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Office of Research & Sponsored Programs

the grant lifecycle, mount evans observatory

Proposal Preparation

Elements of a Proposal

The following items are common elements of a proposal, but are not comprehensive of all proposal requirements. A complete proposal or “new” application usually contains the following items:

Title/Face/Cover Page

The cover page captures general information regarding the proposal. Some of the following information may be covered in a cover page:

  • Principal Investigator’s name, address, and phone number
  • Title of proposal
  • Sponsor name and address
  • Period of performance with start and end dates
  • Amount of the request
  • Institutional information (e.g. University of Denver’s EIN, address, etc.)
  • Signature of institution’s authorizing official
  • Confidentiality statement (if applicable)
Table of Contents

The proposal should contain a table of contents.

Abstract or Description

The abstract presents a short summary of the information detailed in later pages and is considered one of the most important pieces of a proposal. This may be the only part of a proposal read by the reviewing panel.

Include a synopsis of the project’s objectives and procedures used to meet them. This is generally limited to one page in length; pay attention to the sponsor’s length limitations on the funding announcement.

Research Plan/Project Description

This section of the proposal describes the “what” and “why” of the project. This area provides a detailed explanation of the proposed activity, typically including project goals, specific aims, methodology, and the responsibilities of each member on the research project.

Additional Information

Additional information may consist of the following:

  • Current and Pending Support: The sponsor may require a listing of the PI and Key Personnel and current awards and pending proposals.
  • Resource Plans: List any laboratory facilities, computer capabilities, special equipment, and other unique features that make the University the logical place to conduct the project.
  • Letter of support: Letters of support from non-university investigators may also be required. If the proposal is a fellowship, a mentor support letter may be required.
  • CV or Biographical Sketch: The CV or Biographical Sketch is required for all key project personnel.
  • Other Support: This is a compilation of the current funding and time commitments for the Principal Investigator and other key project personnel.
  • References: A list of all references needs to be cited in the proposal.
  • Appendices: Verify the sponsor will accept appendices. Possible appendices include proposed questionnaires or survey instruments, abstracts, patents, or other printed materials directly related and relevant to the project.
Budget and Budget Justification

The budget should provide an estimation of the financial support needed to perform the research or scholarly activity. A budget justification is necessary to further explain budget expenses.

Common budget categories include:

Direct Costs

    • Salaries: Salary figures should be based on a percentage of effort applied to each individual’s annual salary. Salary is applied to University faculty and staff, graduate and undergraduate students, and part-time employees.
    • Fringe Benefits: Fringe rates are determined by personnel classification and are a percentage of that individual’s salary. 
    The University defines capital equipment as moveable items with useful lives of more than one year that cost $5,000 or more per unit. Items not meeting this definition should be listed as “supplies” in the budget. Budget for needed items only when they are unavailable at the University. Where equipment is not used 100% on the project, prorate it for the time it will be used. There are two types of equipment:
    • General Purpose Equipment: This refers to items not limited to scientific or other technical use.  These items are typically used for multiple activities so it is inappropriate to charge its entire cost to a single project. Some examples are office equipment, office furnishings, and computers. If it is determined this type of equipment is required, the need should be fully explained in the budget justification.
    • Specialized Equipment: This type of equipment can only be used for specialized scientific or technical purposes and is allowable if it is needed to conduct the project. The need should be fully explained in the budget justification.

Contact the vendor or Purchasing Services to determine if an item should be leased rather than purchased.

Shipping and installation should be included in the budget. If installation involves substantial structural changes, these costs should be budgeted as renovations and alterations.

Fabricated Equipment: Indicate the item to be fabricated and its total cost. In the budget justification, list the specific cost of each material or supply needed to fabricate the equipment.

  • Materials and Supplies: Materials and supplies are considered consumable or disposable items that cost less than $5,000 per unit. A breakdown of materials and supplies into their general classifications must be provided.
  • Travel: Domestic and foreign travel must be listed separately. List the names of the individuals traveling, destination, purpose of the trip, and estimated dates. Be sure to include transportation costs, registration fees, and other related expenses. Be sure to review the University’s travel policy prior to departure.
  • Consultants: The consultant’s services to the proposed project must be professional, short-term, or intermittent, and must be solely advisory to the project. List each consultant, their specialty or service to the project, and their daily, weekly or monthly rate of reimbursement, and show the consultant’s total projected cost on the project. Include in the proposal a letter of collaboration and the consultant’s curriculum vitae or biographical sketch.
  • Subrecipient, Contractual and Consortium CostsAny Subrecipient should be identified at the proposal stage. Include in the main proposal the subrecipient’s authorized proposal, letter of intent, statement of work, and budget with justification, which must include the subrecipient’s institutional indirect (F&A) costs, if applicable.

The University will charge indirect (F&A) costs on the first $25,000 of each subcontract per project period.

  • Tuition: DU contributes 80% of the tuition costs for Graduate Research Assistants and 20% of the costs will be charged to grants and contracts. Click here for current tuition costs.
  • Other: Other costs typically include items such as research publication costs, fees, animal care, equipment maintenance and other project related costs. If you have any questions regarding other costs, please contact your Project Administrator.

Indirect Costs

  • Facilities and Administrative Costs (F&A Costs)F&A costs are costs that cannot be specifically attributed to an individual project. Examples of F&A costs include the services of the accounting staff, the cost of a roof or utilities for a building housing several research projects, office supplies, postage, local telephones, or salaries of personnel engaged in providing a broad range of departmental support activities. F&A rates are negotiated with the University of Denver’s cognizant federal agency, the Office of Naval Research.

Use current negotiated rates in proposals for the type of project being proposed (Research, Sponsored Instruction, or Other Sponsored Activity). If a sponsor has policies regarding F&A rates, budget rates should reflect those policies.

  • Determining On-Campus vs. Off-Campus Rates: According to University policy, a project is considered off-campus if more than 50% of the direct salaries and wages of its personnel are incurred at a site neither owned nor leased by the University.
  • Cost SharingCost sharing is any cost to the project not borne by the sponsor. Cost sharing should only be reflected if mandated by the sponsor, or is needed to accurately reflect the effort required to conduct the project. Any cost sharing or matching must be approved by the department head and appropriate officials. Be sure to read the University’s cost sharing policy.