R&GA Pre-Award Services

The Research & Grants Administration (R&GA) has administrative responsibility for relationships between sponsoring/funding agencies and Robert Morris University. The R&GA and Financial Operations provide pre-award services:

Forwarding of announcements about Requests for Proposals (RFP) or making it available in the Research & Grants page.

  • If R&GA is informed or comes to know about a grant opportunity, details of the opportunity will be forwarded to the Deans of applicable programs.
  • The opportunity will also be posted in the R&GA home page. Interested researchers should use the search tool to find the opportunity they are interested in.

Guidance for proposal preparation in accordance with RFP guidelines

  • If requested, R&GA will provide guidance for writing a compelling and comprehensive proposal in accordance with RFP guidelines provided by the grant agency. 

Guidance for budget assistance

  • If requested, R&GA with Financial Operations will provide guidance in budget preparation. The budget will be checked for compliance with University and grant agency policies. 

Guidance for proposal submission to sponsoring/funding agencies

  • Some proposals are submitted by R&GA. Others can be submitted by the Principal Investigator or Project Director. All submissions can be made only after R&GA approval. Approvals are also required from Department Head and Dean. 

Communication and negotiation with sponsoring/funding agencies when appropriate

  • R&GA speaks to the sponsoring/funding agencies on the request of the Principal Investigator or Project Director and/or when they are contacted directly by the sponsoring/funding agency when negotiating budgets and clarifying RFP contents. 

Maintaining a faculty expertise database

  • R&GA has information on faculty expertise which can be shared with the Principal Investigator or Project Director. Principal Investigator or Project Director should directly contact the experts they seek but need to ensure the expert receives permission from his/her Department Head and Dean to be part of the proposal.

Offering proposal development workshops

  • R&GA regularly offers information sessions on grant related areas like the role of Principal Investigator or Project Director, preparing a project budget, and searching for funding. Newer topics will be introduced on demand.
Concept Paper for a Grant Proposal

Once you have an idea for a possible grant proposal, it is good practice to write it down in the form of a concept paper. Good ideas are fundable when they get developed into comprehensive and compelling proposals. Writing a concept paper will help you formulate your thoughts, taking you one step closer to writing a fundable proposal. 

What is a Concept Paper?
A concept paper is a summary of your idea. It helps you formulate your thoughts so that you can create an outline of your project.  It helps you discuss your idea with your superiors, the Research & Grants Administration, and even program officers of federal and foundation grant agencies. Applicants may use concept papers in any of the following ways: 

  • to interest potential funders
  • to develop potential solutions or investigations into project ideas
  • to determine whether a project idea is fundable
  • to serve as the foundation for a full proposal

How long should a Concept Paper be?
Remember, the proposal is the lengthier document and concept paper helps you get started on your proposal. Typically a concept paper should be brief (1-3 pages) and uses language that is definite. i.e., Instead of stating, “We may carry out this task,” project confidence in the proposal and assert, “We will carry out this task.”  As you are trying to sell your idea, you need to act as the salesperson for your idea by avoiding conditional language that minimizes your ability to carry out the project, such as “if,” “however,” and “but.”  

What should the Concept Paper contain?
Though a concept paper should be brief, it should also be able to adequately communicate your idea. Typically it should include the following sections: 

I. Purpose 
In simple terms, state the problem that your project will address or the need that your project will fulfill. Provide evidence as to why this problem is important. Include supporting documentation like statistical data. Cite what others have accomplished, your expertise in this area, and what more needs to be done. 

In this section you should answer the following:

  • Describe the question, problem, or need that will be addressed.  Briefly note any evidence of this need (such as a statistic).
  • Identify how the project will address this need.
  • Identify how the project fits the mission/priorities of the funding agency.

The first sentences are important. Capture their interest; engage them to continue reading the rest of your concept paper. 

II. Project Description 
Briefly state your proposed solution to the problem, the answer to the need, or the investigation that will fill the knowledge gap. Address your unique, unusual, distinctive, innovative, and/or novel aspects of the approach, showing why you have the best solution worthy of funding. 

In this section you should answer the following:

  • What activities will take place?
    • For example, will you be developing curriculum, starting a mentoring program, or holding a training workshop?
  • How is your approach unique, inventive, and/or transformative?
    • Distinguish yourself from the plethora of proposals the funder will receive.  Define why the agency should fund you instead of someone with a similar idea.
  • Who will benefit?
    • Think in broader terms than merely answering a research question.  Consider the project’s effects upon students, curriculum, faculty professional development, the institution’s research environment, and society in general.  The broader impacts should appeal to your sponsoring agency’s goals and funding priorities.

The project description also includes the project's Goals and Objectives. A goal is your overall aim of what you want to accomplish. Objectives are specific, measurable statements that will lead to attainment of your goal. Objectives are more specific than the project’s overall goal(s) and should be SMART – i.e. specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. The goals, objectives, and activities need to align closely with each other and be accomplished within the proposed timeline. 

In this section you should answer the following:

  • What do you hope to achieve?
  • What are your research questions?

III. Methodology/Project Design
The Concept paper also includes an overview of the project's Methodology (also called Project Activities or Action Plan). 

In this section you should answer the following:

  • How will the project be carried out?
  • What inventive techniques, processes, or methods will be employed?
  • What is the anticipated timeline (in general terms)?  How many months or years will the project span?

IV. Evaluation 
Project execution will result in outcomes. To ensure what you have promised is accomplished, you will need to assess and evaluate project outcomes. To do this, you need to decide on outcomes that will be measured and the tool/process you will use to measure and assess the outcomes. Remember, the outcomes need to align with the objectives.
 
In this section you should answer the following:

  • Briefly state your intended outcomes and how you will measure success. 

V. Project Needs
To complete your project goals, you will have needs. These needs will assist you in accomplishing your tasks so that you are able to accomplish your objectives. 

In this section you should answer the following:

  • Make a general list of what you will need to carry out a project and, if possible, anticipated expenses.
  • The Research & Grants Administration can help you brainstorm what your needs may be and assign appropriate figures to those needs.
  • Some expense categories you should think about are:
    • Personnel – Don’t forget to include undergraduate or graduate student support.
    • Equipment (refers to items greater than  $5,000)
    • Supplies (refers to items less than $5,000)
    • Travel – Do you need to travel for research purposes or dissemination?
    • Consultants or subcontractors – Individuals under this category must be outside of the UW System.  Partners employed within the UW System can be included as personnel.
    • Participant support
    • Space – Will you need to rent facilities or other materials from sources off-campus?

VI. Funding Agency (Optional)
If it is known to you, include information about the funding agency. This demonstrates you have done your homework and that you understand their mission: what they fund and how the mission of your agency and that of the funding agency mesh.

Certain contents were taken from the following websites and modified for use at RMU.
https://www.uwsuper.edu/research/proposal-development/create-proposal-concept.cfm
http://www.ithaca.edu/sponsored-research/docs/conceptpaper.pdf

Proposal Budget

Your project budget is a financial counterpart of your project proposal. I.e. it is the costs associated with the tasks you propose to do. It is a detailed estimate of all the costs required to complete project tasks. It is much more detailed than the high-level budget developed in the initial budget discussions.

The approved budget drives project funding. It will provide proposal reviewers information on tasks and monetary requirements. Once your project is awarded, the budget helps the PI coordinate people, equipment, and materials when they are needed to accomplish the tasks. The budget also provides a project financial picture and helps in cost control if necessary. 

The proposal budget is a crucial part of the funding process. Decisions made during the development of the budget have important implications for the proposed activity. The University has adopted a number of guidelines that will be helpful in the budgeting process.

To start your budget, use the Budget Related Questions to answer all relevant budget needs. You can then use the budget templates to prepare a draft of your 1,2,3,4, or 5 year budget. You will also need to provide a budget narrative (justification).  Remember: Your budget will need to be reviewed by R&GA and then approved by Financial Operations before it can be submitted.

Grant Writing Resources