Preparing Your Proposal

Before you begin writing your proposal, review the grant’s application process and requirements carefully.

Then, follow these steps:

  1. Write the technical portion of the application
  2. Draft your budget
  3. Gather your supplementary materials (such as letters of support and biosketches)
  4. Review your proposal for completeness, accuracy, and suitability
  5. Submit your proposal for review to IRB and/or IACUC, as needed
  6. Ensure your proposal passes the conflict of interest determination process

When your proposal is complete, Huyuni Suratt — as RSP’s authorized signatory and institutional official — will submit it electronically to funding agencies. In some instances, you will have to submit your proposal directly to the funding agency (while informing RSP that you have done so).

Frequently Used Data for Proposals

Before entering either the Research Foundation or Graduate Center information, contact RSP. We will help you ensure that all information is up to date and your proposal is compliant from start to finish.

Awardee Name
The Research Foundation of CUNY on Behalf of the CUNY Graduate Center

DUNS Number

Tax ID Number (EIN)

Congressional Districts
CUNY Graduate Center: NY-012
Research Foundation of CUNY: NY-010

Common Proposal Elements

Below are descriptions of several elements that are often required to accompany a proposal. We also include examples of documents in formats, such as a biosketch conforming to NIH requirements.

Email if you need help developing any of these components.

Letters of support are usually required in collaborative proposals. Any substantial collaboration with individuals or institutions should be described and documented with a letter from each collaborator. These letters should clarify the nature, expectations, and duration of the collaboration. Avoid using these letters as another chance to describe the overall project in an attempt to circumvent project description page limits. While it may seem obvious, these letters should be carefully proofread to make sure there is consistency in naming the proposal/project and in addressing the PI.

Examples: NIH Letter of Support | NSF Current and Pending Support Form

A biographical sketch (sample) is required for some applications. This document allows you to describe how your background and expertise relates to your proposed project.

National Science Foundation proposals will not be accepted without an accompanying data management plan (DMP).

What kind of data will be produced by your research processes? All submitted plans must include a description of the expected types of data; standards for data and metadata format and content; and your policy for allowing access, re-use, and archiving.

The CUNY Graduate Center Mission Statement should be included exactly as written on this page [insert link]

The Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness (OIRE) houses a wide variety of statistical information about the CUNY Graduate Center.

  • The Institutional Assessment page presents information about student learning outcomes, the strategic plan, academic program review, and more.
  • Data and Dashboards allows you to search and filter data about admissions and enrollment, graduation rates and time to degree, doctoral student progress tracking, and alumni career outcomes.
  • Survey Research compiles findings from student, faculty, and alumni surveys.

Proposal Guides

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

National Science Foundation

Foundation Center

Online Tutorial on Proposal Writing

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Writing Your Application

National Science Foundation (NSF)

Guide for Proposal Writing

Budget Tips

When planning your budget, it is best to begin with an “all-in budget”: a budget that accounts for every expenditure of time, effort, and money in the planning and implementation of the proposed project or activity. This all-in budget becomes a useful planning tool in applying to multiple funders for the same project, as it is rare to find a single funder to cover every cost of every aspect of a project. It also allows for an accurate assessment of a department’s or institution’s commitment to a project. When compiling an all-in budget, you should account for things that may seem inherent to a project but not immediately quantifiable, like work space.

Budget items generally fall into one of two categories: direct costs or indirect costs.

Direct costs are costs that can be identified specifically with a particular project or activity, or directly assigned to such project and activities relatively easily with a high degree of accuracy.

You can distinguish direct from indirect costs by determining how they connect to a specific project or activity. Typical costs charged directly to a project include:

  • Compensation of employees, including related fringe benefit costs and the MTA tax
  • Costs of materials consumed or expended in the performance of the project work

As long as you can make a specific identification between an individual expense and a project, these costs are normally appropriate as direct charges:

  • Animals/animal care costs
  • Computer costs
  • Laboratory supplies (specifically designated for use on the project)
  • Project staff
  • Specialized lab costs
  • Telephone toll charges
  • Travel costs

Yet sponsored projects may incur other types of costs that do not fit in these categories. Other costs that may often be charged directly are:

  • Desktop computers
  • Installation of electrical outlets required for project equipment
  • Laptop computers

Other costs that would not normally be allowable as a direct charge:

  • Desks
  • Filing cabinets (normally facilities infrastructure)
  • General educational/training costs, e.g. software training that cannot be associated with a specific project

Charging specific types of costs to federal research and training grants may or may not be permissible within federal guidelines as outlined below.

After World War II, when the federal government initiated a close partnership with universities, recognition was given to the infrastructure costs needed to support research and program activities. These infrastructure costs became known as facilities and administrative or indirect costs.

They were expressed in terms of a rate — that is, the indirect costs of research divided by the direct costs of research. This rate is applied to eligible direct costs and is the accepted sponsor method to reimburse universities for the indirect costs incurred by the research project. 

Indirect costs are costs incurred for common or joint objectives and therefore cannot be identified readily and specifically with a particular project or activity. For example:

  • Building maintenance
  • Departmental administration
  • General administration
  • Grant administration
  • Library costs
  • Mailroom services
  • Payroll services
  • Security
  • Utilities

General office supplies will normally not be allowed as a direct charge to a federal award.

Because of their general nature, they cannot be identified with a specific project with a high degree of accuracy. However, in instances where the office supplies are not general and can be identified closely with a specific project — e.g. special notebooks for laboratory use, supplies for poster or other presentations to disseminate scientific results, specialized supplies for recording or calibrating data — then such costs should be considered direct. Office supplies related to specific research projects of trainees on federal training grants could also be considered training-related expenses and charged as direct costs.

Domestic and international travel charged to a sponsored project should follow the guidelines set forth by the funding agency. In particular, note federal requirements to Fly America, i.e. on an American carrier showing the American carrier's flight number.

Local telephone costs shall normally be treated as indirect costs, i.e. not charged directly to federal projects. However, telephone toll charges shall be treated as direct cost wherever identifiable to a particular project. In other words, long distance charges may be charged directly to sponsored projects, ideally using specific identification of individual toll calls and projects from the itemized phone bill as documentation.

Under exceptional circumstances, local telephone expenses may be directly charged to a sponsored project. Exceptional circumstances apply when a project has a special or unique need for telephone communication. Phone usage must be significantly greater than the routine level of academic or departmental usage. Procedures must be in place to ensure that the particular line is used exclusively for the project or activity to which it is being directly charged.

Examples of allowable local telephone charges:

  • A dedicated line used to conduct a telephone survey
  • A phone line used exclusively to manage a multi-site research project
  • Cell phones used to coordinate multiple field locations with a region

The Graduate Center is committed to the recovery of the facilities and administrative costs incurred to support the performance of non-federal sponsored activities. For reasons of sound management and equitable stewardship of resources used in support of all sponsored activities, The Graduate Center requires that non-federal sponsored projects attempt to recover the indirect costs of sponsored activity.

For-profit entities that fund University activities are expected to provide indirect cost recovery that equals, at a minimum, the amount that would have been recovered through the application of the applicable negotiated federal indirect cost rate (federal rate). Except in cases in which a sponsor agrees to reimburse the full actual indirect costs of sponsored activities, The Graduate Center recommends the use of the federal rate whenever possible.

The current indirect cost rate for on-campus research at The Graduate Center is 53% on modified total direct costs, 26% for off-campus research, and 42% for other sponsored research.

Most non-federal sponsors limit their indirect cost reimbursement to levels well below the amount that would have been recovered through the application of the federal rate. Usually foundations have an indirect rate of 15%.

Proposals submitted to these sponsors must recover the maximum amount of indirect cost allowed by the established policy of the sponsor. The sponsor's maximum published indirect cost rate must be applied, and costs normally funded as indirect costs — such as the costs of rent and utilities, administrative support, office supplies, etc. — must be included as direct costs wherever possible.

In addition, the indirect cost rate should be applied to the total direct costs (TDC) of such a project, rather than the modified total direct costs (MTDC) basis used in federal awards, unless prohibited by the sponsor. In cases in which the application of the federal rates is not possible, each PI should quantify the amount of foregone indirect cost (cost sharing) on such awards in order to make explicit for the deans and other internal reviewers The Graduate Center’s own participation and investment in the cost of sponsored programs. The determination that the amount of indirect cost recovered is acceptable rests with the Provost’s Office.

Cost sharing is defined as project costs not borne by the sponsor. Cost sharing is accomplished through:

  • In-kind contributions donated by third parties (equipment, supplies, etc.)
  • Project costs funded by The Graduate Center (faculty salaries, fringe, travel, supplies, etc.)
  • Project costs funded from other sponsored agreements
  • The waiver of the full indirect costs when not permissible to be included in a proposal budget

Cost sharing may consist of direct expenses such as faculty effort (including related salaries and fringes when prior approval has been obtained from the EO), lab supplies, and equipment. Any indirect cost, such as administrative salaries, office supplies, and operations and maintenance expenses, may not be cost shared. When mandatory cost sharing is required by the sponsor as a condition of the award, this requirement will be indicated in the program announcement.

The National Endowment for the Humanities frequently requires cost sharing, while the National Science Foundation usually does not.

Voluntary cost sharing is not required by the sponsor but is nevertheless offered in the proposal by the investigator; ordinarily this is in the form of contributed effort. Be aware that cost sharing proposed voluntarily by the PI becomes mandatory (or also known as “voluntary committed” cost sharing) once the award is made, so the language used to describe The Graduate Center’s commitment should be handled thoughtfully.

The following statements in the proposal budget or budget justification would be considered cost sharing:

  • Dr. PI will devote 20% of her time to the project at no cost to the agency.
  • The department will purchase a data frabulator (cost $15,000) for exclusive use in support of Dr. PI's project.

The following statements would not be considered cost sharing:

  • Dr. PI will be providing expert advice and consultation to the project.
  • Dr. PI's laboratory is 800 square feet. She also has access to the departmental data frabulator.

Any cost of the project not borne by the sponsoring agency is cost sharing.

If you have questions about structuring a budget, direct or indirect costs, cost sharing, or writing a budget justification, email (include "Budget Help" in the subject line).

When grant funds are used to pay salaries and wages, associated fringe benefits must also be charged to the grant. The fringe benefit rate and percentage includes social security, unemployment/worker’s compensation, retirement, and health insurance.

Full Time

  • Employees scheduled to work 35 or more hours per week and paid on an annual basis.
  • Rate: 35%

Part Time A

  • Employees scheduled to work between 20 and 34 hours per week and paid on an hourly basis
  • Rate: 35%

Part Time B

  • Employees scheduled to work no more than 19 hours per week and paid on an hourly basis
  • CUNY Faculty who are on Sabbatical Leave
  • Rate: 8%

Released Time

  • CUNY Faculty released to work on a grant or contract
  • Rate: 51%

Summer Salary

  • CUNY Faculty who are receiving Summer Salary payments
  • Rate: 26.7%