Step 2 - Proposal and Budget Development
Planning is a key element of successful proposals. The Office of Research must know the deadlines of all proposals under development as early as possible. Schedule a meeting with the Office of Research to go over the program’s guidelines, to set up a timeline for finishing all the required sections of the proposal, to plan for technical support, to review the budget, and to coordinate the final proposal submission. Research involving foreign nationals or travel outside the United States must follow federal laws restricting the export of technology and information. Proposals with subawards require additional time for the Office of Research to coordinate with the subawardee’s sponsored research office. Contact Director of Proposal Development to set up the initial meeting.
One of the goals of the initial meeting is to determine how much support you will need to assemble your application package. Those who are new to the process typically need editorial support, help with budget development, and technical support with electronic proposal submission.
Please refer to the proposal submission timeline for additional information (Step 3 Proposal Approval and Submission).
B. Components of a Proposal
The proposal development process includes reading the guidelines, developing a timeline for completing the proposal, budget development, revision and editing of the narrative and other documents, submission of the final version, and submission of any updates required or allowed by the sponsor. The Office of Research staff will provide assistance throughout the process. In nearly every instance, the Office of Research is responsible for submitting the final proposal, usually in an electronic format.
All proposals will require some legal and financial information from the requesting institution. The Institutional Information page contains commonly needed information such as financial identification and compliance assurance numbers, indirect cost and fringe benefit rates, and authorized institutional representatives. Additional information for applications can be obtained from the Office of Research.
Most proposals include an abstract, a project narrative, a budget, a budget justification, and additional documents, such as letters of support from Kennesaw State University or collaborators, and price quotations.
If a foundation, government, or industry sponsor does not provide a proposal outline for applications, the following format can be used.
Unless a form is provided, the initial page of the proposal, written on Kennesaw State University Research and Service Foundation letterhead and addressed to a specific person, a) indicates why you have written, b) briefly describes the project, c) states the amount requested, d) states how funds will be used, e) contains contact information, and f) is signed by KSU / KSURSF’s authorized representative.
An abstract is a short summary, often 200-500 words, typically written after the project narrative has been completed. Funding agencies usually give specific instructions regarding the abstract’s content, length, and order. If no instructions are given, the abstract should identify the applicant institution, establish credibility, state the main objectives and the activities to be conducted, and amount requested. A well-written abstract is critical because some reviewers may read only this part of the proposal.
NarrativeThe narrative describes the proposed project in as much detail as is permitted by the guidelines. Most sponsors prescribe the format and limit the length of the narrative. Clarity and focus are essential in a good narrative. Members of the Office of Research staff are available to review agency guidelines with faculty, provide editorial support, and ensure compliance with the sponsor’s requirements.
Budget and JustificationRepresents a reasonable estimate of projected costs of the proposed project. Standard line items include salary, fringe benefits, travel, consultants, subcontracts, materials, equipment, and indirect costs. A justification or budget narrative explains how the overall cost for each element listed in the budget was formed. The project must be realistic for the amount requested and must be within the funding agency’s range. The Office of Research staff will assist researchers in preparing their budgets and justifications.
Curriculum VitaA current curriculum vita (CV) is typically required for the Principal Investigator and all co-investigators. Some organizations (e.g., the National Science Foundation) specify the maximum lengths of CVs and what information must be included. Researchers must follow the required format if one is specified. Exhaustive curricula vitae are rarely expected. In most cases 2-3 pages of the information most relevant to the proposed investigation will be appropriate. The Office of Research has templates available upon request.
AppendicesAppendices are included only if allowed or required. Appendices are generally used to expand on information in the narrative, not to add information essential to the project. The proposal’s table of contents should contain a list of the appendices included.
Most application packages consist of more than the project narrative and budget. Documents such as financial statements, letters of support, and various appendices require time to assemble. The Office of Research can help you gather the required documents, but your timeline must be known in advance of the submission date.
- Tax Exemption Letter – Many proposals require a copy of a letter from the Internal Revenue Service stating that the Kennesaw State University Research and Service Foundation is not subject to federal taxation.
- Annual Financial Report / Audit – The Office of Research will provide the financial information required by sponsoring agencies.
- General Letters of Support – Sponsors may require letters of support for projects involving multiple organizations. Program announcements sometimes specify the necessary content of such letters. When not specified these letters should explain the relationship of the sponsor to the primary investigator or the university, why the project is being supported, and specifically what will be done to assist and support the program. Letters of support are usually addressed to the projector’s director, not the sponsor or reviewers. Letters of support are evidence, not testimonials. Letters of support from the Office of Academic Affairs must be coordinated through the Office of Research.
- Letters of Support from the Kennesaw State University President – Letters from the President in support of proposals are arranged by the Office of Research. Requests for these letters must include evidence that the project has the approval of the faculty member’s Dean, a draft of the proposed letter of support, and the proposal guidelines. The Office of Research must receive the these documents at least 15 calendar days prior to the submission deadline in order to refine the draft and receive the President’s signature. Exceptions to this procedure are rare.
The draft letter must include the following information:
- The specific information required by the proposal guidelines
- How the project advances the mission of the University
- How the project relates to similar work being done at the University
Letters that do not follow these guidelines will be returned to Principal Investigator(s) for completion. The Office of Research does not write the letters but will edit them to meet the requirements of the President’s office.
Direct costs are easily identified as belonging to a specific sponsored project. Examples of direct costs include the following:
- Salaries, wages, and fringe benefits of faculty, technicians, scientists, research assistants, post-docs, students, or other personnel who are necessary to meet the goals of the project
- Scientific and technical equipment (including shipping and installation)
- Computer costs (hardware, software, supplies, and services) if specific to the project and not general purpose
- Materials, including non-capitalized equipment
- Participant expenses (e.g., travel and per diem of workshop participants)
- Supplies (consumables, e.g., chemicals, glassware)
- Services (including outside consultants)
- Subject costs (e.g., incentives paid to research subjects from whom data are collected)
- Travel for the Principal Investigator(s) and other project personnel
- Conference fees (e.g., abstract submission, registration)
- Publication and page charges
Facilities and Administrative (Indirect) Costs
In addition to the direct costs of conducting a project, most proposals will include an amount to cover Facilities and Administrative Costs (F&A), often referred to as indirect costs or overhead. F&A costs reimburse the University for laboratory and office space, utilities, administrative services (e.g., purchasing, accounting, research administration, personnel, security), custodial services, library services, and building, grounds, and street maintenance. In summary, facilities and administrative costs cover the institutional infrastructure essential to support sponsored research that cannot be allocated and directly charged to a specific grant or contract. Capital expenditures (including items of equipment costing more than $5,000) and the portion of each sub-grant or sub-contract in excess of $25,000 are excluded from the calculation of indirect costs.
- all salaries and wages
- fringe benefits
- materials and supplies
- the first $25,000 of each sub-grant or sub-contract
Capital expenditures (including items of equipment costing more than $5,000) and the portion of each sub-grant or sub-contract in excess of $25,000 are excluded from the calculation of indirect costs.
Kennesaw State University's Facilities and Administrative Cost Rates
Kennesaw State University collects F&A costs based upon a federally negotiated rate. The University has separate Facilities and Administrative cost recovery rates for research performed on and off campus.
- On-Campus Rate – Kennesaw State University’s negotiated rate with federal agencies is 35.5% of the total direct costs. Total direct costs include everything except for capital expenditures (including items of equipment costing more than $5,000) and that portion of each subaward in excess of $5,000.
- Off-Campus Rate – KSU’s federally negotiated Facilities and Administrative off-campus rate is 15.2% of the total direct costs. In general, if 50% or more of the project will be conducted off-campus (in facilities not owned by Kennesaw State University), the off-campus rate should be used for the whole project. If there is any question about which rate to use, investigators should confer with Office of Research staff.
Some sponsors limit Facilities and Administrative cost recovery or prohibit it altogether. If a sponsor prohibits or limits F&A charges, a copy of the sponsor’s F&A rule must be attached to the Proposal Routing Form. If the sponsor does not have a rule on F&A costs, but there is a compelling reason to waive or reduce the charges, the PI must complete the Request for Facilities and Administrative Waiver. Without documentation of the sponsor’s limit or an approved waiver request, the University applies the standard F&A rate to all proposals.
When faculty/staff from more than one college collaborate on a proposal, the question, “Who gets the indirects?” often arises. The distribution of the PI college share of indirects is decided by the project investigators and their deans, not the Office of Research. Although projects often have multiple investigators, only one is named the PI and is the contact for the Office of Research and the sponsor. The collaborating investigators decide who will serve as the PI.
Where more than one college is involved, it is advisable to have a written plan signed by the respective investigators and deans, and possibly also the department chairs and college business managers. This should be done at the proposal stage.
Once indirects are earned, the Office of Research will post them as listed above. The college business manager(s) will be responsible for transferring the agreed-upon amount(s) to the collaborating college(s)/unit(s).
Allowable CostsSubpart E of the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards at Title 2, Part 200 of the Code of Federal Regulations establishes principles for determining costs applicable to grants, contracts, and other agreements with educational institutions. These principles apply regardless of whether the item is treated as a direct or indirect cost. Not all items of cost are listed in the Circular; however, this does not imply that a cost is either allowable or unallowable. In order for costs to be allowable, similar or related items must be treated consistently.
ProcurementKSU's Office of Procurement sets policy and procedure for purchasing at KSU. In addition to agency policies, we must follow KSU and the University System of Georgia (USG) guidelines on procurement. By reviewing and following their policies at the proposal stage, you can help avoid potential procurement issues once awarded.
A generic budget spreadsheet is available to assist researchers with their budget calculations. Standard line items include the following:
Personnel costs include salaries and wages for faculty, staff, and student workers who are employees of Kennesaw State University.
Payments for work performed on sponsored agreements by faculty members and staff are based on the person’s regular rate of compensation. This figure is stated in the individual’s annual contract letter as the base salary and excludes any salary supplements or overloads paid during the contract period, whether or not they are listed in the initial contract letter or an addendum.
KSU faculty members have either a 9-month appointment or a 12-month appointment. For most members of the faculty, the period that constitutes the basis of their salary is for the academic year (a period of 9 months). For 9-month faculty, the monthly rate is the base salary divided by 9. (Their pay may be distributed among 10 checks, but this does not make them 10-month faculty.)
Most administrative appointments (e.g., department chairs, deans, associate deans) and some special faculty appointments are given 12-month fiscal-year contracts. For 12-month faculty, the monthly rate is their contract amount divided by 12.
Salary must be budgeted as release time or summer salary, not overload. KSU does not allow supplemental pau for fall or spring sponsored programs (grants, contracts) work.
Undergraduate students are budgeted at $10/hour and non-GRA graduate student workers are budgeted at $12/hour.
Proposals to the National Science Foundation that include salaries are subject to additional rules. In budgets for all such proposals, KSU follows NSF's compensation policy as stated in the NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide. In general, NSF will pay no more than two months’ salary for senior personnel. Senior personnel are PIs, Co-PIs, and faculty associates, as defined in the NSF guide. Salary must be based on the faculty member’s regular monthly rate (as described above), and time and effort must be documented in accordance with federal guidelines above), and time and effort must be documented in accordance with federal guidelines.
In practical terms, this means NSF-funded faculty may do their work in summer, during the academic year, or any combination of the two. Faculty members receive summer salary for work performed in summer, while investigators’ departments receive compensation for work performed during the academic year. The two-month limit for each person covers all NSF-sponsored projects, meaning a faculty member may earn two months’ compensation from one project, or may distribute the two months’ salary across multiple projects.
Under certain circumstances, NSF allows institutions to ask for more than two months of support for a faculty member. Requests for more than two months of support must be:
- approved by the Office of Research,
- disclosed in the proposal budget,
- justified under the applicable federal regulations, and
- specifically approved in writing by the appropriate agency official at the National Science Foundation.
Payments to non-KSU employees are budgeted as consulting or subawards, not personnel costs. Contact the Office of Research for additional salary information.
For additional help with hiring personnel for sponsored projects see the following:
Benefits are paid for Kennesaw State University employees. Fringe benefits for 9-month (academic year) faculty are calculated as 33% of their institutional base salary during the academic year and 18% during summer. The benefit rate for 12-month (fiscal year) faculty, staff, and administrators is 33% for an entire calendar year. In general, no fringe is paid to students. Please refer to KSU Payroll guidelines as rates may vary depending on different roles.
Capital expenditures include individual items of equipment, new buildings, and alterations and renovations of the existing physical plant.
Construction, Alterations, and Renovations – Projects that include new construction involve planning at the institutional level and are beyond the scope of this handbook. However, alterations or renovations of existing space are often required for the installation of new equipment or the creation of new laboratories or other special purpose rooms. The costs of these changes are considered as capital expenditures. Such projects require coordination with the offices of the Vice President for Research; Information Technology Services; Environmental Health, Safety, and Risk Management; and/or Plant Operations. When renovations or alterations are required, the appropriate offices should be consulted early in the budget planning process.
Equipment – Equipment includes property that costs more than $5,000 and that has an expected service life of more than one year. Because the prior approval policies of sponsoring agencies vary, listing equipment in an award does not necessarily provide approval to purchase the equipment. Budgeted equipment must comply with the specific rules and regulations of the sponsoring agency. Before requesting any new equipment, the Principal Investigator must determine that equipment already available to the University either will not meet the project’s needs or is not available for use when required. Such projects require coordination with the offices of the Vice President for Research, Information Technology Services, Environmental Health & Safety, and/or Plant Operations.
All purchases should be based on competitive bidding whenever possible. For anticipated purchases between $10,000 and $24,999.99, the PI should provide a cost analysis (see KSU competitive solicitation policy) or three quotes, or should provide a justification why the procurement should proceed without competition (i.e. sole source, two distributors/vendors). For purchases equal to $25,000 or more, KSU is required to follow the State of Georgia DOAS competitive solicitation procedure and PIs must obtain at least three quotes or provide a justification why the procurement should proceed without competition.
If the PI has already selected the vendor/product, justification for the selection should be included in the budget narrative. This will not obviate the need to follow the competitive bidding process, but will support the request for a sole source procurement. Justification could include appropriateness of the equipment for the research or complementarity with the lab’s other equipment, for example.
The costs of travel for personnel to conduct research or attend conferences, presentations, or workshops in performance of the project are an important component of many budgets. Reference the policies available at the following websites according to destination. All business travelers should review Kennesaw State University’s travel regulations.
Travel within the state of Georgia
Domestic travel outside Georgia
Travel outside the United States
International Students and Visitors
KSU often hosts international students and visitors during the course of a project and special care must be taken to avoid significant tax withholding on expenditures for lodging, meals and incidentals, and cultural activities. Questions about the tax ramifications of payments to foreign nationals should be directed to the International Services and Tuition Classification Team, Office of Finance and Accounting, Reporting and Compliance Department at email@example.com. The Office of Research will work with you in determining the most appropriate way to budget these expenses.
In general, students on a J-1 visa are taxed at 14% for lodging and meals, but at 30% for income, under which “incidentals” falls. A good strategy to employ is to arrange for the project to pay for the lodging, meals, and incidentals directly, in which case no money is paid to the visitors and they incur no tax liability.
As mentioned above, income paid to foreign nationals is taxed at 30%, but there are a number of tax treaties between the US and foreign countries that enable some foreign nationals to work for limited periods in the US and incur a reduced, or no, tax liability. Please contact the International Services and Tuition Classification Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Participant Support Costs
Participant support costs are defined in 2 CFR 200.75 as “direct costs for items such as stipends or subsistence allowances, travel allowances, and registration fees paid to or on behalf of participants or trainees (but not employees) in connection with conferences, or training projects.” Participants are not Kennesaw State University employees and are not part of the project implementation team. Costs for transportation, per diem, stipends, and other expenses for participants or trainees should be budgeted as participant support costs when there is a category for participant support costs in the funding opportunity budget guidelines. Many agencies do not allow institutions to charge indirects on participant support costs, such as NSF.
NSF Participant Support Costs
When submitting a proposal to NSF that will include participant support costs, close attention must be paid to NSF guidelines. NSF defines participant support costs in Section II.C.2.g (v) of the Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG):
This budget category refers to direct costs for items such as stipends or subsistence allowances, travel allowances, and registration fees paid to or on behalf of participants or trainees (but not employees) in connection with NSF-sponsored conferences or training projects. Any additional categories of participant support costs other than those described in 2 CFR § 200.75 (such as incentives, gifts, souvenirs, t-shirts and memorabilia), must be justified in the budget justification, and such costs will be closely scrutinized by NSF. (See Chapter II.E.7). For some educational projects conducted at local school districts, however, the participants being trained are employees. In such cases, the costs must be classified as participant support if payment is made through a stipend or training allowance method. The school district must have an accounting mechanism in place (i.e., sub-account code) to differentiate between regular salary and stipend payments.
Of particular note:
- Participants are not KSU employees.
- Funds budgeted for participant support costs may not be rebudgeted out of participant support costs without prior approval from NSF.
- Indirects are not charged on participant support costs.
- PIs will need to provide participant selection documentation, as well as documentation of actual attendance (sign-in, attendance sheets), to the Office of Research Post-award Accounting Department.
- Human Subjects incentives are not considered participant support costs and should be budgeted under Other Direct Cost
Students as Participants:
NSF states, "a student cannot be compensated partially as an employee and as a participant on the same grant. It is up to the proposing organization to determine whether they should be a student employee or a participant based on the role of the student in the project. Student employees are compensated for services rendered and their level of compensation is tied to the number of hours worked. Participant support costs should be used to defray the costs of students participating in a conference or training activity related to the project" (Proposal & Award Policy Newsletter, Issue II, May/June 2017). Based on these guidelines and KSU policy, GRAs and Undergraduate Research Assistants are considered employees and not participants.
Other Direct Costs
Materials and Supplies – This expense category includes all expendable materials to be used during the course of the grant period. Special purpose computers costing less than $5,000 are included in this category
Publication, Documentation, and Dissemination Costs – The costs of documenting, preparing, publishing or otherwise disseminating the findings of the research are included in this item. Examples of dissemination expenses are page charges, illustrations, indexing of data, and archiving sample collections.
Consultants – Each individual’s expertise, primary organizational affiliation, normal daily compensation rate, and number of days of expected service should be included. A description of consultants’ qualifications should be included if these individuals have not been identified. Please see the Office of Procurement for information on hiring consultants.
Computer Services – Computer services include the cost of software, hardware and leasing of computer equipment. Note that the cost of general-purpose computers is included in the University’s Facilities and Administrative costs.
Space Rental – In some cases a University department, school, or center may require rental space to house a sponsored project. If off-campus space is required, the Office of Research must be contacted early in the proposal stage to assure that University and State regulations are followed.
Subawards cover significant parts of sponsored projects contracted or otherwise transferred to another organization. A clear description of the work to be performed, the basis for selection of the sub-awardee, and a separate budget and budget justification for the subaward should be included as part of the proposal, along with a letter of participation from the subawardee’s sponsored research office or equivalent. The letter should state that the subaward organization has reviewed the budget and scope of work and agrees to participate in the proposal. During any programmatic discussions with potential sub-recipients, financial commitments or arrangements must be coordinated with and approved by the Office of Research.
All subaward costs are considered a composite direct cost by the University and should always be shown in the subaward cost line of the proposal. Subaward costs must be broken out and supported in the subawardee’s proposal to the University. Subaward costs should never be intermingled with Kennesaw State University cost elements. Subawards that include Facilities and Administrative charges as part of the budget must provide a copy of the institution’s current Facilities and Administrative costs rate agreement.
Cost Sharing or Matching
Cost sharing or matching in grants and contracts are terms that are used interchangeably. Project costs funded by the university (faculty salaries, fringe, travel, supplies, etc.) and in-kind contributions donated by third parties (equipment, supplies, etc.) are forms of cost sharing.
Types of Cost Sharing – The three types of cost sharing are:
- Mandatory cost sharing is required either by federal statute or by the established policy of the sponsor. Time and effort reports are required.
- Voluntary committed cost sharing is volunteered to demonstrate the University’s commitment to a project. Voluntary contributions specified in proposals become required financial commitments if the proposal is funded, even if the amounts are not included in the budget but are quantified in the proposal narrative. Time and effort reports are required.
- Voluntary uncommitted cost sharing is defined as effort over and above that which is committed and budgeted for in a sponsored agreement. More specifically, this is either additional time or resources provided by the applicant, which were not quantified in the budget or in the narrative of the proposal.
Guidelines for Cost Sharing – Commitments to cost sharing and matching should only be made when there is a compelling reason, such as when required by the funding agency or when the agency encourages costs sharing and it becomes a review criterion. Regardless of the percentage, the ability of the University to meet the commitment from acceptable resources must be clear.
As part of the proposal review process, when a Principal Investigator plans to include either KSU’s resources or external entities’ resources as cost sharing, this information must be specifically identified in SmartGrant and on the Cost Sharing Authorization Form. Proposals for cost sharing constitute a formal commitment to the sponsor by the department chair, dean of the academic unit, director of the center or institute, the Vice President for Research, or the Provost. In cases where the matching involves external entities, a letter of commitment from each entity and a detailed budget must be submitted with the proposal. If subcontractors are providing cost sharing, their budgets need to identify these commitments.
Institutional Review Board and Animal Care and Use
For research involving human subjects, most sponsors require the investigator to provide specific information about protection of human subjects at the time of proposal submission. However, most sponsors do not require certification of Institutional Review Board approval or evidence of training until they are ready to recommend an application for funding.
Similarly, proposals involving the use of vertebrate animals normally require some description of the animals, proposed procedures, care and, use; however, certification of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) approval is usually not required until the agency is considering making an award. This is known as the "just-in-time" concept. Thus, investigators should expect to describe their proposed use of human subjects or animals as part of their proposal, and should be prepared to certify that approvals are in place later, as a condition of receiving an award.
Instructions for submitting a protocol for review can be found at KSU Institutional Review Board.
Financial Conflict of Interest
Investigators submitting proposals to the National Science Foundation, the National Institute for Justice, or any Public Health Services agencies (National Institutes of Health, Health Resources and Services Administration, or the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) must disclose any significant financial interests at the time of proposal submission. The definition of a significant financial interest varies by agency. Please see the links below for the appropriate policies and definitions for your proposal and then fill out and return the corresponding forms to the Office of Research before the proposal deadline.
As a recipient of Federal funds, Kennesaw State University supports and complies with the provisions of the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1989 and the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988. Kennesaw State University’s policy can be found here.