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Steps to Preparing a Proposal
Budget Development
Proposal Submission Timeline
Obtaining Internal Approvals
Conflict of Interest
Commonly Needed Information
Proposal Writing Help

Steps to Preparing a Proposal
  1. Please contact the UARSC Office of Sponsored Projects as soon as you know that you will be submitting a proposal. You can call or email Jan Cushman.  Her direct line is (760) 750-4722.  Provide the Sponsored Projects Administrator with the agency guidelines if you are responding to a Request for Proposal (RFP).
  2. If you are not responding to an RFP, but have an idea you wish to develop, the following four statements will guide you through the process of developing a concept paper that can be used to search for a funder.
    • The problem this project addresses; what you wish to change.
    • The need this project fulfills; why the change is important; rationale in support of project.
    • Collaboration expectations of the project; internal and external partnerships/linkages.
    • Objectives (what you will do), outcomes (benefits), and methodology (activities).
  3. Once a funding source has been targeted, you can use the concept paper to generate feedback from colleagues and get support and approval from your department chair. You can also establish personal contact with the Sponsor. Find out who the program officer is at the funding agency and ask for preparation suggestions. If the funding source is a foundation, you might consider sending a letter of inquiry before writing a full proposal.
  4. Write the proposal. Most proposals include the following sections (Refer to Proposal Writing Help for links to proposal writing tutorials):
    • a statement of need or problem
    • a project description and timetable
    • a budget and a budget justification
    • organizational information and qualifications of the project personnel
    • an evaluation plan
    • and a plan to disseminate the results
  5. Work closely with the Sponsored Projects Administrator to establish a timetable for proposal development. She can also work with you to ensure that the proposal meets agency formatting guidelines, and that the budget is developed in compliance with grants administration regulations.
  6. Fill out the Sponsored Projects Approval Form and obtain the necessary signatures from appropriate administrators. The Sponsored Projects Administrator will assist with this process. Read the form early in the process so you’ll know how many signatures you will need to obtain and plan on the approval process taking as many as 7-10 days. If the proposal budget requires cost sharing, additional approvals will need to be obtained. (See Cost Sharing and Matching Funds below.)
Budget Development

To get started, utilize the budget spreadsheet to develop a preliminary budget. Then contact the UARSC Sponsored Projects Administrator for further budget assistance. 

Below are listed the most common categories of a budget, although not all budgets contain all categories.  Note that budgets are typically comprised of “direct” and “indirect” costs. Direct costs are those expenses that are specifically associated with a particular sponsored project or activity, and can be directly assigned to that project or activity with a high degree of accuracy. Indirect costs are very real expenses that cannot be specifically identified with a particular project or activity. Sometimes called "overhead" or "Facilities and Administrative (F&A)" costs, these are the costs of buildings, utilities, and the many other expenses necessary for the operation of the University.

Salaries and Wages/Personnel

List professional personnel first, staff personnel second, casual or part-time workers third. Professional and staff salary figures should include a percentage of effort to reflect the estimated amount of time each person will devote to the project each year. In the case of part-time non-professional personnel including students, the number of hours (rather than percent of effort) should be used in the estimate. Faculty “reimbursed time” and “overload” are calculated at the academic year rate of pay. Consult the Additional Employment Guidelines for clarification on calculating faculty salary on external grants and contracts.

Additional information is available about the student employment pay scale and UARSC classification categories.  The following positions are included: Researcher, Project Specialist, Administrative Support, Accounting Technician, and Special Consultant.

The direct charging of clerical and administrative support under federal grants requires justification. Your justification should include the following:

  • A statement that there is no administrative support for research from the General Fund.
  • A statement that charges are made through a positive payroll system (i.e., timecards are submitted for direct charges).
  • A specific justification as to how all clerical and administrative charges are directly related to the project.
  • Fringe Benefits
  • The fringe benefit rate is expressed as a percentage of salary. It varies with personnel classification. Refer to the Payroll webpage for more detailed information on benefit rates and coverage provided.
Supplies and Materials

These are expendable items with a useful life of less than one year or a cost of under $5000 per item. This budget category should be supported by descriptions of the articles included and best estimates of their cost.

Computers can be purchased from an outside vendor, in which case the project director must sign a "software/hardware maintenance agreement" with the University at the time of purchase.  This agreement outlines three levels of support that the University will provide, along with any related costs.

Computers can also be leased through the University “Refresh” program. These computers are replaced every three years with the latest hardware and software. An annual service and maintenance cost should be budgeted each year of the grant.

Procurement Policy
Computer Lease or Purchase Procedures
Office Depot Procedures
Purchase Order Form
Computer Service Agreement

Permanent Equipment

This is defined as non-expendable, tangible property costing $5000 or more per unit and having a useful life of one or more years. Include the cost of shipping, installation, fabrication, and sales tax in the cost of the equipment. Permanent equipment is divided into two categories -- special purpose and general purpose.

Special purpose equipment is the type of equipment most often purchased under grants or contracts because it is necessary to the research and is not generally available within or for general use to the University.

General purpose equipment is defined as equipment that is not limited in use only to research activities. Examples of general purpose equipment include office equipment and furnishings, air conditioning equipment, printing equipment, refrigerators and freezers, and automatic data processing equipment. Expenditures for general purpose equipment are unallowable unless the equipment is primarily used for the actual conduct of the research.

Please note that when your proposal is funded, you must follow the bidding process as explained in the UARSC Procurement Policy.


It is important to distinguish between domestic and foreign travel since different types of approval may be required. Within each category list the following:

  • Name of traveler, destination, and reason for trip
  • Round-trip commercial coach air fare
  • Number of days and per diem or actual living expenses
  • Other expenses such as ground transportation or conference registration fees

Be sure to allow for anticipated increases in travel costs for subsequent budget periods. The purpose of each trip should be discussed in the budget justification. Please refer to the UARSC Travel Policy for current allowable travel costs.

Outside Consultants (Independent Contractors)

Hiring outside consultants should be considered only when the services are necessary and cannot be provided by paying direct salaries either to a current University employee or someone hired on the project to do the job.

Consultants must be identified by name and/or by specialty and their daily rate should be specified. Government agencies generally have defined maximum daily rates.


Subcontracts involve contracting with other organizations for some scientific or programmatic aspect of a grant or contract made originally to UARSC. If any work is to be done by a subcontractor, include in the main proposal the subcontractor's authorized proposal and budget.

Once funds are awarded, UARSC will write a subcontract incorporating the needed information and, in accordance with federal or other sponsoring agency regulations, may ask Project Directors to document the reasons for choosing a particular subcontractor.

Publication Costs

Publication costs should include the estimated number of pages, applicable page charges, and names of journals when possible.


This category can include items such as equipment repair, postage, telephone charges, tuition remission, subscriptions to periodicals, human subject fees, photocopying expenses, and animal care. These expenses should be listed individually.

Trainee Costs

These costs are allowable under training grants. For each individual trainee, such costs may include stipends, tuition and fees, and "other" costs covering travel, books, etc.

Please note that a “stipend” is not viewed as employment income, but rather as an award in recognition for service to the University. The stipend is intended to encourage the participation of the highest caliber of students of any financial means.

Total Direct Costs

The above categories added together comprise total direct costs.

Indirect Costs (Facilities & Administration)

Federal indirect cost rates are audited by and negotiated with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The UARSC office will provide you with the appropriate rate to be used for your project proposal budget. Please refer to the Indirect Cost Recovery Policy for more information regarding our current F&A rate and the formula for distribution of these funds.

A Modified Total Direct Cost base is used to calculate indirect costs. MTDC consist of all salaries and wages, fringe benefits, materials, supplies, services, travel, and subgrants of subcontracts up to the first $25,000 of each subgrant or subcontract. MDTC exclude equipment, capital expenditures, charges for patient care, tuition remission, rental costs of off-site facilities, scholarships, and fellowships as well as the portion of each subgrant and subcontract in excess of $25,000.

Total Project Costs

The total project cost is the sum of direct and indirect costs.

Cost Sharing and Matching Funds

Cost sharing refers to the portion of the project cost that is not borne by the sponsoring agency. Once an award is made all cost sharing commitments in the proposal are considered to be mandatory and as such represent binding obligations to the University and UARSC. Therefore, it is the practice of the University/UARSC is to make a cost-sharing commitment only when required by the sponsor or by the competitive nature of the award and then to cost share only to the extent necessary to meet the specific requirements of the sponsored project. The cost sharing commitment must be approved by the responsible University and UARSC officials on the Cost Share Approval/Verification Form, then documented in the proposed budget and on the Grant Application Approval Form. The Cost Sharing Guidelines were jointly developed by UARSC and the Office of Research.

Proposal Submission Timelie

This timeline is intended to serve as a guide for faculty and staff working on proposals to facilitate effective proposal development and submission.  The UARSC Office of Sponsored Projects (OSP) and CSUSM Office of Research request all faculty and staff complete their proposals at least two business days prior to the deadline.  An early proposal submission is the best guarantee that the sponsor will receive it on time.  Additionally, this time ensures the OSP staff has sufficient time to review the proposal for completeness; assist with any necessary corrections and/or additions; verify administrative approvals; copy the application; submit to the agency; and make corrections to the application submitted electronically as required  by the sponsoring agency.

Working Days
to Deadline
Proposed Action
60 days
30-60 days
  • Review program announcement guidelines/instructions.
  • Meet with Sponsored Projects Administrator for consultation and coordination of proposal.
  • Prepare proposal development work plan.
  • Prepare outline and/or draft of research/program plan.
  • Begin planning budget.
  • Discuss project and preliminary budget considerations with Dean/Department Chair/AVP-Office of Graduate Studies and Research.
  • Contact appropriate personnel regarding issues that will affect the University, i.e., facilities, library, info tech, controlled substances, etc.
  • Coordinate with participating organizations/institutions.
  • Discuss effort, cost share, and matching funds with Chair/Dean/AVPR.
25-30 days
  • Prepare preliminary budget with Sponsored Projects Administrator. 
  • Discuss cost share and course release requests with appropriate administrators.
  • Request letters of support, MOUs, letters of collaboration, etc.
20-25 days
  • Share draft of proposal with colleagues for peer review.
15-20 days
  • Finalize project budget with Sponsored Projects Administrator.
5-10 days
  • Begin routing internal approval forms and respond to questions from University and UARSC administrators.
  • Prepare final copy of proposal.
2-5 days
  • Provide final proposal to Sponsored Projects Administrator for electronic submission or mailing proposal package to sponsor.

Obtaining Internal Approvals 

The required signatures from administrators for the Sponsored Projects Approval Form must be completed prior to the submission of the proposal.  This requirement is a directive from the Chancellor’s Office, EO 890. The Sponsored Projects Administrator will work with the Principal Investigator/Project Director to ensure this form is completed correctly and the necessary signatures are obtained. This process can take from 2 – 5 days and can begin once the project budget is finalized.   

Conflict of 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 Office of Sponsored Projects Conflict of Interest webpage for up-to-date conflict of interest information, disclosure forms and training. 

Commonly Needed Information

Commonly needed information about UARSC

Proposal Writing Help

Foundation Center Short Course
NSF Guide for Proposal Writing
CFDA – Developing and Writing Grant Proposals
All About Grants – the basic NIH research grant
The User-Friendly Handbook for Project Evaluation

I’ll Grant You That; J. Burke & C.A. Prater
Heinemann Press, Portsmouth, N.H. (2000)

Proposal Planning and Writing; L. Miner, J. Miner, & J. Griffith
Oryx Press, 2nd ed. (1998)

Winning Grants: Step by Step; M. Carlson
Jossey-Bass, 2nd ed. (2002)