Typical Sequence for Proposal Preparation and Submission
Identify a Need or Idea
- This usually starts with discussion among colleagues and/or students.
- Does the idea/concept support the college mission and long range plan?
- If the concept is proposing the development of a new academic program, is there a demonstrable need for the program and a potential student base?
- Can the program/activity be sustained after the end of sponsored program funding?
Identify a Funding Source
- The most common source of sponsored program support is the federal government. State governments and private foundations are also good sources of support. The Funding Opportunities page is a good starting point to begin your search.
- If you have a good idea, but cannot identify an appropriate source, do not hesitate to call or e-mail agencies and foundations with your concept and ask for their assistance in seeking potential sponsors. This is a service that sponsors readily provide.
Obtain Institutional Approval for Your Idea
- It is important to involve various aspects of your college’s organization to ensure that your idea is a commitment that the college is willing and able to make. The availability of suitable space, potential cost sharing requirements, personnel time commitments, and the ability to sustain a project after sponsored funding ends, may preclude an otherwise good idea from being supported at a given time.
- Complete a Sponsored Program Approval Form, if applicable to your organization, before a proposal is written. This form is designed to help ensure that individuals do not spend time writing proposals that cannot be supported by the institution, or to prevent more than one proposal being drafted for any given opportunity.
Understand What Must be Included in the Proposal and Know How It Will be Evaluated
- Most of the time you will be writing in response to a specific RFP (Request for Proposals), NOFA (Notice of Funding Availability), and/or to a notice in the Federal Register. A sponsor generally describes in detail the types of projects a program is designed to support, what must be included in an application, and how the proposal will be evaluated, or scored. This is not advice they are providing, but rules that need to be followed. Many times an RFP will provide the exact wording you are to use for various headings and sub-headings, page limitations, font size, margin size and line spacing. A proposal can be declared ineligible if it deviates from the described format.
- Know the deadline for submission. A date will usually be provided that identifies either: (1) when a submission must be postmarked, or (2) when a proposal must be received by the sponsor. Make sure you know which type of deadline is being used. Private foundations may not have deadlines.
- Make sure you allow time for the college president and/or your supervisor to read the final proposal before it is submitted. Allocate a few days for this; not a few hours.
- Make sure you know how many copies must be provided, whether they need to be bound, stapled or simply paper clipped. Usually you will need to identify which set contains the forms with original signatures (use a Post-It note.)
Get Help for Writing
- A proposal will generally be made stronger by involving more people in the writing and reviewing.
- Try to create a writing team. Allocate specific portions of the grant to different individuals, according to their writing strengths. It is best that a lead writer be identified so that the entire proposal is coherent and written in a single style. If you chose to go it alone, please make sure you have a reliable proof reader at a minimum.
- Though things are changing slowly, you should generally assume that the people reading your proposal do not know what a tribal college is, or how they differ from mainstream institutions. You will want to devote some space in the first part of your proposal to describe your college, the communities and students it serves, its mission, strengths and challenges. It is often expeditious to adapt some of this information from a successful grant in the college's archives. This template can be obtained through the office of AIHEC Sponsored Programs (ASP); please do not copy text verbatim, make sure the information is current and that it is emphasizing aspects of particular relevance to your proposal.
- Budgets can be difficult. Please get guidance and review on your proposed budget from your supervisor, the college business office and AIHEC.
- A Budget Narrative is always required to support the budget proposal. The narrative details how the figures presented in the budget were derived. The budget narrative should utilize sub-headings identical to the line items used in the budget.
- Neatness counts. Generally people reviewing proposals (the readers) are under severe time constraints to read and critique a large number of proposals in a short amount of time. Use headings and tables that clearly identify the content, and make it easy for readers to understand what you are proposing. Brevity is usually preferred over long elaboration.
Generally avoid the use of color; it can often be distracting and the effect will be lost if the sponsor ends up making copies of your proposal.
- If you are writing to a federal agency, there will generally be a large number of forms that will have to be completed, most requiring signatures as well. If you have a writing team, assign one member the task of seeing that the forms are completed. Many forms are available on the Web. Often digital versions of forms are made available in Adobe Acrobat format and need to be viewed with that software. It is generally easier and neater to complete forms on your computer, than by hand or typewriter.
- Some agencies are moving to utilizing the Web for proposal submission. All National Science Foundation (NSF) grants must be submitted through their FastLane Web site. Please contact the OSP well in advance if you are preparing an NSF proposal.
- Have a checklist of what must be included in the proposal submission. Know the number of copies, types of forms, and address to send to, well in advance of the due date.
Make sure you have the requisite signatures.
- Proposals are generally submitted by FedEx. If you are hoping to send the proposal from the college, FedEx needs to be notified a day in advance for a pick-up.
- Have a box or envelope on hand that is of sufficient size to contain all the documents.
- Make additional paper copies to be retained by the college. Make sure all the forms are copied, as well as the narrative. At a minimum, the lead writer should have a copy, as well as the office of ASP. Keep a copy of the RFP on file with your application in your office.
- You should also have a digital (computer file) copy of the proposal, please archive that safely and forward a copy of that file to ASP office as well.
- There can often be a long period of time between proposal submission and notification from the sponsor regarding whether your idea is to be awarded funding. Notification dates are generally printed in the RFP or NOFA. Do not hesitate to call a sponsor if this date has passed and you have not heard from them.
- The readers evaluating your proposal prepare written comments, describing what they identify as your proposal's strengths and weaknesses. Be sure to obtain these after the award notification date has past. These comments are very valuable for learning from the grant writing process and helping to improve your grant-writing skills.
- If your proposal was not funded, obtain and utilize the readers' comments to identify ways of strengthening the proposal, and submit it to the next round of funding or look for a new sponsor. Sponsors generally have limited funds and worthy proposals can be denied simply because the available monies were not sufficient to cover all the proposals.