Guidance for Preparing and Submitting Proposals

Opportunity Identification and Approvals

TMCC faculty, administrators, staff and the Grants Office staff can identify grant opportunities. A TMCC Vice President must approve grant concepts before the grant writing begins. The TMCC President or designee also approves the proposal before the Grants Office submits the proposal the sponsor. There are several factors considered in the approval process:

  • Connection to the TMCC strategic plan and/or ongoing initiatives
  • Project objectives
  • Principal Investigator (PI) qualifications
  • Timeframe for project
  • Type of institutional resources that will need to be devoted to the project

Faculty and staff must complete the Pre-Proposal Request form. The Grants Office and the PI will work together to secure all of the necessary approvals. After the President approves the proposal concept, the proposal writing can begin.

When TMCC is the applicant or sub-recipient, the Grants Office will write and/or review all proposals, including budgets, prior to submission to the President for approval.

The Grants Office submits all proposals of behalf of the College.


Proposal Content

A proposal requesting support from any sponsor will most often consist of the following elements.

Title Page

For those sponsors who do not provide application forms or have other specific requirements, the first page of the document will be a title page.

Generally, the title page will contain:

  • Name and address of the sponsoring agency
  • Title of the proposed project
  • Applicant's name (Board of Regents, NSHE, Truckee Meadows Community College)
  • Name and title of the Principal Investigator(s)
  • Dates of the proposed project
  • Total support requested

It should also contain a signature block for both the PI and for the Grants Office.

Table of Contents

The table of contents helps to direct reviewers to key sections. It will show page numbers of each major and minor section.

Abstract

The abstract is a brief description covering the purpose, specific aims, and significance of the project. In general, little or no experimental detail should be in the abstract. Some sponsors require that PIs write the abstract in lay terminology.

Description of the Project

This section is generally the largest part of the application and contains a detailed description that may contain many or all of the following:

  • Project rationale
  • Introduction
  • A statement of the needs and problems
  • Goals and objectives of the project
  • Relation of the project to the state of knowledge in the field
  • Significance of the project
  • Procedures
  • Statement of approach
  • The means by which objectives will be met
  • Problems that are anticipated
  • Evaluation
  • Management
  • Organization of the project
  • Project staff and their roles
  • Project schedule

Facilities

The PI and/or the Grants Office will describe the available facilities and equipment that will be used in the project.

Personnel

The personnel section includes biographical sketches with pertinent publications of the Principal Investigator(s) and senior faculty and professional collaborators. Only those individual people who are identified as essential to the project (i.e., PI, co-PI) are considered as key personnel.


Budget and Budget Justification

The budget should be reasonable and identify the cost of the project to the sponsor. The budget also serves as a further measure of the PI’s capabilities, because there must be a reasonable correlation between the project as described and the PI's assessment of the various cost elements.

Budget preparation constitutes a large segment of the proposal and often takes a different structure depending on the sponsor. For instance, on federal grants, the budget will always contain both direct costs and indirect or Facilities and Administrative (F&A) costs, whereas a budget developed for a corporate grant or contract may benefit from adding indirect costs to each line item and showing only the total.

TMCC requires a detailed budget and budget justification to accompany the proposal, even if the sponsor does not require it.

Tips for Creating a Budget

Overview

The budget and budget justification is a key factor that sponsors use to determine whether or not a project should be funded. If the budget is inconsistent with the work proposed, sponsors will be concerned that the PI doesn’t understand what it will take to complete the scope of work.

Another concern is that in the event the requested falls short of what is needed for the project, the College must pick up the difference.

The TMCC Grants Office can assist PIs in developing the budget. We have existing templates that may be useful. The information below will give PIs an idea of the kind of information that is needed in the budget. Also, this information is helpful for the development of the budget justification.

Salaries

The salary and wages for all employees working on a project must be identified in the budget. Each employee will be named in the budget. Additionally, the employee’s job title, the percentage of effort and salary amount will be included in the budget. The grant must compensate professional and classified staff for periods during which their services benefit the project. If the compensation is not charged to the grant account, the institution will pay the compensation, which is cost share (see below for more information).

The PI needs to consider carefully the amount of effort that is committed to the project. The following are some key issues to keep in mind:

  • Employees cannot exceed 100% of institutional activities; therefore, the commitment of effort on a grant must result in the reduction of another institutional activity.
  • The sponsor must cover the salary of the employee otherwise the College must use its own resources to cover the salary.
  • The College must meet the commitment of effort the PI makes in the proposal. Federal regulations require that the College obtain prior approval from the sponsor for the reduction of PI effort by more than 25%.

Regular Faculty Salaries: Most academic faculty at TMCC have nine-month appointments paid over 12 months. Other faculty may be on a 12-month appointment. It is important to calculate the effort and salary based on the correct appointment term for the employee.

Summer Salary/Overload: A faculty member on a nine-month appointment may elect to devote time during the summer to a sponsored project beyond the academic year and may request and receive additional compensation beyond the base academic year salary. For faculty with nine-month appointments, a maximum of three months of summer effort and salary (calculated based on the employee’s daily rate) is possible in those cases in which this is acceptable to the sponsor.

Note that for National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored grants, summer salary is limited to no more than two months of the academic year salary.

The grant may fund administrative personnel only under special circumstances. Contact the TMCC Grants Office for more information.

Fringe Benefits: The fringe benefits should be grouped by employee type and calculated based on the correct rates for the year. Contact the TMCC Budget and Planning Office or the TMCC Grants Office for the applicable fringe benefit rates.

Travel

The budget will include all costs of both domestic and foreign travel, including per diem and registration fees, if any. The need for PIs to consult with colleagues and disseminate new knowledge at scholarly meetings is an accepted cost in most projects. In order for the cost to be allocable to the project, there must be a correlation between the project and the purpose of the meeting. Federal agencies require the use of U.S. flag carriers.

PIs should identify the costs to travel to various locations to perform the work. An itinerary may be required if travel is a significant portion of the total cost. Some examples would be travel to various localities to conduct training or collect samples.

Operating

The budget will include operating costs such as supplies and vendor contracts. Supplies are expendable materials, including equipment with a useful life of a one-year or less and a unit cost of less than $1,999. Supplies must be necessary for the project and purchased early in the project to be useful to the completion of the scope of work.

Consultants

Grant contracts may include consultant fees for experts outside of TMCC who provide a unique contribution to the project. A consultant is defined as an individual or organization hired to provide advice and/or service to the project within normal business operations and whose status is governed by Internal Revenue Code of Common Law.

Charges may include fees, travel, and supporting costs (per diem, etc.). The College must solicit bids for vendor/consultant services that exceed $25,000. Approval of the consultant by the sponsoring agency is not an acceptable justification.

The Federal government allows consultants under the following circumstances:

  • The services provided are essential and cannot be provided by persons receiving salary support under the grant;
  • A selection process has been employed to secure the most qualified person available; and
  • The charge is appropriate considering the qualifications of the consultant, his/her normal charges, and the nature of the services rendered.

The PI should obtain documentation of the hourly rate, statement of work, and a list of deliverables from the consultant.

Sub-Agreement

TMCC will issue a sub-agreement to a collaborator’s institution when the collaborator is responsible for intellectual leadership for their portion of work, is using their personnel, facilities and resources, and is subject to the compliance requirements of the award e.g., costing, reporting, etc.

Participant Support

Participant support costs are direct costs for items such as stipends or subsistence allowances, travel allowances, and registration fees paid to or on behalf of participants or trainees (but not employees) in connection with meetings, conferences, symposia, or training projects.

Scholarships

Scholarships are defined as a sum of money or other aid granted to a student because of merit or need to pursue his or her studies. The TMCC Financial Aid Office processes scholarships. The Financial Aid Director or designee must approve the request for scholarship support in the proposal.

Equipment

Permanent equipment is an item of tangible property with a minimum cost of $5,000 and that has a useful life greater than one year. On all federal funding, the threshold is reduced to $3,000. In the budget, permanent equipment requests must be itemized and justified. In addition, the PI must determine that the equipment requested is not already available within the College.

The total requested cost of equipment should include needed accessories, installation, and delivery costs. In some cases, the sponsor may provide the equipment directly rather than provide acquisition funds, or short-term rental may be preferred.

Construction/Fixed Assets

Construction is not a normal cost for most proposals. The TMCC Facilities Operations and Capital Planning Department must approve proposals that include construction expenses.

Indirect (Facilities and Administration or F&A) Costs

Federal regulations treat the following costs as indirect costs. These costs should not appear directly in the project budget:

  • Salaries of administrative and clerical staff (providing normal support activities in the department or unit)
  • Office supplies (including postage, copying, faxing, etc.)
  • Local telephone calls (including line charges)
  • Individual memberships and subscriptions

There are exceptions. Direct charging of administrative staff costs may be appropriate where a major project or activity explicitly budgets for these items. The College can charge expenses identified with the project or activity with a high degree of accuracy to the sponsored account.

When such charges are to be included as direct costs in a grant budget they must be both strongly justified and approved by the sponsor. Auditors can readily detect restricted cost categories and other inappropriate charges. The College must reimburse the federal government for disallowed costs. During the award phase of the project, the College can charge administrative costs approved by the funding agency.

TMCC is responsible for ensuring that all costs (direct and indirect) charged to a sponsored agreement are allowable, allocable, and reasonable under cost principles in the federal regulations.

For federal grants and contracts, F&A is calculated based on the Modified Total Direct Costs (MTDC). MTDC consists of salaries and wages, fringe benefits, operating and expendable equipment (less than $5,000), services, consultants, travel, and subawards up to the first $25,000 of each subaward (regardless of the period covered).

MTDC excludes permanent equipment ($5,000 or more), capital expenditures, scholarships, and the portion of each sub-award in excess of $25,000.

Some sponsors, particularly foundations, may have specific written policies that preclude the use of TMCC's full F&A rates. In those cases, the College will apply the sponsors F&A rate to the Total Direct Cost Base (TDC) unless specifically prohibited by the sponsor. TDC includes ALL direct costs, including tuition, fellowships, equipment, etc.

Cost Sharing or Match

Cost share or match is the portion of the total project costs paid by TMCC or by a third party. Cost share should be included in the project only when the sponsor requires it.

All matching and cost-sharing resources must meet the following general criteria:

  • Costs must be verifiable from the College’s accounting records.
  • Costs may not be included as contributions for any other federally assisted project or program in either the current or any prior period;
  • Costs must be necessary and reasonable for proper and efficient accomplishment of project or program objectives.
  • Costs must be allowable under the applicable cost principles. If a third party contributes the asset, the cost principles still apply; therefore, a matching contribution must be for something for which the organization or institution could have spent federal funds.
  • Costs may not be paid by the federal government under another award except when authorized by federal statutes.
  • Costs must be in the approved project budget.

The amount of the required contribution may vary from less than 5% to greater than 50% of the total project cost, depending on the sponsor. Cost share may include PI effort or other personnel committed to the project at no cost to the sponsor.

At the time the College receives an award, all cost share commitments agreed to by the sponsoring agency are mandatory and, as such, represent binding obligations of TMCC.