Inside Linfield - External Faculty Grants

III. Writing your proposal

Writing resources

There are many resources providing guidance for proposal writing on the web including the following major federal and national funding agencies:

Proposal Reviewer: Serving as a proposal reviewer is an excellent way to learn about what makes a competitive proposal. The Kenyon College website has a list of reviewing opportunities that match your research interests.

Typical proposal format and content

The faculty member is responsible for the proposal content and budget, which should be developed strictly in accordance with agency requirements and submitted by the agency deadline. Typically, a research proposal will include a:

Title page

College name, project title, time period, name of faculty member(s) and contact information.


The abstract should state project significance and time span and how it will be accomplished.

Table of contents

Project narrative

The narrative should be a full and detailed description of the research to be undertaken. It should describe 1) the need for the project, 2) expected results, 3) methodology to be employed, and 4) method of evaluation. The language should be clear, concise and written in the style appropriate to your target audience (e.g., subject matter expert, layman to your field). Do not exceed the page number limitations set by the sponsor. The project narrative should also include:

  • Institutional profile: The site of the project should be described, as well as the equipment and facilities necessary to the success of the project. If additional equipment and space is needed for the project, describe it here. Additional information about the college (e.g., Tax EIN) can be found on the Linfield external faculty grants website or the Office of Institutional Research.
  • Personnel: A brief description of the personnel and their areas of expertise should be given, although formal resumes are usually included in the appendices.
  • Consultants: Consultants should be selected prior to submission of the proposal and mentioned by name. Consultants should be used only when college personnel do not have the required qualifications, or when an outside consultant would provide a necessary and unique contribution to the project.
  • Publication: A brief synopsis of the publication content if a publication is a project outcome.
  • Travel: If travel will be necessary, include a general travel plan and justification.
  • Timeline: Develop a reasonable and feasible timeline for project activities to take place.


Bibliographic references should be selected carefully and only those discussed in the proposal should be included.


Appendices may be necessary for a comprehensive understanding of the proposal (e.g., expertise of senior personnel). Additional materials may include bibliography, resumes, letters of support from the institution and peers, copy of a publication, graphs and diagrams, or any other documentation necessary to support the proposal. Do not attach appendices if they are specifically prohibited.

Budget - See section VII for budget instructions for Federal Agencies (e.g., NSF).

The budget must be as accurate as possible based on estimated costs, some of which may change prior to or after the grant is awarded. Always check the agency guidelines for what the agency will and will not fund. Multi-year budgets should be incremented at the standard "cost of living" rate. The components of the budget are Direct Costs (those directly attributable to the budget) and Indirect Costs (those that cover management and support).

Direct costs

Personnel salaries and wages

List all salaries for staff, faculty and students performing work for the project. The estimated time committed to the project by each person should be clearly stated. Summer salaries should be listed separately from academic year salaries. Staff and faculty salary increases occur yearly and should be adjusted for multi-year grants. The formula for calculating course release costs is based on the employee's Institutional Base Salary, which can be obtained from the Linfield faculty grants website

Fringe benefits

Benefits for faculty and staff are calculated for all salaries or wages to be expended and include social security, pension, unemployment and healthcare. Current benefit rates are calculated at 38 percent of salary. Note that only an 8.5 percent rate is applied to summer salaries for faculty and students to pay for FICA, Workers' Compensation, etc. During the academic year, the benefit rate is only one percent for students receiving work study funds.


Consultant fees should not be included as salaries and wages. State the total amount for such services and how the total was calculated. Obtain a statement from the consultant detailing charges. To determine a consultant's independent status use the Independent Contractor Checklist provided by Human Resources. FICA and Workers' Compensation rates do not apply to independent contractors.

Equipment and supplies

Include any equipment or supplies needed to successfully carry out the project activities. At Linfield, equipment are material goods with a value equal to or greater than $5,000 or more and supplies are material goods with a value of less than $5,000.


Include all costs attendant to any publication that is expected to result from the project. This might include purchasing the right to pictures of other material to be included in the book, or the cost of including color prints in the manuscript.


Linfield out-of-pocket per diem rates for food can be found on the Linfield faculty grants website. Federally-determined domestic and international rates are useful in estimating travel costs.

Participant support costs

These include stipends, travel, tuition, subsistence, and any other costs necessary for certain types of projects, such as training grants.


These will be needed for any funds that will be passed on to vendors or any other entity that will receive payment to participate in the grant-funded activity.

Indirect costs

Per college policy, a 37 percent federal negotiated indirect cost rate applies to all grant application budgets unless the funder indicates a lesser rate must be used or that the organization does not fund indirect costs.

Cost sharing

Some agencies may require the institution to demonstrate its participation through the contribution of a portion of the funds required for the overall project. Faculty salary, related fringe benefits, and the indirect cost rate allowed by the funder, and other support are often proposed for cost sharing. This is also known as matching funds. UC Berkeley provides an excellent guide to cost sharing, no cost sharing (as required by NSF) and the language to use for this in the budget narrative.

Budget narrative

The budget narrative expands on the budget line items, explaining how the faculty member arrived at dollar amounts and giving enough detail to tie them to the project's activities and goals. All costs and stipends should be fair and reasonable. Make sure the narrative matches the line-items exactly in the budget and that the total amount is commensurate with the outcome.