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Proposal Development

Before You Start Writing…

Matching your proposal to the goals of the agency

It is important before you launch into proposal writing to make sure that your idea fits the mission of the agency. This can be along a number of different dimensions, including whether your idea is more basic or applied, whether you are studying a specific target population or location, and whether your proposed budget matches the norms of the funder. Another thing to keep in mind is who will be your reviewers or audience? Whether you will have scientific experts or community board members reviewing your proposal will have implications for your writing style.

Contacting potential funders

The process for reaching out to program directors or a contact at the organization depends on the type of funder you are approaching. For federal agencies, it is very appropriate (and highly encouraged!) to contact the cognizant program director listed on the website, RFA, or solicitation. You can email them a one-page description of your basic idea so that they can give you feedback as to whether your proposal would be a good fit for the specific opportunity. However, for private funders (e.g., foundations, corporations), please contact Corporate and Foundation Relations, who can coordinate the outreach for you.

Review the Application Instructions

This is key!! You’ll want to carefully look at the solicitation, RFA, or application instructions and pay attention to:

  • What are the eligibility criteria? Is Pace as an institution eligible to apply, and are you as an investigator eligible to apply?
  • Is a preliminary proposal or letter of intent required?
  • Is it a limited submission opportunity? This means that Pace University can only submit limited number of proposals for that competition.
  • Are there budget restrictions or cost sharing involved?
  • What are the deadlines?

Please loop the Office of Research into your plans early on – we can help!

Proposal Components

What is required in a proposal varies by funder and program, but most include:

  • An abstract (project summary/executive summary);
  • Project description (including the background of the project/why it should be pursued, methodology, what will be done/who will do it, evaluation of outcomes, and timeline);
  • Budget (see below for details);
  • Biosketch (abbreviated CV);
  • Other sections, including data management plan, mentoring plan, facilities, and past grant support, may be requested or required depending on the funding opportunity.

For some funders, University information or documents may be required (e.g., audited financial statements, budget, etc.). Some information can be found on the “Institutional Information” tab; if you need specific documents, please contact the Office of Research and we can help you obtain them.


We are happy to help you as you develop your budgets! It is important to make sure that your budget is appropriate for the scope of work – you want to give yourself the adequate resources to complete the project, while also not over-inflating. You also want to ensure that your budget is in line with program guidelines/norms. Sometimes this information can be found on websites (e.g., statement of average award size, examples of recently-funded awards), in the solicitation/program announcement, or you can often ask a program director. There are many possible categories of expenses, and the budget will obviously depend on the type of project and scope of work. Some possible budget categories to consider: personnel (e.g., summer salary for faculty, hiring students/staff), research supplies, equipment, travel, participant incentives/payment, and funds for disseminating the results of the work. Please see the Allowable Cost Policy for Federal Grants (PDF) for additional information.

If your project involves a partnership or collaborative team that spans different universities or organizations, you may want to have a sub-award or sub-contract as part of your proposal. This is a mechanism for providing funds to your outside collaborator(s) to cover their research costs (e.g., summer salary, personnel, other research expenses). Please contact us for further guidance on including a sub-award on your proposal, or if you plan to be a sub-awardee on a proposal in which another organization or institution is the lead.

Facilities and Administrative costs (indirect costs/overhead) are an important aspect of your proposal budget. This covers the university’s expenses incurred for projects. Pace’s federally approved indirect rate is 71.5% (30% for off-site rate), which is calculated ONLY on salary and wages (and not on other expenses, such as equipment, participant incentives, travel, etc.). Some foundations or specific funding opportunities do not allow indirect costs to be included, or only allow indirect costs up to a specified percentage. Unless it is explicitly stated that indirect costs are limited or not allowed, you should always include the full indirect rate in your proposals. Please see the Facilities and Administrative Cost Policy (PDF) for more information. We are happy to help you calculate indirect costs for your proposal.

Effective June 2021, Pace University has instituted a distribution policy on indirect costs obtained through external funding, as follows:

  • 50% to the Deans based on total earned by each school (of which 5% is to be allocated to the PI);
  • 25% to University’s General Fund budget;
  • 25% to the Provost.

Fringe benefits are different from indirect costs. Fringe covers the costs of benefits such as social security, retirement, health care, etc. Fringe benefits are considered direct costs. All requests for salary in a budget should include appropriate fringe benefits. The current fringe benefit rate is as follows:

  • 36.12% full-time faculty / staff;
  • 13.04% part-time faculty / staff;
  • 0.59% students;
  • 8.24% faculty summer salary.

Below is an example that details fringe benefits and indirect costs.

Example Budget Costs Explanation
Full time staff salary $10,000  
Fringe on full time staff salary $3,612 36.12% of $10,000
Student compensation $1,000  
Fringe on student salary $5.9 0.65% of $1,000
Travel expenses $5,000  
Participant incentives $2,000  
TOTAL INDIRECT COSTS $7,865 71.5% of $11,000 (salary & wages for full time staff and student)
GRAND TOTAL $29,482.9  

Summer Salary

Full-time faculty with nine-month academic appointments may request compensation for work on a sponsored project during the summer months (“summer salary”). This is calculated at the rate of 1/9th of the academic year salary for each month of summer salary requested, up to a maximum of 3/9ths of the academic year salary for 3 months of summer work. Fringe benefits must be included in the summer salary calculations (current fringe benefit rates for full-time faculty: 8.24%). The rate for summer salary is the same as the rate for base 9-month salary. Because Pace’s academic year begins on September 1, summer salary calculations for Summer 2020 should use your base salary for the 2019-2020 academic year. You can request summer salary for a portion of the month (e.g., 50% or 2 weeks), if effort will be less than a full summer month and/or budget constraints limit the amount of summer salary possible. We are happy to help with summer salary calculations!

Example: a faculty member has a base salary of $70,000 and wants to request 1 month of summer salary:

1 month summer salary $70,000/9 $7,778
Fringe benefits on 1 month summer salary $7,778*0.0824


  Total request (direct costs): $8,419

*Please note that this summer salary calculation only includes direct costs. Salary and wages (but not fringe benefits) are subject to indirect costs; please see the description of indirect costs above for additional information.

Full-time staff who would like to request additional compensation on externally funded projects should email the Office of Research or email Grace Samoza, Manager of Grants Compliance and Reporting, for guidance as to whether this is allowed by: a) the particular funding agency, and b) Pace University policies.