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UARSC Office of Sponsored Projects
Principal Investigator/Project Director Manual

Chapter 2:  How do I find funding and submit a proposal? 


Topics included in this chapter:

  • How to Begin
  • The Role of the PI/PD
  • Finding Funding
  • Developing a Proposal
  • Grant Proposal Seed Money and Professional Grantwriter List
  • Budget Development
  • Internal Review and Approval/ Executive Order 890
  • Electronic Submission of Grant & Contract Proposals
  • Conflict of Interest
How to Begin

The pre-award process includes developing an idea; locating a funding source; planning the project; creating a budget; writing and editing the proposal; securing internal approvals from the appropriate University and UARSC administrators;  and submitting the final proposal to the funding agency.  For further information about any of these steps, contact the Sponsored Projects Administrator in the UARSC Office of Sponsored Projects (OSP) or visit the OSP webpage

UARSC Pre-award services to support faculty and University staff are:

  • Search for external funding opportunities to match faculty interests.
  • Assist in the preparation, review for compliance, and submission of pre-proposals and proposals for grants and contracts.
  • Register Principal Investigator/Project Director (PI/PD) with electronic submission programs and orienting PI/PD to working with agency procedures.
  • Work with PI/PD to develop budgets that are in compliance with guidelines and governing regulations.
  • Review application for completeness.
  • Facilitate the internal review and approval process.
  • File conflict of interest statements.
Role of the Principal Investigator (PI)/Project Director (PD)

The Principal Investigator (PI) or Project Director (PD) is the person who plans and implements the project.  Tenured, tenure-track faculty, university administrators, and staff are authorized to participate as a PI/PD of externally funded research and sponsored programs. Adjunct faculty may seek external funding as a Co-PI in conjunction with a tenured or tenure-track faculty who will serve as the PI/PD and with the approval of the Associate Vice President for Research or by following the steps of the Protocol for Approving Requests from Temporary and Non-Employees to Pursue Sponsored Projects as a Principal Investigator located on the webpage of the CSUSM Office of Graduate Studies and Research.   The PI/PD has overall responsibility for ensuring the proposal meets agency requirements for submitting the proposal, as well as meeting the goals and objectives of the project once it is funded.

The PI/PD is responsible for the following pre-award activities:

  • Advance notification to the Office of Sponsored Projects of any planned proposals.
  • Advance notification to Dean or appropriate Division Administrator when the funding agency requires cost share and/or does not permit the inclusion of indirect costs in the project budget
  • Preparation of the proposal including: development, writing, and adhering to agency requirements.
  • Work with the Office of Sponsored Projects to develop the project budget.
  • Compliance with all University and UARSC policies and any requirements of the funding agency.
  • Secure internal approvals for the proposal in coordination with the Sponsored Project Administrator.
  • Ensure sufficient timeline to obtain final administrative approvals and complete final preparation of the application for submission according to agency guidelines.
Finding Funding

The UARSC Office of Sponsored Projects staff is available to assist faculty and University staff in locating funding for grants for instructional, research, public service and scholarly activities. Proposals may be funded by private or public entities, corporations, or government agencies at the local, state or federal levels. Funds may be available from other agencies such as special interest groups or professional associations. Strict adherence to the agency guidelines is necessary for the success of the proposal. Most agencies welcome queries about a project concept prior to submission of the proposal.

To request a search for funding from the UARSC Office of Sponsored Projects, complete the on-line Funding Search Request form or contact the Sponsored Project Administrator at (760) 750-4722.  The search process is conducted using the Grants Resource Center (GRC) database which is accessible from all campus computers and available to faculty and University staff to conduct their own searches if preferred. GRC allows a customized grant search using various descriptors and categories. From the GRC web page, select ‘GrantSearch’ and enter information in the fields to tailor your search.

Developing a Proposal

Once a funding source is identified, the application forms and guidelines must be carefully reviewed.  Occasionally agencies will require a letter of intent or a
pre-proposal application from which applicants are invited to submit a full proposal. Internal approvals using the Sponsored Projects Approval Form (SPAF) may be required prior to submitting either a letter of intent or a
pre-proposal application.

The proposal should be clearly written following the guidelines provided by the funding agency and particular attention should be paid to any eligibility requirements, the use of keywords, and the formatting requirements. Peer review is strongly recommended prior to submitting the proposal.

The general steps in the proposal development process are as follows:

  • Obtain program guidelines or contracting rules from the funding agency.  Be sure there is enough time to develop a cohesive plan and obtain appropriate internal reviews. The Sponsored Projects Administrator is available to assist you with establishing a timeline for processing your application.  Refer to the Proposal Submission Timeline to help you plan your proposal development activities.
  • Discuss your interest in applying for external funding with your Department Chair, Dean, Associate Vice President for Research and/or appropriate Division Administrator.
  • Notify the Sponsored Project Administrator at UARSC of your intent to apply for external funding and provide the URL for the agency guidelines. 
  • Draft the statement of work to be accomplished.
  • Considering the work statement, list the resources to be used including personnel, services, rentals/leases, and equipment. List other expenses, such as travel and supplies.
  • Work with the Sponsored Project Administrator to develop a budget and discuss what administrative approvals will be required prior to submission of the proposal.

Agencies frequently request additional material to be included with the grant proposal.  Contact the Sponsored Project Administrator for such items as a list of the UARSC Board of Directors, annual reports, latest auditor’s report, enrollment statistics, etc.  You may also refer to the Commonly Needed Information webpage for additional information.

Occasionally, grant proposals are developed in cooperation with other universities, school districts, agencies, or companies.  Some funding agencies require collaborative ventures in their proposal guidelines.  The process for internal approval also applies to collaborative grants, including grants where UARSC is not the lead or primary grantee organization.

Grant Proposal Seed Money and Professional Grantwriter List

Additional resources are available to faculty and staff to support them with the proposal development.  Grant Proposal Seed Money is available through the CSUSM Office of Graudate Studies and Research.  These funds may be used for such expenses as supplies, equipment, travel, stipends, student assistants, grant writing assistance, or other needs associated with proposal development.  For support with writing, The Professional Grantwriter List provides the names of experienced grantwriters as well as their credentials and contact information.

Budget Development

Budgets are typically comprised of direct and indirect costs.  Direct costs are those which may be easily identified with a specific project or activity, such as wages, supplies, equipment, and travel specifically associated with the project.  Indirect costs are those costs that are not easily assignable to a specific project, such as space, utilities, and administrative costs.  Such costs are typically recovered using a formula approved in advance.  Please refer to the Policy on the Allocation of Facilities and Administrative Costs (Indirect Costs) which specifies that the maximum allowable rate that the funding agency will pay must be requested.  The current rate negotiated with the Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Cost Allocation is 48% of Modified Total Direct Costs (direct costs less equipment, renovation, patient care costs, tuition remission, scholarships and fellowships).

Although budgets are submitted to the agency according to agency guidelines and forms, an internal budget is prepared using an Excel spreadsheet for review by University and UARSC administrators whose signatures are required on the Sponsored Project Approval Form (SPAF). A generic budget spreadsheet is available to help you think through potential cost categories. It includes explanations of the following most common categories of a budget:

  • Salaries and wages 
  • Materials and supplies 
  • Consultants, independent contractors 
  • Participant support costs 
  • Permanent Equipment
  • Computers
  • Travel
  • Subcontracts

Cost sharing, also termed matching funds or in-kind, may be required by the funding agency and must receive approval before a proposal can be submitted to the funding agency. A Cost-sharing Approval/Verification Form must be circulated in tandem with the SPAF and signed by each administrator providing the funds.  All cost sharing must conform to the Cost Share Guidelines.  Cost sharing, if not required by the funder, is generally discouraged.

Contact the Sponsored Project Administrator for assistance in developing your project budget and completing specific budget forms required by the funder.

Internal Review and Approval/Executive Order 890

The Sponsored Project Approval Form will be completed by the Sponsored Project Administrator with assistance from the PI/PD once the project budget is finalized.  The answers to questions A-L listed in Section 3 - Checklist may affect the way the statement of work is designed or the costs that must be budgeted.  If a question is answered “yes,” then the appropriate administrator’s signature must be obtained.  The Sponsored Project Administrator will prepare and forward electronically the completed internal routing form/s to the PI/PD to print, sign and route for signatures.  Additionally, administrators whose signatures are required will receive an e-mail notice from UARSC advising them that the form/s will be circulating for approval. A copy of the internal budget and a brief project summary prepared by the PI/PD will be included with the notification.  It is the responsibility of the PI/PD to ensure timely routing of the form/s.

The proposal may not be submitted to the funding agency until necessary internal approvals are complete.  UARSC cannot guarantee acceptance of an award that has not received prior approval, as per CSU Executive Order 890.

Electronic Submission of Grant and Contract Proposals

Many funding agencies have moved to electronic research administration to streamline the process and reduce paperwork.  The central agency for submitting federal government proposal applications is  The Sponsored Project Administrator is available to conduct a brief orientation for you and/or any support staff that will be assisting you with your proposal submission to federal agencies.

Conflict Interest

There are Federal and State regulations regarding conflicts of interest for grants and contracts.  All Principal Investigators (PIs) and key project personnel should refer to the OSP Conflict of Interest webpage for up-to-date conflict of interest information, disclosure forms and required training. 


For More Information on any of these topics, please visit the OSP webpage.  

Visit the UARSC Policies and Procedures webpage for access to the following Sponsored Projects policies and procedures:

  • Policy on the Allocation of Facilities and Administrative Costs
  • Conflict of Interest Policies for Grants and Contracts
  • Cost Share Guidelines
  • Cost Share-at-a-Glance
  • CSUSM Faculty Research Policies and Procedures 
  • Fellowship Proposal Procedure
  • Academic Affairs Protocol for Approving Special Requests involving External Grants

The UARSC Forms webpage will provide access to following Sponsored Projects forms:

  • Sponsored Project Approval Form
  • Cost Sharing Approval/Verification Form
  • Post-Award Assignment of Cost Sharing Commitment
  • Project Agreement - Sponsored Projects
  • Project Agreement - Campus Activities (formerly Project Agmt - GPSM)
  • Conflict of Interest Disclosure Forms and Certification