Writing a winning grant proposal involves coordinating several activities, including planning, searching for data and resources, writing and packaging a complete proposal, submitting the proposal to a funding agency, and follow-up.

Major Components


The narrative is the central component of the proposal. The narrative is the section for making the case as to why the proposal should be supported. A narrative can be broken down into general sections (descriptions below), but each sponsor has their own needs so be sure to adhere to the guidelines. 

A narrative - generally - answers these questions:

  • Who are we, and how do we qualify to meet this need?
  • What do we want?
  • How does this funding request relate to the funder's purpose, objectives, and priorities?
  • What concern will be addressed?
  • Why it is important?
  • Who will benefit and how?
  • What specific objectives can be accomplished and how?
  • How will results be measured?
  • What are plans for continuation beyond project funding?

The introduction establishes credibility by describing who is applying for funds, links with sponsor priorities, and leads logically to the problem statement.

The introduction is brief, engaging, and free of jargon.

This section addresses why the sponsor should fund your project.

This section identifies the concern, gap, need, or problem, that would be shared by the sponsor agency. It communicates “fire in the belly,” and everything stated must be supported by evidence.

This would be a good time to display a unique take on your project. Once again, the needs/problem statement is brief, yet interesting reading, and free of jargon.

Goals and objectives state what you plan on doing in your research. It lists outcomes, end products, deliverables, but not methods.

This section must be clear, simple, specific, and measurable. Your goals and objectives relate to the problems identified in your problem statement.

The significance section addresses the impact or result of having accomplished the objectives.

It relates to the why of the problem statement and answers: What changes, is better, is implemented, is advanced by the project?”

The methods describe how you are going to carry out the project.

Typically the lengthiest section, the methodology describes tasks related to objectives.

This is the section that contains graphical material, time frames, the total scope of activities conducted.

The evaluation presents a plan for measuring the degree to which objectives will be accomplished and the methods followed, that is, how well your project did what it set out to do.

This section explains test instruments and data analyses, along with the criteria of success.

Dissemination identifies the means of informing others of your project outcomes.

How broadly do you plan on distributing your results? This part describes specific avenues for publication or presentation.

This section presents a plan for maintenance of the program beyond grant funding. What are the availability of resources for continuation of the project?

The grant budget is your best estimate of what it will take to carry out your project.

Ranging from thousands to millions of dollars, a well-prepared budget is a clear and detailed presentation of your project and connects requested items back to your goals and objectives. As such, the budget can lend just as much credibility to your proposal as the narrative.

Common line items include faculty academic year and summer time, student wages, fringe benefits, travel, supplies, vendor agreements, equipment, and indirect costs.

After you've identified a proposal opportunity and its budget limitations, you're ready to begin working on your budget.

For detailed information about how to create your budget, contact your Proposal Manager.


For general information about travel, please reference the BSU travel policy

If you are traveling internationally for your project, note that your proposal will need additional review and requires SPA notice at least 4 weeks prior to the deadline.

Check on the travel status of the country you intend on visiting via theDepartment of State website

Indirect Costs

Indirect costs, commonly known as facilities and administrative costs (F&A), are general support expenses that cannot be specifically assigned to a single project.

Ball State University negotiates this rate every few years through detailed space and facility analyses with a representative from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Indirect cost recovery provides reimbursement to the University for, among other things, utilities, equipment use, and administrative services.

Any recovered indirect costs on a funded project are returned to the PI, the PI’s department, and Ball State’s general fund.

Ball State University collects indirect costs as allowable by the federal government under the OMB’s Uniform Guidance 2 CFR Part 200.

Per the most recently negotiated rate, Ball State is entitled to receive 49.0% of Modified Total Direct Costs (MTDC) for on-campus programs, or 27.0% MTDC for off-campus programs.

MTDC is calculated as the Total Direct Costs minus equipment, tuition, and sub-award amounts over $25K. All proposals will include the full allowable rate of indirect costs, regardless of sponsor type (Federal, Non-Federal, Industry, Foundation, etc.). That is, proposal budgets will include sponsor's published indirect cost rate.

Distribution of any recovered indirect costs will occur after the close of each fiscal year (generally late Fall Semester) with portions going to the Principal Investigator’s (PI) Research Incentive Account (5%), the Department/Unit (10%), the College (5%), and the remaining to the University’s General Fund.

If PI(s) are unable to adhere to the Proposal Submission Policy by providing final proposal application materials to Sponsored Projects Administration at least three business days in advance of the sponsor deadline, the PI(s) and PI’(s) department will forfeit indirect cost recovery distributions during the first two years of the project.

The standard distribution policy will resume if the project continues beyond this time period.

View our rate agreement (PDF).

More Information

If you have questions about indirect costs or can’t find what you’re looking for, see our Indirect Cost Distribution Policy, or contact Jackie Davis or Maria Bumbalough.

The Biosketch – another form of a resume or CV - in a grant proposal gives the investigators the opportunity to highlight their expertise and experience related to the proposal work. The format and length will be outlined (usually) in the guidelines. Personnel can use this space to outline education, professional positions & appointments, relevant publications, and/or   synergistic activities. There is limited space to include all the relevant items so be sure to compose this component thoughtfully.


Science Experts Network Curriculum Vitae (SciENcv) is an electronic system that helps researchers assemble the professional information needed for participation in federally funded research. SciENcv gathers and compiles information on expertise, employment, education and professional accomplishments. Researchers can use SciENcv to create and maintain biosketches that are submitted with grant applications and annual reports. More federal agencies are moving to require SciENcv to generate biosketches.

Create your profile: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sciencv/

Instructions on how to generate a biosketch with SciENcv (PDF)

Learn how to: create, share, and maintain NIH Biosketch profiles

Learn more: Frequently asked questions (PDF)

What SciENcv does:

  • Eliminates the need to repeatedly enter biosketch information
  • Reduces the administrative burden associated with federal grant submission and reporting requirements
  • Provides access to a researcher-claimed data repository with information on expertise, employment, education, and professional accomplishments
  • Allows researchers to describe their scientific contributions in their own language

Principles of SciENcv:

  • Any researcher may register
  • Leverages data from existing systems
  • Data are owned by the researcherResearcher controls what data are public
  • Researcher edits and maintains information
  • Researcher provides own data to describe research outcomes
  • Researcher has ultimate control over data in biosketch

“Current and pending support" is a term generally used by sponsors to request the submission of information about the key personnel's research funding that is currently active, pending review, or recently awarded. This information is requested typically at the time of proposal submission and the format varies by sponsor. The information assists sponsors (and applicants) in identifying potential activity, commitment, and budgetary overlap on projects for Senior Project Personnel.

 Consult with your Proposal Manager regarding necessity to include this information in your proposal application.

Scholarly work is increasingly required to engage in a range of data management activities to comply with institutional policies, or as a precondition for publication or grant funding. Data management plans (DMP) are now a standard part of grant proposals for most funding agencies. A good DMP will ensure the availability and accessibility of your research results after your project is complete and you have published the results, increasing the value of your research and possible reuse by other researchers. 

It's crucial to plan early on how you will comply with your funder's data management expectations and public access requirements for data and publications. Most funders allow you to include money in your budget proposal to cover expenses related to data management. 

Regardless of type of sponsor, there are five major questions any DMP should answer (adapted from the NSF General Guidelines for data management plans):

  • What type of data will be produced?
  • How will it be organized and what standards will be used for documentation and metadata?
  • What steps will be taken to protect privacy, security, confidentiality, intellectual property or other rights?
  • If you allow others to reuse your data, how, where and when will the data be accessed and shared?
  • Where will the data be archived and preserved? 


The DMPTool is a free service that helps researchers and institutions create high-quality data management plans that meet funder requirements.  Ball State University is a participating partner of this open-source, nationwide collaboration.

 Create your plan: https://dmptool.org/ 

Read more about Data Management & Sharing via University Libraries: https://bsu.libguides.com/data

Broader Impacts (BI) are a required part of any National Science Foundation (NSF) proposal. However, the considerations of the broader impacts of your scholarship and research are foundational to any grant proposal!

Definition: Broader Impacts refers to the potential for a research project to benefit society or advance desired societal outcomes.

While BI are a priority area for NSF, it is not the only funding agency with a BI requirement. Many funders are asking their reviewers to assess the quality of a project's outreach and educational activities, public engagement, or cross-institutional collaborations.

Get started with this brainstorming tool from Rutgers and the NSF: https://aris.marine.rutgers.edu/wizard/index.php

Broader Impacts Review Document for National Science Foundation Proposals (PDF)

This document is designed to assist National Science Foundation (NSF) program managers, proposal reviewers, and review panels, in evaluating the broader impacts (BI) component of NSF proposals and to assist proposers with developing their BI plans. This document also creates an opportunity for proposers to think critically about how their BI activities will incorporate into their research portfolio over time and begin to develop their "impact identity." – Source: researchsociety.org

Frequently Asked Questions

Research sometimes requires participation and collection of information from subjects. Investigators frequently find it necessary to offer incentives in order to obtain enough participation. Refer to the
University Controller’s policy on Research Incentives (PDF)for more information.
The sooner, the better! Work with your Proposal Manager (PM) early and often. Refer to the Proposal Submission Policy for guidance. At least three weeks/15 business days are required for priority processing. 

Your Proposal Manager will assist in the preparation and review of the budget. You may set up an appointment or email your budget request to your PM for review and development.

Facilities and administrative (F & A) costs, often referred to as indirect costs, are overhead expenses for the University. Examples include utilities, custodial service, use of computers, etc. Ball State's current federally negotiated rates are: 49% for on campus projects and 27% for off-campus projects.

The sponsor guidelines normally address this issue. Unless sponsor guidelines state otherwise, facilities and administrative costs should be requested at the full federally negotiated rate.

No, fringe benefits are considered separate. Sponsored Projects budgets fringe benefits at personnel actual rates. Your Proposal Manager will assist in identifying what those current rates are, as well as current salary and daily rates, and what any escalation would be needed for multi-year proposals.

A rate of 32% is used for TBD faculty and staff. Benefits for summer and supplemental salaries are calculated at 21%.

Cost sharing refers to a portion of a project or program not supported by the sponsor. It is the University's share in the cost of conducting the project/program. Cost sharing occurs either when a sponsor requires, or the University commits, funds beyond those awarded by the sponsoring agency to support a particular grant or contract. Your Proposal Manager will be able to assist you with constructing a budget that meets both sponsor guidelines and University policy.

MGR refers to Matching Grant Reserve funds. Departments may provide matching funds or additional dollars out of their fiscal year budgets. However, sometimes there is still a need for an additional source of funds. Requests may be made to SPA for matching grant reserve monies as necessary. Please discuss this need with your PM when seeking budget development assistance.

Sponsors will indicate what additional documentation they require with applications in their guidelines and/or on their websites. These can include a broad range of items, such as letters of support, charts and diagrams, or references cited. Visit our Supporting Documentation tab for a listing and examples.

Discuss with your Proposal Manager in advance of the deadline how you would like to handle submission. In some cases, the Investigator may submit an emailed proposal if he or she wishes, pending completed approvals. If a paper submission is required, and all paperwork is received in time for handling, your PM can assist with mailing out your application.

Sponsors will outline exactly how they want to see your narrative/project description in the guidelines. Read these carefully for this type of information and evaluation criteria.

If you haven't heard back from a sponsor, you can contact SPA or your PM to find out the status of a proposal.

Congrats! Please email your PM this notification and they will instruct you on your next steps.

Please email your Proposal Manager this notification so we can update our records. Additionally, work with your PM to obtain any reviewer’s comments from the sponsor and revise your proposal. Review theLearning from Reviewers Comments (PDF) document for some helpful information.

This documentation can be found in Cayuse under My Proposals>Submitted Proposals. The Proposal Routing Status screen includes a small PDF icon that allows you to download the Clearance (IPF) summary document for a proposal. If you have trouble locating this, please contact your PM for assistance.

The primary source of guidance on matters of costs on sponsored project awards is 2 CFR Part 200, Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards, which became effective on December 26, 2014. The federal Office of Management & Budgets (OMB) oversees this document.

The cost principles for what costs are allowable on a sponsored project can be found in Subpart E, Cost Principles, of the Uniform Guidance. The basic cost principles tell us that costs must be:

A. Reasonable (202.404)
A cost is reasonable if, by its nature and amount, does not exceed that which would be incurred by a prudent person under the circumstances prevailing at the time the decision was made to incur the cost.

B. Allocable (200.405)
A cost is allocable to a sponsored project if it is:

  1. It is incurred solely to advance the work under the sponsored agreement; or 
  2. It benefits both the sponsored project and other work of the institution in proportions that can be approximated through use of reasonable methods. 

C. Allowable (200.403)

A cost is allowable on a sponsored project if it is:

  1. Consistently treated throughout the University;
  2. Compliant with federal, state, local laws, and any limitations or exclusions set forth in the particular award’s terms and conditions;
  3. Documented;
  4. Not used as cost-share on other projects; and
  5. Necessary for the performance of the award.

reasonably prudent person is an individual who uses good judgment or common sense in handling practical matters. Would a prudent person purchase the item or service at a particular cost? Sponsors reserve the right to decide whether a prudent person would have paid a certain amount for a good or service. 

Sponsored project budgets comprise a variety of costs that can be categorized into two main types: direct costs, and indirect costs. 

A. Direct Costs
Direct costs are costs that can be identified specifically to a sponsored project or that can be directly assigned to a sponsored project’s activities relatively easily with a high degree of accuracy. Examples of direct costs include salary, travel, equipment, supplies, etc.

B. Indirect Costs (Also: Facilities & Administration (F&A), or Overhead)
F&A costs are those costs that are incurred for common or joint objectives and, therefore, cannot be identified readily and specifically with a sponsored project. Examples include costs for building and equipment depreciation and use; physical plant operation and maintenance; general administration and general expenses; departmental administration; sponsored projects administration; library expenses; and student administration and services.

Obtaining University Approvals entails SPA routing a proposal via CayuseSP to the department, Finance Office, College Dean, and any other appropriate reviewers prior to submitting to an external sponsor. Once your budget is fully developed and a proposal is close to submission-ready, a Cayuse record (IPF) will be prepared for you by your Proposal Manager. You as PI will be instructed to review the record, complete some assurances, route and certify as accurate. Those approving will receive email notification that a record is ready for their review.

Sponsors will indicate what additional documentation they require with applications in their guidelines and/or on their websites. These can include a broad range of items, such as letters of support, charts and diagrams, or references cited. A proposal should only include those items that a sponsor requests.

A biosketch is another term for a resume or CV. Resources like SciENcv can help you keep track of relevant information and format for different agencies. Talk to your Proposal Manager for help getting started! 

Sometimes sponsors require a pre-proposal prior to requesting a full proposal. This process helps the sponsor gauge interest in an opportunity and/or allows them to request full proposals for only those projects that they will seriously consider for funding. If you are interested in an opportunity that requires pre-proposal correspondence, please contact your Proposal Manager.

SPA can offer examples of successful applications to both federal and non-federal sponsors. Your Proposal Manager will be able to assist with these resources.

Typically, sponsors will post previously funded grantee information on their websites. If you have trouble finding this information, contact SPA for assistance.

Participant support costs are program specific expenses such as stipends, subsistence allowances, travel allowances, and registration fees paid to or on behalf of participants in connection with meetings, conferences, symposia or training projects. Research incentives for surveys and studies are generally not considered participant support costs.