Guidelines for Proposal Writing

Getting Started

Proposal Assistance

Preliminary Inquiry

Informal Proposal

Proposal Content and Budget

Forms and University Procedures

Post-Award Information

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Getting Started

There are various funding sources and types of funding for different activities. While federal departments and agencies are prominent sources of support, alternative sources – such as private and corporate foundations, state governmental agencies, and private industry – should not be overlooked. To explore these potential funding sources, you need to begin the process of converting your initial idea into a clear and reasonably detailed project design.  Consider developing a concept paper to outline your project.  Guidelines for doing so are available on our website.

To make your project attractive to a prospective funding source, it is important to demonstrate that you are offering a significant response to a current problem of interest to that source. The goal is to propose a clear, thought-out project with measurable outcomes in a specific area of need.

Evaluate your idea as objectively as possible in terms of its contribution as a response to this problem. The evaluation process may require:

  • reading and citing authoritative sources in the problem area,
  • conversation or correspondence with leading figures in the area,
  • familiarizing yourself with ongoing funded activities in the area, and
  • considering the relevance of your idea in light of other approaches.

You should always be open to the possibility of re-focusing the project design as a result of this evaluation.

Keep in mind that most proposals are reviewed by a panel of peer reviewers and the program officer. While they consider the merit of each application, they will also assess:

  • the significance, originality, and potentially transformative nature of the proposed research,
  • the adequacy of the methodology,
  • the qualifications and experience of the investigator(s),
  • the suitability of the facilities, and
  • the appropriateness of the budget requested.

Proposal Assistance

Staff in the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs can help you in a number of ways as you develop a competitive extramural proposal. They are informed about the process of proposal and budget development, agency interests and priorities, and UW-L's institutional procedures for proposal submission. They are also familiar with agency procedures and requirements and can assist in matching your project with the sources that are most likely to fund it.  You are encouraged to contact the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs as soon as you have a project idea.

Obviously, not every proposal is funded the first time. As a matter of fact, the probabilities of successful funding tend to double with re-submissions. Certain agencies expect to see proposals, especially from new investigators, three or four times before they are actually funded. Many successful proposals are funded after multiple submissions. Proposal revisions and re-submissions, therefore, are to be expected. In most cases, the results of proposal reviews are either provided automatically by the agency or can be requested by the principal investigator/project director (PI/PD).

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Preliminary Inquiry

It is recommended that preliminary contact be made with potential extramural funding sources in order to determine whether they are willing to consider a formal grant application. A well-written two or three page preliminary proposal, or concept paper, submitted to an agency can inform you of the agency's potential interest in the proposal and will save time for both you and the agency – especially if the proposal is clearly not suitable for formal submission. Guidelines for developing a concept paper are available on this website.  In addition, the preparation of the formal document is much simpler if a preliminary proposal has been prepared carefully. This process may result in agency assistance for designing the proposal to meet their priorities without distorting your original intentions. Finally, the agency staff may be able to suggest other agencies or private foundations that may have an interest in your proposed project.

The preliminary inquiry should, if possible, demonstrate that the investigator is acquainted with the work and purpose of the particular organization being approached. An effective prospectus will point out the significance of the project and will discuss the objectives of your particular research, how you plan to reach these objectives, and how long it will take you to do so. Although a detailed budget is not necessary, there should be an overall cost estimate including appropriate UW-L fringe benefits and indirect costs.  Please see "Frequently Requested Information”.

Other information that should be included is the following: Who will benefit? Who cares about the outcomes? What difference will it make if the project is not funded? How is your approach unique, inventive, or transformative?

A preliminary proposal should give enough indication of step-by-step planning to show that the project has been thought through and that pitfalls have been anticipated. It will demonstrate the writer's grasp of the subject and his/her capabilities to undertake the project. It should be emphasized that this is a preliminary inquiry, not a formal proposal, and that the investigator will send further details if the agency wishes.

Since the preliminary inquiry is an informal, direct communication between the PI/PD and the extramural agency, it is not routed through university channels with a transmittal form and does not require any university endorsement. However, an informational copy of the preliminary proposal and agency correspondence should be sent to the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs so that they can aid you in locating appropriate funding sources. It is important that PIs/PDs do not commit university resources without the explicit consent of their cognizant department chair/unit director, dean/division director, and the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

In general, private foundations are interested in innovative projects that are:

  • relevant to pressing national or regional problems,
  • relevant to new methods in education,
  • capable of being continued after a specified funding period without further assistance from the foundation, and
  • incapable of being initially funded by governmental agencies or the investigator's own institution.

The initial letter of inquiry and brief preliminary proposal should highlight whichever of these characteristics best fit the project at hand.

Further suggestions on both the appropriateness and the preparation of a preliminary proposal may be obtained from the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

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Informal Proposal

A written description of the project – called an informal proposal or prospectus – should be developed in order to identify:

  • the problem that the project addresses and its importance, and
  • the need for this particular project as a significant response to the problem.

Even if you have not yet developed an informal proposal, it is a good idea to become acquainted with the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs ( in 220 Morris Hall (608-785-8007). This office can provide you with helpful information and suggestions for your project early in the planning stages, and the more they know about you and your proposed research, the more help they can offer.

An informal description of the project's intent is valuable as a first step in defining the project. It is also very useful in eliciting feedback and constructive criticism from your colleagues, and it will help the Office of Research Sponsored Programs to suggest and/or identify appropriate extramural funding sources. Finally, it is an important vehicle for direct preliminary contact with potential funding sources.

The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs has compiled lists of databases containing federal agencies, private and corporate foundations, UW System sources, Wisconsin state agencies, and general resources, which can be accessed and searched by prospective PIs/PDs.

An informal proposal is useful for two reasons: it allows you the opportunity to concentrate on the main features of a project and provides the backbone of information requested in a final proposal by most funding agencies. It is also strongly recommended that the proposal author(s) ask one (or more) colleague(s) to provide critique on the informal proposal.

Description of Project

A project description states exactly what you intend to do. Very often this includes a statement of the problem, a statement of the need, or both. Make sure the statement of need is consistent with the project objectives and methodology.

Project Goals

Project goals are generalized statements about proposed accomplishments of the project. "General" is not intended to mean imprecise or vague but rather broad-based.

Project Objectives

Project objectives are statements of precise outcomes, which can be measured to determine actual accomplishments.

Implications of the Project

Implications of the project are reasons why you want to do the work and what the value of the project will be. Even if you want to be tentative about these areas at this point, you should consider possible results or impact. The agency wants to know why it should invest in your project, although exact results cannot be predicted at this stage.

Plan of Action, Project Design, Methodology

The plan of action is a narrative description of the order of events for approaching the problem and the methodology for gathering and using the information. Specifically, you need to describe actual program activities, personnel utilization, and data compilation.

Proposed Time Frame for the Project

Provide a reasonable starting and ending time for the project. For multi-year projects, supply a year-by-year breakdown and indicate what can be accomplished at the end of each year. An agency might be interested in funding for the first year, for example, but not for the following years.

Budget and Personnel

All budget considerations in the proposal development process should be discussed with the Research and Sponsored Programs Officer (608-785-8007 or Facilities and administrative (indirect) costs, fringe benefit rates, stipends, and salaries should be consistent with current university rates and policies. University travel regulations and allowances must be reflected in the budget.

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Proposal Content and Budget

While there is no "one size fits all" approach for developing a perfect proposal, there are some general principles that can help you prepare an effective document that will strongly state your case in seeking extramural funding.

The format of a particular proposal document will depend on the requirements of the sponsor to whom you are applying. Most federal agencies have application forms or very specific guidelines, while other sponsors may be less specific. Most agencies also have very specific page limits, which must be adhered to.

Consider the nature of the potential funding source as you begin to write. The approach to a general purpose foundation will differ from that to a discipline specific federal agency. In the former, you need to start with a more general needs statement to establish the importance of your whole area of interest relative to other large areas of need. In the latter, you can go directly to the specific need for your project.

Your informal proposal and/or preliminary inquiry document will serve as an outline in drafting a fuller, more complete document. Funding agency (or collegial) reactions to the informal proposal should provide assistance in developing your final proposal.

While the typical sections of a full proposal and proposal budget are provided below, the PI/PD must review specific requirements of the funding agency.

Title Page

  • Name and address of sponsor to whom the proposal is being submitted
  • Name of the applicant or organization – University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
  • Place of performance
  • Title of proposed project
  • Total funds requested (For multi-year proposals, it is helpful to show both the total request and the request for the first year.)
  • Name and title of the PI/PD and co-investigators as necessary
  • Name and title of authorizing UW-L official – Robert Hoar, Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs


The title of a proposal is very important. A proposal title should describe the proposed project, express the end result of the project, and be short and easy to remember.


While an abstract is not required by all funding agencies, it is a highly effective means of presenting a project to a reviewer or review board. Typically, an abstract is no longer than 200 to 250 words. It is a brief exposition which summarizes the objectives and significance of the project, the procedures to be followed in carrying it out, and the plans for evaluating the results. Unless specifically required, facts given on the title page need not be repeated in the abstract.


If extensive introductory remarks are appropriate to "set the stage" for the specific proposal, you should devote a separate section to them. However, if only a brief introduction is necessary, it should be included as the introductory paragraph of the next section.

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Description of the Proposed Project

The description of the proposed project is an expansion of the abstract and constitutes the heart and soul of the proposal. It is a full and detailed explanation of the PI's proposed research plan and should include:

  • A detailed description of the work to be undertaken;
  • Its relation to both the present state of knowledge in the field and to comparable work known to be in progress elsewhere; and
  • Justification that the proposed research is timely and critical. This section should include a clearly stated, detailed discussion of the methodology, goals, and objectives of the research.


References should be selected carefully, and generally only those that are discussed in the proposal should be included. A reviewer will be interested in assessing the relevance of the listed references to the proposed project.

Proposal Budget

The budget is one of the key elements in any proposal because it outlines your project in fiscal terms and is often used by reviewers to form an impression of how the project will be organized.

You are urged to arrange for early discussions on your budget with the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. If you submit a proposal with an unrealistic budget to an agency, it becomes very difficult to come back later with a larger budget.

* Cost Sharing

Funding agencies may or may not require UW-L to demonstrate its participation in the total costs of any project supported by a research grant. In determining how UW-L will share in the cost of a project, specific funding agency guidelines should be followed, as allowable types and requirements vary widely. The PI should also take into account that cost-sharing must be auditable. Contingent upon funder guidelines and UW-L approval, cost sharing may consist of cash and/or in-kind contributions. The commitment for cost sharing must be submitted in writing to the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, which may be an email communication from the dean/division director or their authorizing signature on the Grant Transmittal Form.

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* Salaries and Wages

List professional personnel first, staff personnel second, and part-time workers third. Professional and staff salary figures should include a percentage of effort figure to reflect the estimated amount of time each person will devote to the proposed project. In the case of part-time, nonprofessional personnel, the number of hours may be used in the estimate. Student help should be included in this category. Consultants should not be included here but rather in a separate category. Care should be taken to anticipate and provide for annual merit and promotional rate increases. It is recommended that a project budget include a 3% salary/wage increase per year.

Generally, departmental secretarial and administrative support personnel are not included, but any individual specifically assigned to a project should be listed at the appropriate level of participation.

While it is appropriate to request summer salary support for academic year personnel, a summer salary cannot exceed two-ninths of the full time academic year salary paid an individual during the immediate previous academic year without prior approval of the appropriate Dean of Director. In all cases, summer salaries shown must be determined and approved in accordance with University policies.

Proposal funds cannot be used to augment salaries beyond UW System approved rate.  For academic year personnel, additional funds cannot exceed three-ninths plus $12,000 of the full time academic year salary.  For staff with an annual appointment, additional funds cannot exceed $12,000 of the full time annual appointment salary. Additional compensation limitations also vary by agency; the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs can assist you in determining those restrictions.

* Fringe Benefits

Fringe benefits, expressed as a percentage of salary, include such items as Social Security, state retirement programs, health insurance, life insurance, and disability insurance. Fringe benefits must be included in all grant and contract budgets unless they are specifically excluded or restricted by the funding agency. Fringe benefit rates vary according to the personnel classification. When developing a budget, the extramural fringe benefit rates established by the UW System should be used.

 Multiple year proposals should include an increase for future fringe benefit costs of 3% per year.

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* Indirect Costs/Overhead

Indirect costs are real costs associated with the completion of a funded project. Extramural proposals must request indirect costs from the agency to cover expenditures such as administrative costs, maintenance of physical facilities, and utilities that are not readily identified with a specific project. This is mandated by the UW System Board of Regents, and the actual rate is negotiated for UW-L by the federal government. In undertaking any funded project, whether or not it is sponsored by the federal government, UW-L must recover two components of costs – those directly attributable to the specific project and those incurred for the general support and management of the project. Indirect costs are real costs. They provide reimbursements for expenses incurred in conducting or supporting the project. Funds paid to UW-L for indirect costs of a sponsored project are reimbursement to use for expenditures actually incurred.

For non-federal grants/contracts, the PI/PD should include the non-federal indirect cost rate unless the funding organization has specific stipulations for lower or no indirect costs. Consult the Research and Sponsored Programs Officer when in doubt. Non-federal indirect costs are calculated as a percentage of a project’s total direct costs.

For federal grants/contracts, the basic regulations for ascertaining the costs of federally sponsored projects at educational institutions are set forth in OMB Circular A-21. Annually, the UW System presents its expenditures in these categories and evidence regarding the proportion of these costs incurred as a result of its total research effort. This information is audited by representatives of the DHHS Audit Agency (the cognizant audit agency for the UW System), and the allowable rates of reimbursement are then established. Rates are calculated as a percentage of a project’s total direct salaries/wages and fringe benefits.

An electronic copy of the Overhead Rate Agreement is available online.

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* Facilities and Equipment

If available facilities and equipment are to be utilized, they should be described and emphasized. If additional facilities and equipment are to be procured using funds to be made available under your proposal, they should be described in detail, as should any contribution UW-L is expected to make. Financial information related to facilities and equipment should be briefly noted here and detailed in the budget section.

* Permanent Equipment

Permanent capital equipment is defined as non-expendable, tangible equipment costing $5,000 or more per unit. The cost of shipping, installation, and fabrication should be included in the cost of the equipment. Whenever possible, the PI/PD should specify the name, model number, and manufacturer of the equipment.

Permanent equipment is broken into two categories: special purpose and general purpose. The type of equipment most often purchased under grants or contracts is designated special purpose equipment because it is necessary to the research and is generally not available within or of general use to UW-L. Justification for such equipment should be provided in the proposal.

General purpose equipment includes items such as office furniture, dictation/transcription machines, personal computers, etc. The purchase of general purpose equipment is allowed by some federal agencies when it is primarily or exclusively used in the conduct of scientific research.

Generally, title to equipment purchased with grant funds is allowed to remain at UW-L. However, the specific conditions of each grant or contract will govern.

* Expendable Equipment and Supplies

Any equipment needed for your specific research project and which costs less than $5,000 should be listed under expendable equipment and supplies. Identify as specifically as possible the types of equipment or supplies needed. For example, this itemization should include laboratory supplies, office supplies, chemicals, glassware, and electronic supplies.

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* Personnel

Brief biographical sketches, including publications, of the PI/PD and the senior professional personnel involved should be included. Many funding agencies now impose page limits on senior personnel CVs and have guidelines regarding CV contents and format. If support personnel and students who will work on the project are already in the employ of UW-L, they may be listed. If not, the positions to be filled should be described along with an indication of the academic level or job classification desired. Naming a person in a grant application does not commit the institution to employment of that person and does not satisfy the requirement of open recruitment.

The following categories of personnel are often needed.

  • Principal investigator/program director (or co-director)
  • Faculty associates
  • Employees-in-training
  • Research associates
  • Research or project assistants (undergraduate or graduate students engaged in research training under the proposed grant)
  • Academic staff
  • Classified staff (clerical, shop, and laboratory helpers)
  • Student employees

* Publication Costs

Publication costs are the expenses of preparing and publishing the results of the research conducted under the grant, including costs of reports, reprints, page charges, or other journal costs and necessary illustrations. Such costs do not normally include support of book or monograph publication.

* Travel Costs

Travel costs should specify type (conducting research or attending a meeting) and category (domestic or international travel) since different types of approval may be required. Within each category, list:

  • Name of traveler, destination, and reason for trip
  • Round-trip commercial coach airfare (allowances for air travel will not normally exceed round-trip economy airfare)
  • Number of days and per diem or estimated living expenses
  • Other expenses, such as ground transportation or conference registration fees

The purpose of each trip should be discussed in the body of the technical proposal. Expenditures for travel must be budgeted in accordance with university and State of Wisconsin travel regulations.

If international travel is anticipated, the proposal should give relevant information and justification. In such instances, it is preferable to budget the expenditures in accordance with per diem rates established by the federal government.

If no provision for foreign travel was included in the original proposal, approval must be obtained from either the funding agency or UW-L (as appropriate) prior to the commitment of grant funds for such purposes.

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* Tuition, Fees, and Institutional Allowances

Training grants provide for payment of tuition, segregated fees, and/or institutional allowances for trainees. When such provisions exist, they must be fully utilized. Also, be sure to allow for anticipated increases in these costs. Under UW System policies, training grants must equal or exceed tuition and fee costs per student; if a given grant or contract fails to do so, the difference will be charged to the individual students. For current tuition and fee rates, consult

* Consultants

Consultants are defined as external experts (not employed by the UW System) who work on a project for a limited duration and scope. In a proposal, a consultant must be identified by name and/or by their specialty; the number of person-days of consulting and their daily rate should also be specified. Federal funding agencies ask that PI/PDs:

  • Hire consultants only when the services are necessary and cannot be provided by paying direct salaries to a current employee of the proposed project;
  • Engage in an objective selection process designed to secure the most qualified individual; and
  • Ensure these persons provide a "necessary and unique contribution" to the project.

Eligibility of individuals holding local, state, or federal positions to serve as paid consultants must be determined in advance. Employees within the UW System cannot serve within the system as paid consultants nor can employees of a federal agency unless they are on leave status. UW System employees can, however, serve as staff members on a project, in which case the appropriate fringe benefit rates should be included in the budget.

Where the costs of consultants are borne in whole or in part as direct costs by federal projects, the consultation must be documented by an invoice from the consultant. Any of the following information not shown on the invoice must be shown in a memorandum or other document signed by an organizational official: the name of the consulting firm or individual; social security number and home address of individual consultant; the nature of the services rendered and their relevance to the grant supported activities, if not otherwise apparent from the nature of the services; the period of the service; the basis for calculating the fee paid (e.g., rate per day, hours worked, or rate per unit of service rendered); and the amount paid.

* Miscellaneous

Where supporting funding agency regulations permit, the budget should include appropriate amounts for miscellaneous costs such as computing time, telephone and fax costs, freight charges, equipment maintenance and rental, service contracts or charges, and reference books specifically related to the project.

* Subcontracts

Subcontracts should appear as a line item in the proposal budget with reference to an attached subcontractor's formal, detailed budget. PIs should document the reasons for choosing a particular subcontractor over others.

* Space and Extended Use of University Facilities

Expenditures necessary for construction, remodeling, or rental of space and facilities should be explained in detail. The basis for this entry will be the estimates you receive from UW-L's space management, remodeling, or planning and construction representative. If off-campus rental facilities are approved by UW-L, the budget should include rent, utilities, custodial care, and other costs which may be incurred.

* Other Support

The proposal should summarize all current extramural support and other pending applications of the PI(s). This information should include sources of support, project titles, periods, and budget amounts.

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Forms and University Procedures

Grant Transmittal Form

All proposals for extramural support must be accompanied by a UW-L Grant Transmittal Form. Proposals for UW System grants must be accompanied by an internal UW System Grant Transmittal Form.  Both forms assure that appropriate officials review and give approval to each proposal in accordance with university and sponsoring agency regulations. It also provides the basic UW-L record of the processing transaction.

Conflict of Financial Interest Form

If your grant proposal is being submitted for federal funding, each investigator must complete a Conflict of Financial Interest Form.  All university employees who meet the federal definition of investigator must complete this disclosure form in order to comply with federal agency requirements. An "investigator" means the principal investigator and any other person who is responsible for the design, conduct, or reporting of federally funded research. Grant proposals cannot be submitted to federal agencies unless this form is completed, signed by your dean, and then submitted to the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. To assure that submission will not be delayed, this form should accompany your proposal and Grant Transmittal Form when you are seeking authorizing signatures. It should be updated if the circumstances change. Please see the policy on our website.

RCR Student Training Plan Form

All PIs submitting a proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF) must complete an RCR Student Training Plan Form.  As of January 2010, the NSF Awards and Administration Guide requires that all students working on NSF-funded projects must receive training in Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR).  In order to ensure compliance with this requirement, UW-L has established an institutional policy to guide the required student training.  The RCR Student Training Plan Form outlines the PI’s plan for fulfilling student training obligations.

On-Campus Deadlines

The PI/PD should allow sufficient time for on-campus processing of proposals.  Refer to the guidelines below for specific timelines.

  1. Have you submitted an extramural (non-UW-L, non-UW-System) grant while working at UW-L?
  2. Do you feel comfortable with the grant process after having submitted one extramural grant?
    • If no, please use the checklist from question #1 above.
    • If yes, please click here for your deadlines and checklist.

Review and Approval

Each proposal for extramural support must be approved by the department chairperson or unit director, the appropriate dean or division director, and the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs before it is forwarded to the funding agency. Proposals that involve more than one department, school or college, or UW System unit must be reviewed by appropriate officials of each. Proposals that involve animal use; toxic, infectious, or carcinogenic/mutagenic material; recombinant DNA technology; or human subjects or tissue must be approved by the appropriate university compliance committees.

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Principal Investigator

The terms "Principal Investigator" (PI) and "Project Director" (PD) are often used interchangeably to designate an individual who has the responsibility for seeing that proposals are submitted and that sponsored projects are carried out in compliance with the terms, conditions, and policies of both the funding agency and UW-L, including the submission of all required narrative and technical reports.

A project is generally conceived and carried out by the PI/PD who manages the funds entrusted to him/her to meet the project goals. As the person primarily responsible for the day-to-day management of a project, the PI/PD must be alert to both university and funding agency requirements.

Department Chairperson or Unit Director

The department chairperson or unit director shall:

  • review the proposal to assure that faculty and staff time commitments are reasonable and compatible with department workloads, present and planned;
  • determine that the percentages of time and the salaries are accurate; and
  • agree that the space, facility, and service requirements are within the department's present capability if not specifically provided for in the proposal.

College Dean or Division Director

The college dean or division director, or designated representative, shall review the proposal for completeness in accordance with the following guidelines:

  • space, services, and support requirements have been adequately provided for;
  • responsibility will be accepted for assuring the availability of matching (cost sharing) funds promised in the proposal; and
  • the project budget, salary rates, job titles, and classifications are reasonable and appropriate.

In addition, it should be ascertained to what degree this proposal will commit the college or school to long-term support of project personnel or to a program which may evolve from the project.

Associate Vice Chancellor

Under a policy revision passed by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, the chancellor or his/her designee(s) can enter into grant and contract arrangements on behalf of the institution. As the chancellor’s designated representative, the associate vice chancellor shall review the proposal for compatibility with the appropriate university plans, policies, and regulations as well as for conformity with agency requirements and policies.

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Post-Award Information

Acceptance of the Award

After a proposal has been approved for support and an award is granted, official notification is usually sent from the funding agency to the chancellor's office or the designee and the PI/PD. In all cases, official acceptance of funds is required. In the case of grants and contracts, the chancellor or his/her designee provides the official signature of acceptance. When a grant award becomes official, the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs formally acknowledges it and forwards a letter to the post grant award office, which assigns the UW-L account number and deals with other post-award financial activities.

Administrative Responsibilities

The PI/PD, operating within the policies of UW-L and assisted by appropriate university administrative offices and officials, is responsible for the day-to-day administration and direction of an approved project. The PI/PD will be furnished a copy of the grant or contract document for reference. In order to effectively discharge his/her primary responsibility, the PI/PD should be cognizant of all contract or grant provisions and give special attention to those pertaining to budget limitations, patents/inventions and copyrights, safety and security, and required reports.

It is expected that the PI/PD will maintain close liaison with the cognizant dean or director and with the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs and post-award office in order to apprise them of developments requiring deviation from the initial budget or from other terms and conditions of the approved grant or contract. They must be furnished copies of, and in most cases countersign, all administrative correspondence between the PI/PD and the supporting agency.


A separate accounting report is established for each UW-L grant or contract account number, and all financial transactions, such as budget receipts, encumbrances, payments, and balances, will be recorded on this ledger. The PI/PD is expected to keep sufficient records in his/her own department to control all expenditures, including those budget items (e.g., travel) which may not be exceeded without agency approval. Some grants require supplementary records, and these are defined in the grant or contract document or in published agency regulations. The grant accountant should be consulted to determine current and accurate funds remaining for budget line items.

Budget Modification

Supporting agencies have specific requirements for and restrictions on deviation from the approved project budget. The PI/PD is responsible for complying with such regulations. When prior approval for budget modifications is required, a written request should be routed to the funding agency via the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. Before a budget modification is requested, a PI/PD should consult with the grant accountant to determine the current status of available funds. The grant accountant can provide the PI/PD with an available balance worksheet to assist in planning budget modifications. Copies of modification or deviation approvals are generally sent by the supporting agency directly to the PI/PD who is responsible for submitting copies to the dean or director, the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, and the Post-Award Office.

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Carryover of Funding

Sponsoring agencies and organizations have different rules regarding funds that are unspent at the end of a budget period in a multi-year grant. PI/PDs should find out what their granting agencies require so as not to jeopardize the use of these funds. For example, NIH requires that un-obligated funds be returned or subtracted from the next year's award unless carryover has been approved. A request to carry forward the funds is usually included in the renewal proposal. If not, a request should be sent through the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs to the sponsor with an explanation of why the residual exists and how it will be used during the next budget period.

No Cost Time Extension

Requests to extend the award termination date without additional funds (no cost time extension) should be sent to the sponsoring agency through the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. The first step to initiate a no cost time extension is to contact the grant accountant to request an available balance worksheet, which accurately reflects the current funds available. The available balance worksheet should be submitted to the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs accompanying the No Cost Time Extension Form. The form should include an explanation of the need for a time extension and a brief statement of how any residual funds will be used during the requested period of extension. The form is due to the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at least eight (8) weeks prior to the project termination date.

Supplemental Funds

Requests for supplemental funds should be treated as a “mini-proposal.” A budget showing how the funds will be spent and an explanation of why they are needed and relevant to the research must be included in the request. The appropriate dean’s or director's approval is necessary before the request can be transmitted through the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs to the sponsor.

Project Changes

Care should be taken to charge the project for all approved expenses incurred. The fact that this may require additional paperwork (e.g., a separate order to Central Stores or a vendor) is no reason to avoid the practice and thus load the regular department budget or other extramural projects with inappropriate or unnecessary charges.

Purchasing Procedures

All regular university purchasing policies must be followed when purchasing with grant monies. If you are unaware of purchasing procedures, check with the dean or director, purchasing department, your department secretary, or the Post-Award Office.


The PI/PD is responsible for complying with all technical and scholarly report requirements and filing deadlines as specified by the funding agency and UW-L. When required by the granting/contract agency, auditable financial reports will be prepared by the Business Services Post-Award Office  in conjunction with the PI/PD.

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Salaries and wages must be administered in accordance with state and university personnel and compensation rules and regulations. PI/PDs should be familiar with the faculty, academic staff, and classified (including LTEs) rules and regulations, current policies for employees-in-training and student hourly help, and federal work-study procedures. Contact the Office of Human Resources for details on personnel policies and hiring. Federal grants require compliance with federal anti-discrimination statutes.


The state and UW-L travel regulations govern reimbursement for travel performed with project funds. International travel and related subsistence should be reimbursed in accordance with the terms of the grant or contract. Some agencies specify maximum dollar limit per day for subsistence (room and board), and care should be taken that project accounts are not charged in excess of such maximums.


Permanent equipment purchased from project funds is owned by either UW-L or the sponsoring agency, depending upon the terms of the grant or contract. In either case, the PI/PD is responsible for such equipment and must account for all items periodically and at the close of the project. Equipment purchased with extramural funds must be entered into the UW-L inventory system.

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Changes in Research Plan

Major changes in the research plan that constitute a redirection of the statement of work included in the original proposal should be discussed in advance with the funding agency's technical representative; a letter should be sent to the agency regarding the proposed change. This type of change should also have the appropriate dean’s or director's approval. If the change in research plan leads to budgetary changes, the PI/PD should consult/inform the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

Changes in PI/PD

Whenever an individual is unable to continue serving as a PI/PD on an extramural project, university and agency approval is required before a new project director can be designated. Contact the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs for specific requirements.

Transfer of Grant to another Institution

When a PI/PD is terminating his or her association with UW-L and requests a transfer of their extramural support to another university, specific approval must be obtained from both UW-L (appropriate dean or director and the vice chancellor) and the funding agency. Contact the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

Program Income

Federal regulations require that UW-L account to the funding agency for program income related to projects funded in whole or in part with federal funds. It is therefore important that income generated from the sale of goods and/or services be re-deposited to the source of funds paying the costs of the sale. These regulations also require prior agency approval before expending income generated from grant activities. Sales and income is a complex area that should be discussed with UW-L Business Office if extramural funds are involved.

Time and Effort Certification

Under federal guidelines, appointment letters, payroll records, etc., are not sufficient documentation to certify expended effort on an externally funded project: often a separate document, the Time and Effort Certification Form, signed and dated by the individual having first-hand knowledge of 100% of the employee's activities, both sponsored and non-sponsored, is required. These forms are sent to PI/PDs after every payroll period – monthly for faculty and academic staff and bi-monthly for classified employees.

Restrictions of Publication and Proprietary Information

It is the policy of UW-L that the results of research shall be fully communicated; accordingly, UW-L does not engage in classified research and will not agree to grant or contract provisions that restrict the right of a UW-L employee to publish, release, or otherwise share findings derived from the sponsored activities. UW-L does recognize that some research may require access to proprietary data. As a consequence, it will permit the sponsor of the research an opportunity to review materials prior to publication and to request changes in order to protect proprietary data. The final decision on whether to publish, however, remains with the researcher; the right of review by the sponsor does not contain a corresponding right of approval. In addition, this review period is not to exceed 90 days.

Although UW-L will agree to receive proprietary information and will exercise best efforts to maintain the confidentiality of this information, it insists such proprietary information be restricted to that which is absolutely necessary for the research. It must be clearly marked as "proprietary" at the time it is received by UW-L. Proposed exceptions to this policy, including the negotiation of contracts or agreements covering classified research in the national interest, must be approved by the cognizant dean or director and the chancellor or his/her designee.

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