IMPORTANT NOTE: This guide is a general reference and is not meant to be a substitute for our University policies & regulations. Be sure to consult the University’s policies and/or contact us.

Your Role and the Development Process

Your Role

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). 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.


Proposal Development Process

The following list shows the basic steps in the proposal process:

  1. Principal Investigator (PI)
    • Develops project idea
    • Identifies funding resources
    • Writes proposal
  2. PI works with College Research Office (CRO)
    • PI notifies CRO at least 8 days before due date
    • CRO reviews RFP, budget, and budget justification
  3. PI and CRO use PINS system to route proposal through approval and signature process
  4. PI or CRO submits proposal to sponsor after getting all required approvals
  5. Research Project gets funded!

IMPORTANT NOTE: SPARCS staff handles all necessary negotiations with sponsors before the award is granted.

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Match Goals of Proposal to Goals of Sponsor

Matching Goals

SPA Match Goals Note

Before reviewing some recommendations for grant searches below, take note that matching the goals of the research project to the goals of the sponsor accounts for 75% of the success rate!

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.

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Search for Grant Opportunities

Where to search

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

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Read the RFP!

Request for Proposal (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.

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

Read the RFP Quick Reference Guide (PDF) that expands on the chart pictured below and provides an area for your own notes.

SPA Read the RFP guide

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

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Workable Project Plans

Proposal Development Project Plan

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 (PDF) 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.

SPARCS Proposal Development References

For more specifics regarding proposal development in general, go to the SPARCS Proposal Process page

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