization must be submitted to ORA
  • F&A Rate Agreement, if applicable.

Compliance Review - certain activities must be approved by University committees, these included the use of animal or human subjects, hazardous substances, and radioactive substances. Review and approval may be required before the proposal can be signed.

The budget is the financial expression of the project or program as approved during the award process. While the proposed budget represents an estimate of the monetary requirements needed in order to meet the proposed goals and objectives care should be taken to develop a realistic budget and not include costs that will not be needed. For example, if academic time will not be needed or charged to the project it should not be included in the proposed budget. The applications typically include certifications attesting to the accuracy of the data contained in the proposal or require the institution to obtain the certification and maintain it for review by the federal government. In signing the application the Institutional official relies on the assurance given by the PI in the signed PRF.

Direct Charged Expenses vs Indirect Expenses

Direct charged expenses are those that directly benefit and can be easily identified to a specific project or institutional activity. Indirect costs (referred to as Facilities and Administrative (F&A) costs by the Federal government) are incurred for joint or common objectives and can’t be easily identified to a specific project or institutional activity. The federal cost accounting principles outlined in the Office and Management Budget (OMB) 2 CFR 200 Uniform Guidance identify cost normally be treated as direct costs and those normally treated as indirect costs. OMB 2 CFR 200.403 also requires costs to be consistently treated within the University. See the Policy on Direct and F&A Costs

Allowable Costs

OMB 2 CFR 200.403 also sets forth requirements under which a cost is considered allowable to be direct charged to a federal project. The cost principles in OMB Uniform Guidance require a cost to be reasonable, allocable, consistently treated as a direct or indirect cost and conform to any limitations or exclusions set forth in 2 CFR 200.403 or in the sponsored agreement.

Reasonable Costs

Per 2 CFR 200.404 a cost is considered reasonable if the nature of the goods or services acquired or applied and the amount involved reflects the actions a prudent person would have taken under the circumstances at the time of the purchase.

Major considerations involved in determining reasonableness are:

  1. Is the cost of a type generally recognized as necessary for the operation of the institution or the performance of the sponsored project?
  2. Have the restraints or requirements imposed by such factors as arm's length bargaining, Federal, state laws and regulations and the specific terms and conditions of the sponsored agreement been met?
  3. Did the individuals making the decision act with due prudence in the circumstances' considering their responsibilities to the institution, its employees, its students, the Federal government and the public at large?
  4. Were the actions taken with respect to incurring the costs consistent with established institutional policies and practices applicable to the work of the institution, including sponsored projects?

Allocable Costs

2 CFR 200.405 states a cost is allocable to a particular cost objective (a specific function, project, sponsored agreement, etc.) if the goods or services involved are chargeable or assignable to such cost objective in accordance with relative benefits received or other equitable relationship. There must be a direct benefit to the project from the cost incurred. 2 CFR 200.405 provides that a cost is allocable to a project if one of the following conditions is met.

  1. The cost is incurred solely to advance the work under the sponsored agreement.
  2. The cost benefits both the sponsored agreement and other work of the institution, in proportions that can be approximated through use of reasonable methods.
  3. It is necessary to the overall operation of the institution and, in light of the principles provided in 2 CFR 200.405 is deemed to be assignable in part to sponsored projects.

If a cost benefits two or more projects in proportions that can be determined without undue effort or costs, the cost should be allocated to the projects on the proportional benefit. If the proportional benefit cannot be determined because of the interrelationship of the work involved, then the cost may be allocated or transferred to benefitted projects on any reasonable basis consistent with the cost principles. Common acceptable reasonable methods of allocating common use items include proportional benefit, FTE's on each award, based on the non salary budgets in each award, number of experiments or tests. If a reasonable method cannot ultimately be determined the costs may be charged to one project. In addition, supporting documentation explaining the allocation is required for all costs allocations that benefit more than one project whether charged to multiple projects or one project.

  • Allocation methods must be consistent and take into account all relative projects benefitting from the costs. For example, if a PI has 3 projects using test tubes for which the cost is being allocated the same method should be used to allocate the costs to all 3 projects.
  • The allocation method must be identified in advance of incurring the costs and documented in an easily understood way. This documentation must be maintained by the PI and provided to ORA, other administrative offices, auditors and others, as requested.
  • Rotating costs through projects is not acceptable nor is using up the remaining funds in an award budget.
  • Having the cost in the approved budget does not alleviate the requirements listed above

Cost Allowability Chart (AARC)

Budget and Budget Justification

A detailed budget is required for proposals. A Budget Template has been created to assist with budget preparation. If the sponsor does not require a detailed budget use the budget template or similar format to prepare a budget for submission to ORA.

The project budget is the financial plan reflecting the estimated costs of the project. As you develop the project, consider all areas where funding may be needed to successfully carry out the project. Will there be a need to hire special staff or students; is travel necessary; will there be subcontracts under this award or consultants? The ORA Pre-award staff is available to help assess your needs and develop a reasonable budget given the parameters of the funding agency and your project requirements. Guidelines and requirements for selected budget elements are outlined below. Budgetary information is required for cost share or match as well as expenses to be paid directly by the sponsor. Multiple year budgets should include an inflationary factor for the future periods.

It is important to explain the budget in the proposal and link each budgetary item to the proposed work. The budget justification should clearly explain the need for each budgeted item.


Salaries for all UMassD personnel involved with the project should be included. List all faculty, technicians, students, and others who will be devoting time to the project, include their salary and percent effort or month equivalent as required by sponsor. Salaries should be determined by the percent effort to be expended on the project. The budget justification should include the percent effort for all key personnel. A description of the work to be done by each individual or category of employee should be given to support the costs in the budget.

Faculty Salary

Faculty may request a portion of their academic year salary on grants. See Policy on Course Buyouts for additional information. The fringe benefits for faculty salaries on grants are calculated at the full fringe benefit rate, during academic year. Fringe rates are listed at the end of the salary section.

Additional Compensation- Research may be charged to sponsored projects in the summer. Summer salary cannot be used as add comp for effort expended during the academic year. Summer salary is based on the 9 month faculty base salary; one month summer salary equals one month academic salary. It is important to consider other commitments when determining how much time is available for summer work. Stipends received for directorship, associate dean or other similar positions may not be included when determining the monthly summer salary allowed.

Special notes regarding sponsor salary requirements:

The NIH limits 12 month salary charged to NIH grants for Executive Level II employees.

The NSF allows up to 2 months salary for faculty charged to grants. This limit is based on all grants received by an investigator from the NSF. The 2 months can be charged throughout the academic and/or summer period coinciding with effort. If additional time is needed on the project it must be requested in the budget and justification and be specifically approved by the NSF.

Graduate Students 

In accordance with the memorandum dated December 1, 2016, from the Associate Provost for Graduate Studies, for full-time (20 hours per week) Research Assistants (RAs), external funding source will cover the following: 

  • Full-time RAs with in-state residency will receive tuition credit equal to 18% of tuition; 82% of the tuition charge will be paid by the funding source. 
  • Full-time RAs with proximity/regional residency will receive tuition credit equal to 35% of tuition; 65% of the tuition charge will be paid by the funding source. 
  • Full-time RAs with out-of-state residency (which is inclusive of international students) will receive tuition credit equal to 54% of tuition; 46% will be paid by the funding source. Tuition is included in the Other Costs section of the budget, not in salaries. Tuition is not charged indirect costs.

Administrative & Clerical (200.413c)

Please see the UMassD policy on Direct and F&A Costs. Contact ORA if you have any questions regarding the allowability of these charges in your proposal.

Undergraduate Students

Undergraduates should be budgeted at their hourly rate.

Other Professionals

This category includes technicians and researchers. These individuals should be budgeted based on a percent effort if salaried.

Fringe Benefits (200.431)

The full fringe benefit  rate is applied to all 12 month fully benefitted employees and 9 month faculty during the academic year.

Summer salary for faculty and student payroll is charged only the payroll tax portion as are students during the full year.

Health and Welfare is charged for all employees, per 2 CFR 200.437

More information on the fringe benefit rates.

Travel (200.474)

Since travel costs may change from the time a proposal is submitted, it is recommended to request the standard rate and avoid special rates to ensure adequate coverage of the estimated travel cost. Also consider full costs when determining hotel or room & board expenses, especially for international travel. Travel reimbursements must be consistent with University policy (Travel Manual) for additional information and current per diem rates.

Foreign travel and domestic travel are listed separately. The budget justification should include the purpose of the travel, location, dates and the travelers for each trip. The costs should be broken down by airfare, hotel, per diem and so on. Remember that many sponsors have Fly America Act Waiver Checklist requirements. The Fly America Act describes in detail when a non US air carrier may be used and what approvals are required. 

Business Meals

Allowability of meals on projects is determined by sponsor, federal and university policies and procedures. See Business Expense Policy for additional information.


Equipment is any tangible item with a useful life of one or more years and has a unit cost of $5,000 or more. Depending on the nature of the equipment, calculate your costs based on several estimates. The purchasing department can assist with collecting quotes.

Each item of equipment should be listed individually; the justification should include why the equipment is needed for the project and why any existing equipment is not sufficient. 

Publication Cost / Documentation / Dissemination (200.461)

These include printing, layout, mailing, graphic design costs and other costs associated with publishing or disseminating your results. If you are developing a highly sophisticated report, brochure, or document, the costs can be substantial for the graphic design, layout and printing. Consider hiring a graduate student in graphic design or professional writing to assist you. Budgets should be based on quotes obtained or actual experience. The purpose of all such costs should be clearly explained in the budget justification.

Materials and Supplies (200.94, 200.453)

This will normally cover laboratory and/or studio supplies and software applications as well as equipment with a cost less than $5,000. Such costs should be specific to the project, reasonable and be based on actual costs or historical costs. The items do have to be listed separately, but should be presented in classes of supplies. 

The cost of office supplies is normally considered an administrative cost by 2 CFR 200.453 and included in the F&A recovery and may only be charged to a sponsored agreement if there is a unique need for such items due to the nature of the work involved. Any such items charged to a project can only be used on that project 2 CFR 200.453(c) (pg.92). Please consult with ORA prior to including in your budget.

Consultants (200.459)

Consultants are individuals who are hired for a specific task, but are not involved with the project on a regular, consistent basis. List all consultants, rate of pay, description of work to be performed and dates the work will be performed. Individuals in the UMass payroll system are considered employees and cannot be paid as a consultant on a sponsored project.

Subawards (200.92, 200.330-200.332)

A subaward is a contract that assigns some of the obligations of an award or contract to another party. The subrecipient organization must submit a letter of intent signed by an authorized institutional official along with the scope of work, budget and budget justification. The budget should be presented by line item or by task depending on the needs of the project. 

Most sponsors require that subrecipients be approved by them prior to issuing the subaward. It is important to clearly define the work the subrecipient is doing and their expertise in the budget justification.

Human Subjects Incentives

Human subject incentives may be budgeted for projects conducting research with human subjects. It is encouraged that the incentives be given in the form of gifts including gift cards rather than cash. A description of the incentive and cost is required in the justification. The IRB must approve all human subject research. Check with ORA to determine if the protocol must be approved prior to submitting a proposal.


A description of the type of animal, quantity and unit cost is needed. Check with ORA to determine if the protocol must be approved prior to submitting a proposal.

Other Direct Expenses

Other direct expenses include participant support costs, long distance telephone and other project related direct expenditures. Cost per unit should be included.

Facilities and Administrative (F&A) or Indirect Costs (200.414)

Funding sources usually indicate whether or not F&A are allowable. F&A based on the federally negotiated rate are charged to all sponsors unless the sponsor has written policies and procedures stating otherwise.

The F&A rate is determined by prior negotiation with an agency of the Federal Government. UMassD's rate has been negotiated with the DHHS. The F&A rate covers expenses incurred by the institution which cannot be directly attributable to the contract/grant (such as overhead expenses, supporting services and/or use of facilities). Modified total direct costs exclude capital equipment, curriculum support fees, subcontracts in excess of $25,000.00, fellowships and scholarships.

See ORA Institutional Facts & Information page for the current rate. However, because this approved rate is not allowable for all funding agencies and some indirect rates may be calculated on total cost of the project, it is important to contact Office of Research Administration to determine the proper rate and budget calculation for a specific agency.

Cost Sharing or matching involves the university or a third party contributing towards the financial needs of the project. If not required cost sharing is discouraged. Cash cost share or match is when the university must expend monies in order to provide the cost share or match. If a third party gives the university cash in the form of an award for the cost share or match it is also considered cash cost share. In kind cost share is that in which the university does not expend cash to meet the commitment. An example is when a company contributes an employee or supplies to the project.

If the cost share is required by the sponsor it is considered mandatory cost share and the university must meet the requirement. If cost share is not required by the sponsor but is committed in the budget or narrative it becomes mandatory and is referred to as committed voluntary cost share and also must be met. Voluntary committed cost share is discouraged.

Because the mandatory and committed cost share or match become part of the project cost and will require university funds, the source of funds must be provided to ORA and must be agreed to in writing by the individual responsible for the commitment. This documentation is for internal UMD purposes as once awarded all cost share and match must be tracked and reported to the sponsor. Cost share speed types will be required in order to track cost share post award.

In providing documentation to UMD, a complete description of the type and need for the cost shared item is required along with the estimated cost. If more than one source is to be used for cost sharing, it should be clear which items of cost share are to be covered by each source. The Cost Share Approval Form must be completed and submitted with all proposals that include cost share. This form is required prior to submission of the proposal to the sponsor.

The following are acceptable as cost share at UMass Dartmouth with appropriate approval:

  • Salaries, wages and benefits of personnel working on the project and the related fringe and indirects
  • Project related expenditures from unrestricted university funds; purchases must meet the allowability requirements of the sponsor.
  • Unrecovered indirect costs due to restrictions by the sponsor and program income may only be used as cost share if allowed by the program.

The following are typically not allowed as cost share:

  • Items treated as F&A (indirect costs (e.g., administrative support, utilities, library resources, rent paid for UMass satellite campuses, etc.)
  • Costs paid from another sponsored project or cost shared to another sponsored project
  • Unallowable costs such as alcoholic beverages and entertainment

Use of Facilities

An assessment of available university facilities may be required in the proposal. The resources that are directly applicable to the project should be described. If renovations or improvements will be required now is the time to contact facilities to determine required lead time and notification for such a project.


Investigators should deliver proposals in a "ready to go" format to minimize the possibility that changes and/or additions to the proposal may need to be made. Faculty are encouraged to liaison with ORA prior to submitting proposals for review to discuss the proposal.

All required internal documents including the proposal routing form, disclosure summary forms and institutional approval of cost sharing or matching, are also to be provided at time of proposal review.

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