Proposal Writing Suggestions
It is very important to develop the proposed project or program fully by detailing every aspect of your vision and thoroughly researching the problem or issue the proposal will address. Documenting these details will serve to respond to the two most important proposal writing exercises:
- Researching for funding sources
- Making the case to be awarded funds
Funding resources are very limited and making funding requests can be highly competitive. Grant-making organizations award funds to non-profit organizations primarily to address societal problems, support worthy activities that aid a particular population, and receive tax reduction incentives so that they may continue to award funding. They want as much bang for their bucks as possible.
Researching funding sources is critical because much time is wasted by seeking funding from an endless number of foundations, for example, when their focus on awarding projects does not match your project objectives. Finding a match between fund resource and project can be like finding buried treasure however by conducting thorough research; you may find enough treasure to fund your project and beyond. By having a detailed project or program already on hand, research for funding can be drastically narrowed down and thereby saving time.
Most “Request for Proposals” or RFP’s require the following information:
- The Abstract – I suggest doing this first, because writing the abstract first will give an indication as to how well you can articulate and summarize your project. Write a one page summary of the project by giving an overview of how you envision the project to address a particular need or issue. Answer why it is important for this project to be conducted to achieve by identifying the specific goals.
- The Thesis - What are the purpose of your project and why and how does your proposal uniquely address or fulfill identifiable needs?
- Goals and Objectives- What improvements do you envision your project will make once activities progress? Identify benchmarks toward achieving project goals. Also, why are you and your organization uniquely qualified to conduct this project?
- Methodology - How do you propose to go about achieving goals and objectives? Make a work-plan that relates to benchmarks and objectives. How will you measure achievements and more importantly make adjustments should shortfalls occur along the way. Collect measurable data for your project at the beginning and throughout the project to help evaluate progress. You must have a plan for evaluating your project.
- Budget – How much will it cost to achieve project goals? Budgeting for proposals can be an art or a disaster. One of the greatest obstacles to non-profits being funded are unrealistic budgets and sloppy accounting practices. If you do not have an accounting staff, hire an accountant that specializes in non-profit financial management. Proper grant fund management can be the difference between success and legal prosecution.
It is important to remember that funding is not only limited, it is also restricted in use for the proposed project. Economical proposals mean that grantors are able to spread the wealth, so it’s advisable to be frugal by limiting your request to the bare necessities.
Do not re-invent the wheel –
At one end of the spectrum it’s great to highlight the uniqueness of your project. At the other end of the spectrum, your project receives brownie points if it can be replicated so be sure to include plans to disseminate project outcomes to all interested parties. Also, collaborating with other institutions and organizations can be very beneficial and favorable to grant makers who can get the most for their money.
Be cognizant of time frames for your project. Time is money so be certain that an honest assessment of what goals can be reasonably achieved are accurately projected.
Award Notification and Board Notification
The award document is the funding agency's official obligation of funds for a project. Keep a copy for yourself. Forward the original and one copy to the District Business Office/Grants Accounting at GOUGH and send one copy to the Office of Institutional Advancement, Grant Resources C306. These Offices should also be notified of any changes to the award and/or approved budget as changes always requires a modified B-Resolution, matrix item or updated FIO.
- A new award is the original grant/contract from the funding agency .
- A continuation award obligates funds for subsequent budget periods within an existing project period or multi-year award. Be aware of requirements should it be necessary to apply for funding each year of the project or filing reports to receive continued allocations.
- A supplement adds funding to an existing budget period for additional work or costs not anticipated in the original proposal or award.
- A renewal award provides funds for the continuation of a project beyond the original project and budget period. Renewals may or may not be competitive, but usually require you to apply formally for additional funds or submit a revised work plan and budget.
- A no-cost extension allows you to extend the period of your grant beyond the original project budget year without additional funding. During the no-cost extension, you will be able to expend the original funds allocated to achieve proposed program goals.
- Again, it will be very important and useful to plan expenditures and track them on your own spreadsheet for easier project management. The TLC offers support and EXCEL Workshops.
All of these circumstances may require an updated FIO or agenda item depending upon the original FIO or resolution submitted. The rule of thumb is that a change in total budget amounts or project extensions need to be recorded via board notification.
Post-Award Budget, Staffing Form, and Fund Numbers
A Post-Award Budget Form and Staffing Form must be submitted to the District Business Office prior to making any expenditures or hiring personnel. To get started quickly go to Awards Checklist. The Staffing Form must include all CCSF personnel (faculty, classified, and students) to be paid out of the award. The total amounts for personnel positions should match the total amounts for academic and classified personnel line items on the Post-Award Budget Form.
Every grant is identified by a special set of numbers. The FOAPA (Fund, Organization,
Account, Program, Activity) number is the expenditure control number that identifies the account for the award. These numbers are assigned as follows.
- Organization number, program number, and activity code: The organization number is based on the department guiding the project, the program number is based on the school or unit the project will operate, and the activity code determines the type of project, such as instructional or credit, service, administrative. General account code numbers must be entered on the Post-Award Budget Form based on the types of planned expenditures. Specific account code numbers or expenditure codes for completing requisitions, personnel forms, contracts and other grant expenditures are based on the type of expenditure being made. Fund number: assigned by the District Business Office when they receive the Post Award Budget Form and Staffing Form (with proof of board and award notification).
- Expenditure codes (also known as account codes): allocated to sub-budget categories or account codes based on amounts in the adopted budget agreed to by the funding agency. CCSF expenditure account codes are listed.
It is very important to begin with an accurate post-award budget and open all accounts or budget line-items allowable by the granting agency. That way, adjustments to the budget are minimal and all expenditures are allowable without requesting additional permission from the granting agency.
General Account Codes: Use general account code numbers for developing the grants budget and completing the Post-award budget form and Staffing form.
1000-Academic Personnel includes any CCSF full-time faculty, part-time faculty, and administrators who will be paid in part or in full by the grant both instructional and non-instructional costs.
2000-Classified Personnel include CCSF classified staff either full or part-time. This general account also includes student employees who will be paid to work on the grant. If a full-time classified employee will work overtime, if possible, that amount should be included in your budget. If it is a new classified position, you must follow the procedures for requesting a new position and hiring classified personnel. Only make this choice if you have long-term funding (typically 5 years or more) and adequate funding for salary, benefits, and cost of living adjustments.
3000-Fringe Benefits must be included in your budge and is based upon the total personnel to be paid by the grant. For example, if 50% of your salary will be paid by the grant, 50% of your benefit cost must be paid by the grant. Refer to the Fringe Benefits Calculation worksheet to determine the amount to be budgeted (Included in the Post-award budget forms)
4000-Supplies and Materials generally includes objects that have a life of one year or less and cost less than $250 per unit, in most cases. This category also includes software, in which case the cost may be over the $250 unit cost. Federal grants typically consider items up to $5,000 to be supplies and materials, however its best to use CCSF's threshold and your best judgement as to whether the item can clearly be considered equipment.
5000-Other Operating Expenses generally include travel, hiring consultants, speakers, and other expenditures and services not included in other categories such as maintenance and repair of equipment, memberships, mailings, printing, and advertising.
6000-Capital Outlay/Equipment generally includes expenditures for goods with a shelf life of more than a year and have a cost of more than $250. There are exceptions that may qualify as materials and supplies. It should be noted that some grantors do not allow the purchase of equipment without exception and all equipment purchased becomes the property of CCSF unless otherwise stated in writing by the grantor.
7000-Other Outgo is the category for sub-recipients (collaborating institutions/organizations) of grant funds and receive a "sub-budget" of the overall project budget. Payments to students as financial aid in the form of tuition reimbursement and scholarships are also charged to this account. However, work-study is charged in the form of salaries and should be budgeted to the 2000 account. Also, grant "indirect cost" (overhead) should be budget in this category.
The District Business Office maintains records for all grants through BANNER. However, it is highly recommended that projects also keep track of expenditures by using a simple Excel spreadsheet and maintaining copies of all documents including requisitions, invoices, and other supporting forms and communications. BANNER access is available to grant project managers. Requests for access to BANNER, as well as e-mail accounts, should be made to Information Technology Services (ITS). BANNER Finance access also requires consulting the BANNER Systems Administrator. The fund number (FOAPA) should already be assigned before requesting an account. For expenditure requests, requisitions are required to obtain approval prior to purchase. Visit the Purchasing website for more information. Project Managers should also consult grantor guidelines on vendor bidding procedures which may affect how the Purchasing Department is required to handle your purchasing requests. Some State and Federal grants require that certain expenditures be opened to bidding by vendors which will require extra time and planning to conduct this process.
Personnel issues can be somewhat complex. Based on the needs of your grant, there are several types of staffing scenarios that you can employ. Each has its own procedures and forms; the following discusses each in detail.
Classified expenditures must be included in the 2000 account code line item and should be detailed as much as possible on the Post-award budget Staffing Form. To hire currently employed classified staff, the FOAPA number should be included on a Form 3 to charge the budgeted number of hours (or percentage) to the grant. Determine the employee's hourly rate and total number of hours for total amount. (Be aware of rate adjustments over multi-year grant awards.) Full-time (40 hours per week) permanent classified staff may use a separate overtime timesheet to charge additional hours to the grant.
The Civil Service system and union contract complicate rules and regulations to follow for hiring personnel for grants. Personnel working less than full-time may be subject to limitations on the number of hours that employee may work. It is recommended that project directors consult with Marguerite Versher regarding the best way to staff grant funded projects. It is also important to remember that Human Resources will most likely disallow hiring new personnel for grants that have less than five years of funding for salary and benefits.
How CCSF faculty are paid through the grant largely depends upon the project and its budget. Release time is generally used in the case of a full-time faculty member being more fully engaged in grant activities. A percentage of a faculty member’s salary matches the amount budgeted in the grant and the College will be reimbursed by the grant for that faculty member’s salary and benefits. Course replacement or back-fill is no longer allowed in the cases in which the faculty member was released from teaching a course or courses. Full or part-time faculty may be paid non-instructional hourly pay for grant project activities. In the case of part-time faculty, the 60% workload rule generally applies during the academic year.
This is only advisable if the grant project is for more than three years. There are seven basic steps to hiring a new classified employee.
Obtain Classified Position Request Package.
- Obtain approval from the City/County Human Resources Civil Service Unit.
- Obtain approval from the Classified Position Allocation Committee.
- Submit Classified Personnel Requisition (Form 3).
- Post job announcement.
- Screen applicants.
- Select candidate for position.
Human Resources Office is located at 33 Gough Street.
HR - General Information 241-2246
Classified Employment - 487-2445
Generally, grant funds are not used to hire new faculty. Consult your department chair regarding faculty new hires and FTE allocations.
The Professional Services Contract is used for consultants, vendors, guest speakers, and other non-CCSF personnel (not employed by CCSF for at least 12 months prior to consulting) contracted to perform services over an abbreviated period of time. Board approval is required prior to beginning the contract process unless services are contracted for less than $50,000. A new Board Resolution is not required for services less than $50,000 (see “Board Notification,” p. 14). Also, the line item must already be appropriated in your Post-Award budget as “Other Operating Expenses.” Professional Services Contracts should be submitted at least 3 weeks prior to the intended start date. A contractor should not be allowed to perform any services prior to approval by Administrative Services (see also Appendix III and www.ccsf.edu/Offices/VCFA/Contracts for more information).
Student Lab Aides must maintain a minimum of 6 units during Fall and/or Spring semesters and/or 3 units in the summer. Noncredit students must maintain 12 hours in Fall and/or Spring and 6 hours in the summer. Students may work a maximum of 15 hours per week. A description of the available position should be posted with the Career Development and Placement Center. For more information contact CDPC at 239-3117. For guidelines and forms, contact Student Employment in the Financial Aid Office at 239-3599.
“Sub-Recipient Agreements” and other grants contractual agreements with other institutions, must be considered during the proposal process and always require board approval.
Purchasing Materials and Supplies
The Purchasing Office distributes a Handbook to help negotiate the policies and procedures for expending funds for supplies, materials, and equipment. There is also a Purchasing Office Web site available at http://www.ccsf.edu/Services/Purchasing/.
Departments may not order directly from vendors. All purchases require prior approval via a requisition order form. You can, however use the Internet to research the product, vendor, and price. CCSF purchasing currently does not allow phone and Web site orders with a requisition. Any purchase between $2,000 and $49,999 will be informally bid. The lowest responsible bidder will receive the order. Allow at least one week for this process. Orders should include specifications and price quotes for accurate requisitioning of products. It’s advisable to attach specifications and/or product descriptions (if available) to the requisition (see additional information on purchasing in Appendix V).
The Requisition and Travel Order Form is used for all travel expenditures. If your grant includes travel for CCSF faculty or staff, this form should be completed well in advance as all travel expenditures must be pre-approved. Generally, only payments for registration fees for conferences can be pre-paid by the grant or CCSF. Transportation costs, lodging, and meals are paid by the traveler and reimbursed upon submission of the Travel Settlement Report and original receipts for approved expenditures stated on the Travel Order Form. First-class airfare is not allowable under any circumstances. An allowable cost of per diem for meals does not require meal receipts, but must be included on the Travel Order Form for reimbursement. For further information on an allowable per diem and on local travel, check district policy at: http://www.ccsf.edu/Offices/District_Business_Offices/Travel%20Guidelines.doc.
No reimbursement can be made without the original receipt(s) (see Appendix VI for more information).
Travel by Non-CCSF Employees
Generally, unless the grant specifically determines that the person(s) filling the role that the grant identifies, non-employee travel and reimbursements are discouraged. Should a non-employee be required to travel, the District may be required to report that travel as income on the IRS Form 1099. In that case, non-employees should claim their un-reimbursed travel on IRS Form C when filing their yearly income tax. It is wise to undertake this discussion with any consultant who is hired and expected to incur the cost of grant-related travel. Estimated travel costs may be included in the Professional Services Contract and reimbursed by including expenses with the consultant’s invoice for services provided.
The issue of non-CCSF employee travel reimbursement is still being discussed. There are federal and state laws that dictate the College’s option to treat consultant travel as income. We recommend that you discuss this with the Grants Office as early in the grant process as possible.
VIII. Ongoing Budgetary Issues
Tracking Your Match
Once your project receives grant funding, you will need to track your match expenditures for funder reporting and College auditing purposes. Match can be accounted for using the CCSF Match Tracking Form (see p. 34).
Referencing your CCSF Pre-proposal Budget Form, identify all expenditures you need to track. As the project progresses, record each match item, the amount spent for that item, the fund from which the expenditure will be paid, the account code, the date or time period during which the match was incurred, and any special directions or comments.
You also need to provide documentation/evidence of the match (e.g., receipts, timesheets, requisition forms). Attach that documentation to your completed form and submit it to Grants Accounting in a timely manner (based on the length of your grant, “timely” could be quarterly, semi-annually, annually, etc.).
Re-budgeting, or changing the way award funds are expended, may require prior approval by the funding agency. Approval to re-budget, if required, must be requested of the funding agency in writing but can be done via email. The Post-Award Grants manager should receive a copy of that request and approval. Federal agencies participating in the Federal Demonstration Project (FDP) allow re-budgeting among most funding categories without prior approval as long as the expenditure is allowable under the approved project. The award document, grant guidelines, and the Grants Office can help interpret whether agency permission is needed to re-budget. Special care must be taken when re-budgeting amounts into or out of the supplies and materials and equipment categories, as those categories may not bear indirect costs in the agreement (see Appendix IV).
Carrying Forward Funds
Some funding agencies allow non-obligated funds from one budget period to be carried forward into the next budget period. Often, the Principal Investigator/Project Director must request the funding agency's permission in writing and should seek approval at least 30 days prior to the end of the budget period. Federal agencies participating in FDP allow grantees to carry balances forward without prior approval, however it is best to be certain by contacting the grantor prior to the end of the budget period.
No-Cost Extension of Funds
If the project is not completed and awarded funds remain unspent towards the end of a project period, many funding agencies will allow the Principal Investigator/Project Director to request more time to complete the work while spending remaining funds. A no-cost extension is an extension of the project period without additional funding. Often a no-cost extension must be requested of the funding agency in writing well before the existing project period end date. FDP agencies allow the institution to approve a single no cost extension without prior approval, but still require written notification. Consult your grant monitor or program officer at your funding agency for accurate information. If your grant reports are quarterly, the third quarter report is usually a good indicator on project status and whether an extension request will be necessary.
Closeouts and Cost Transfers
The District Business Office prepares expenditure reports that should be reconciled by the project budget manager and Principal Investigator/Project Director. Most funding agencies require a final financial report from the District Business Office, usually within 90 days of project termination. Cost Transfers occur when the College’s general fund is charged for grant expenditures or vice versa. Cost transfers can impact the perceived grant account balance or deficit so staying abreast of expenditures is imperative to overall grant project operations.
The District Business Office is responsible for preparing all financial reports. It is recommended that the Project Director review all expenditures charged to the project for accuracy at least two weeks prior to quarterly reporting and 30 days prior to the end of the project year. Any remaining funds must be encumbered and subsequently expended by the end of the grant fiscal year unless the project has been extended (see description of no cost-extension of funds). Any special requirements with regard to financial reports should be stipulated to the District Business Office early in the grant fiscal year. In some cases the granting agencies may have specific forms for financial reporting. The original forms should be forwarded to the District Business Office for completion (We recommend that you maintain a copy of all forms and correspondence with the granting agency and the District Business Office.)
Federal Demonstration Project
Most postsecondary institutions participate in the Federal Demonstration Project (FDP), which allows grant recipient institutions flexibility in managing awards funded by selected federal agencies. In general, the "expanded authorities act" of FDP allows the institution to decide independently to:
Approve pre-award costs,
Grant no-cost extensions,
Carry over non-obligated balances from one budget period to the next, and
Carry out a broad range of award actions, such as foreign travel or large equipment purchases.
The agencies do require prior approval for:
Change in the scope of the project,
Change of Principal Investigator,
Establishing the relatedness of two or more projects for purposes of sharing project assets, and
The Project Director is usually the faculty member or administrator who will coordinate the project or program. Acceptance of a proposal results in an award by the sponsor of a grant or contract with the College. The Project Director as an individual does not receive the grant or enter into the contract. However, he or she is responsible for conducting the program or project according to the terms of the grant or contract, and in so doing, serves as the agent of the College. Specifically, he or she engages personally in the work as stipulated, directs the activities of program or project personnel, submits reports of program or project activities, and assures that the program or project is conducted within the agreed budget limits.
If the Project Director anticipates significant changes from the original grant intent, he or she should get in touch with granting agency before moving forward with these changes. The Project Director may be required to submit to the granting agency interim reports and final reports. These reports may include fiscal, statistical, and narrative information. Reports should assess the significance of the project, the objectives achieved, the obstacles encountered, and recommendations for future programs if desired. We recommend that the Project Director record activities on an ongoing basis in order to complete the narrative information in a timely manner.