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Develop the Proposal

Proposal Development Guide 

Services provided by OSRP include access to professional grant writing teams, assistance with research, electronic applications, internal authorizations, required registrations and forms, and budget and proposal development.

Contact OSRP Early

Proposals to federal and state funding sources must be submitted by OSRP. We recommend the principal investigator/development team contact the office as soon as you decide to pursue a proposal. OSRP will help review the funding announcement or Request for Proposals (RFP), set timelines, and establish roles and expectations. It is important to closely follow the guidance included in the RFP when developing the proposal. In every case, the principal investigator/development team is the subject matter expert and the primary person(s) responsible for generating the core content of Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. 

Institutional Review Board (IRB)/Human Subjects Protection Program (HSPP)

Contact HSPP (http://www.msudenver.edu/irb/) as soon as possible when drafting your proposal to obtain IRB designation and approval if necessary.  Mike Heathcote, Human Subject Protection Program Manager, can be reached at 303-352-7330 or mheathco@msudenver.edu

Grant and Contracts Specialist

  • During proposal development, OSRP will complete the application forms, ensure compliance with university and agency policies, and provide required assurances and certifications
  • The Internal Authorization process is electronic and is initiated by entering PI and project data into the OSRP database
  • Authorizations are requested prior to submission from the PI’s Chair, Dean, and Provost

Grant Writing

OSRP contracts with Joining Vision and Action, LLC for grant writing services. JVA provides technical assistance in the development of proposals including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Assisting in program planning to meet requirements of the RFP
  • Reviewing proposal drafts for proofreading and editing needs as well as alignment with RFP requirements
  • Assisting in interpreting agency guidelines, including contacting the program officer on the PI’s behalf
  • Recommending and acting as a liaison with an external evaluator, as needed
  • Drafting letters of support/commitment
  • Creating a checklist to help the PI ensure they are including all proposal components
  • Uploading proposal components into the submission portal (Grants.gov, Fastlane, etc.)

Research Services:

In addition to assistance locating appropriate funding opportunities, OSRP also assists during the proposal development stage with conducting research for grant proposals, including:

  • Compiling demographic/statistical information
  • Assisting the PI in conducting literature reviews 
  • Creating graphics such as Gantt charts or organizational charts
  • Providing institutional or boilerplate information and statistics

Fitting the Pieces Together 

Most proposals will require some common elements that work together to make the case for funding. The following chart represents the components necessary to develop a cohesive grant proposal. Without any one element fully developed, the grant proposal will have holes and the reviewers will be left with questions. When grant reviewers have a lot of questions about a proposal, it will not likely be selected for funding.

 

Introduction to Applicant

Describes the applicant agency.  Documents its credibility.

Describes the applicant's credentials to address the problem, implement the methods, and achieve the objectives.

Problem Discussion

1) The Problem Describes the current condition that is causing concern in the community.

2) Why it Matters

3) Causes of the Problem Describe what led to the current problem or condition - how did we get here?

Program Outcomes

Define specific changes in the problem expected to result from the methods.  Program outcomes relate to the problem that has been described.

Evaluation Plan

1) Outcome Evaluation Describes a plan to measure the degree to which the expected outcomes are achieved.

2) Process Evaluation Describes a plan to determine the degree to which the methods are implemented as planned.

Future Support

Shows resources that will support this project after grant funds end.

Methods

Describe the activities the applicant will undertake to address the problem.  Methods relate to the causes of the problem.

Budget

Provides detailed cost estimates for implementing the Methods and the Evaluation. Shows all revenues and other resources that will support the project.

 Reproduced from The Grantsmanship Center, Los Angeles, CA

 

"A good research project is a
creative, important idea, well
grounded in theory, clearly
expressed and convincingly
justified, and with appropriate
methods and expertise for pursuing
the idea, evaluating the findings,
and making them known to all."

-National Science Foundation 

   

Guidance on Common Proposal Narrative Elements

 

Abstract or Executive Summary

Depending on the funder, this is either a brief overview of the project, or a summary of the end results you expect to report to the funder. It is often the first item program officers and reviewers see. For example, National Science Foundation program officers are provided with all the project summaries received for a particular grant competition so they may review them and select peer reviewers as appropriate. Your abstract is also often what funders post on their websites after awards are made. This section should always be written last.

Introduction to Applicant or Background Statement

This section describes MSU Denver and documents the university's credibility. It should describe MSU Denver's credentials to address the problem, implement the methods, and achieve the outcomes. This section should be tailored to the specific project being proposed.  It is a good place to discuss previously awarded grant-funded projects that are similar in nature to the proposed project.

Problem Discussion or Statement of Need

There are three parts to the statement of need: 

  1. The problem or opportunity - describes the current condition that is causing concern in MSU Denver's community or that is an opportunity to make an impact. Do not focus only on the "lack of something". Also provide well documented statistics that describe what does exist.
  2. The significance - why does this problem or opportunity matter? How does this issue impact MSU Denver's ability to fulfill our mission? Consider and document the regional and national impacts and how the project addresses the funder's requirements and priorities. Give the reviewers a sense of urgency in addressing the problem.
  3. The causes - what led to the current problem or condition? Again, this section can be supported by a literature review and relevant statistics where appropriate.

This section should be written first. It is the thesis for the grant proposal.

Project Description/Research Plan 

This proposal section is the area in which you will describe the activities that MSU Denver will undertake to address the problem. Typical sections within the project description (aka, research plan) include Project Objectives and Activities, Anticipated Results, Proposed Approach, and Rationale. The Project Description should logically flow from the Statement of Need. Logic models are often useful both for planning purposes and as a way to present the information within this section of the proposal.

       Kellogg Foundation Logic Model Development Guide

Logic Model Example 1          

Logic Model Example 2 - Vertical format          

Logic Model Example 3 - with evaluation questions and indicators        

Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University – Webinar series on Quasi-Experimental Methods 

Program Outcomes or Impact

Defines specific changes in the problem expected to result from the methods.  Program outcomes relate to the problem that has been described.

Process and Outcome Evaluation

Process evaluation determines the degree to which the methods are implemented as planned. Outcome evaluation measures the degree to which the expected outcomes are achieved. The evaluation plan should be clearly connected to the methods and activities. One way to represent this in a proposal is to create an evaluation plan table that extends naturally from the logic model.

Evaluation Plan Table Example 1

NSF Guide to Evaluation

The Question of External Evaluators

The purpose of the external evaluator is to draw objective conclusions regarding the project's impact from the outcomes achieved and the data gathered throughout a grant project. In many cases, the grant-making agency stipulates in the RFP that an external evaluator is required. When this is the case, the grant-making agency expects that a reasonable proportion of the direct costs (10 - 15%) will be allocated to the external evaluation. If the RFP does not stipulate that an external evaluator is required, a close reading of the scoring rubric/evaluation criteria is critical to determine if one should be brought in.

During the proposal preparation process, OSRP and the principal investigator will agree upon the need for an external evaluator. If an external evaluator is deemed necessary, OSRP can assist the PI in identifying an appropriate individual.

Management Plan

Frequently, a federal RFP will ask for a management plan. This is the place to describe key personnel and their roles and qualifications, as well as the qualifications and expectations of the external evaluator, if appropriate.

Future Support or Sustainability

This section documents the resources that will support this project after grant funds end. Grant-making agencies expect a reasonable assurance that the project will become institutionalized after external funding ends, or in other words, that the university will carry the burden of the cost for continuing the project. If there is not an expectation that the project will be sustained, be sure to explain and justify that.

Other Proposal Components

References Cited

The format required for references cited varies from agency to agency. Often, the applicant is asked to cite references in whatever format is standard in that field (APA, MLA, CSE, etc.) and other times the funder requires a specific format. OSRP can assist with the formatting and final presentation of the references cited.

Description of Facilities, Equipment, and Resources

Provide the funder and the proposal reviewers with an understanding of the institutional resources including facilities, equipment, and relevant ongoing programs available at the university or a partner institution for this project. Some funders have specific formats for this section.

Data Management Plan or Data Archiving Plan

Agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Justice require a separate statement regarding how the investigators will manage, disseminate, and share data resulting from the project. See the NSF Grant Proposal Guide (GPG)  for more information.

Other resources for writing this section:

Data Management Interview

MIT Libraries Guidance on Data Management Plans                                     

Current/Pending Support  

Most sponsors have specified formats for provision of this information. Current and pending support details are usually needed for all key personnel, not just the principal investigator, so you will want to request this information from your collaborators early in the proposal process, if required. Some agencies collect information about your current and pending projects when they are contemplating an award, rather than at the time of proposal. Read the RFP carefully to determine whether this is the case.

Resumes/Biographical Sketches

Funders rarely want to see a full-version CV of every PI, Co-PI and Senior Personnel. NSF and NIH have specific formats for a biosketch. The Department of Education often requests a condensed 2-4 page CV. This is generally needed for all PIs, Senior Personnel, and Subawards.

NSF Biosketch Template

NIH Biosketch Template and Sample

Letters of Commitment 

If the proposed project requires evidence of institutional support or there are outside partners or collaborators involved, you may need to provide documentation of commitment in the form of letters. Request these types of documents early in the proposal development process to ensure you have them well before the deadline.

Human Subjects and Responsible Conduct of Research

Funders often request information verifying that the investigator has at least started the human subjects review process at the time of submission or ask for a statement regarding exemption from human subjects. See the Institutional Review Board Website for more information.  

Research at Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) Impact Statement

Some funders (notably, NSF) encourage equal footing for primarily undergraduate non-research focused institutions like MSU Denver by allowing an RUI designation on any proposal involving research, whether or not students will be involved in the research. Applicants with an RUI designation have an opportunity to submit an additional five pages wherein they describe how the grant would strengthen the research infrastructure at the institution. Most of the RUI Impact Statement will be tailored to the specific proposal, although some general information about MSU Denver should be included. Contact OSRP for assistance with this.

Research at Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) FAQs