SPA Proposal Development


Your Role in Proposal Development

Depending on your role at the university, your level of direct involvement in proposal development may vary from minimal involvement to active involvement. Even if you are not actively involved in proposal development, all of us in the research community have important roles in supporting all phases of research development and administration. It’s important to understand the process regardless of your role, so please let us know if you have any questions after reviewing the sections that follow.


Solicitation by Many Other Names

To publicize program goals and other useful information, sponsors provide a document which gives PI’s and Research Administrators everything they need to know to write a proposal. This document (or solicitation) goes by many names.

You will hear people refer to the RFP (Request for Proposal), CFA, CFQ, CFP, RFA, and others. (See illustration on the right). Whatever the sponsor calls it, the solicitation provides you and the PI with all of the information needed to write a winning proposal.

In this section of the Guide, we have chosen to use the “RFP” term, but remember that the references to the RFP here also apply to other types of solicitations in your PI’s area of research.

RFP or solicitation and other names


Proposal Development Process

The following chart illustrates the basic steps in the proposal process:

flow chart



match goals of project to sponsorMatching Goals of Project to Goals of Sponsor

Before reviewing some recommendations for grant searches below, take note of this important post-it note statistic to guide your searches.

Once the PI has developed an idea for a project, the next step is to identify an appropriate funding source. A funding source is an agency or sponsor that provides financial support for projects.

An appropriate funding source is one where the goals of the sponsor match the goals of the PI’s project.

It is important to find out what the sponsor wants to fund, why they want to fund it and then be realistic about whether the proposed research project fits the goals of their program.



Searching for Grant Opportunities

There are a lot of avenues for finding out about funding opportunities including:

  • Talking with faculty colleagues and networking at conferences;
  • The University Research website;
  • Your college research office; and
  • Online information sites such as Pivot search engine and federal government websites – NSF, Department of Education, Department of Energy, etc.

Be sure to Join RSC listserve if you have not done so to receive important updates from our NCSU Research Support Council (RSC) regarding research related procedures, requirements, and deadlines.


SPARCS Seek Funding Web Page and NSCU Research Gateway

Click the web pages below to explore the SPARCS and Research online references related to funding searches. (Each page will open in a new tab or window.)

SPARCS and Research Site Links

SPARCS Proposals Page Research Gateway



Read the RFP!

Most experienced PI’s know that the Solicitation, sometimes known as a Request for Proposal (RFP), is the road map to success. And for Research Administrators, the need to thoroughly read the RFP is just as great. Everyone involved in helping the university get more projects funded should be committed to thoroughly reading the RFP.

The chart below lists the major components of most RFP’s.

What's in an RFP Chart

Experienced researchers know that the RFP can give us important information to help us prepare the best proposals possible. Here are a few of the components and why they are important:

  • Synopsis – Provides a synopsis to help us decide if the program is appropriate
  • Background – Details background information on why the funding is available that helps us plan how to frame our proposal request
  • Details – Provides specifics related to what can be included in the budget, topics that should be addressed in the proposal, and other details that can help us convey all of the information they need with no “holes” or unanswered questions from their perspective


Click the image below to open and save a PDF copy of a Read the RFP Quick Reference Guide that expands on the chart above and provides an area for your own notes.

Read the RFP Quick Reference Guide

Please contact us if you have some additions or suggestions to improve this Quick Reference guide.



Workable Project Plans

Managing all of the deadlines and details for grant proposal submissions can be a big challenge. If you have a good method or software package that you use in your college, please share the information or sample tool with us for possible posting here.

If you are a Research Administrator without a project management plan, you might find this Proposal Development Project Plan Quick Reference Guide helpful as a starting point for developing one.



A College Sample Pre-Award Checklist

Feel free to review and save/alter this checklist from the Department of Mathmatics. The excerpt below links to a Word version so that you can make changes for your use.

College Pre-Award Checklist


SPARCS Proposal Development References

For more specifics regarding proposal development in general, go to the SPARCS Proposal Process page by clicking the web page illustration below.

SPARCS Proposal Development Page



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 Last Update: August 8, 2013