Proposal Development

To assist faculty and students in writing proposals, the Office of Sponsored Programs offers workshops, grant application kits and forms, and proposal guides.

OSP Sponsored Workshops for Faculty and Staff:

  • Budgeting Basics
  • Finding Funding  
  • Cayuse Basics
  • Research Administration at Emory

Find a full course schedule and registere to take the course in Emory's Learning Managment System at:

Sponsored Programs Proposal Development Resources:

  • OSP Fact Sheet which provides university specific information needed for proposals including the University’s DUNS and Federal ID numbers. 
  • Application kits such as the American Heart Association, Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health’s PHS 398 forms and instructions are also provided on OSP’s website under Funding in the link for Grant Application Kits.
  • Uniform Guidance Proposal Guide provides guidance in preparing budgets for proposals of awards that are anticipated to be issued under Uniform Guidance.

Additional Resources:

The Emory University library website has additional information and links to resources related to writing grant proposals:, which includes:
  • Developing and Writing Grant Proposals - A guide produced by the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance which walks users through the basic steps to develop, write, review, and submit a grant proposal.
  • Foundation Center Proposal Writing Short Course walks you through the steps of writing a proposal and submitting proposals to a prospective donor/funding agency.
  • Grantseekers' Checklist, produced by Montana State University’s Office of Sponsored Programs, provides an easy-to-use checklist outlining the basic issues to consider in grant preparation from start to finish.
  • Grantwriting Tips details the characteristics of winning grants proposals according to Scholastic, a global children's publishing and education company.
  • GuideStar gathers and publicizes information about nonprofit organizations, searchable on their free database.
  • The National Science Foundation: A Guide for Division of Undergraduate Education Proposal Writing is specifically prepared with NSF grant funding in mind and gives valuable general information on writing proposals.
  • Tips and strategies for preparing an NIH biomedical research application are provided on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website at:

Emory budgets must comply with federal regulations which are codified in OMB Circular A-21, Cost Principles for Educational Institutions (as well as any other sponsor and University policies).  A-21 provides standards to determine if costs can be charged to federal grants and how those costs should be distributed between direct costs and facilities and administration (F&A) costs.  The principles of A-21 are rigorously applied to the administration of all federal grants and generally adhered to in the administration of non-federal awards.

The standards established in A-21 require that all funded expenses must be (1) reasonable, (2) allocable to the project, (3) consistently treated as either Direct or F&A costs, and (4) allowable by law and under the sponsored research agreement.

Reasonable Costs
Expenses that are necessary to the funded project and that are priced at a level which a prudent person would pay under the circumstances of the project.  For example, paying a very large amount for a hotel room where more reasonably priced rooms are available would not be reasonable.  The same high cost, however, for a room in a remote area where cheaper accommodations are not available could likely be reasonable (assuming that the travel directly benefits the project).

Allocable Costs
Costs that can be demonstrated as fully benefiting the project and advancing the work for which they are being charged.  For instance, laptop computer purchases often cannot be directly allocated to a project because computers have such a wide range of use---from personal to administrative---that determining the actual share of cost to the project is impossible.  However, a larger piece of equipment that is used by several projects may be appropriate to allocate amongst the projects.

Consistent Treatment of Costs
The Cost Principles require that the university consistently treat charges as direct or indirect costs.  As an example, the on-campus lab space of a researcher -- even if part of it is completely allocated to a particular project -- cannot be directly charged to that project if the cost of that space has been included (which it has, except in very rare circumstances) in the calculation of the University’s negotiated F&A rate.

Allowable Costs
Meet the three previously discussed standards and are not specifically prohibited by law, by A-21, or by the award agreement.  Section J of A-21 provides some guidance by indicating the allowability of fifty-four types of costs.  The list is not exhaustive; allowability terms may be more specifically addressed in the funding agreement and general terms of the funding agency and are always qualified by obligations of law.  For example, Section J.3 of A-21 states that the costs of alcoholic beverages are unallowable; however for a project studying degrees of alcoholic tolerance using lab animals, the terms of an award might specifically allow that purchase.  Importantly, the Section J guidance is for all costs, both direct and F&A.  So, although J.9 allows communication costs, those costs are usually treated as F&A, which cannot be directly charged to a project.

Direct Costs
Costs that can specifically, accurately and be easily determined to support the activities of a particular project and thus provide a direct benefit to the project.  Salaries of investigators and technicians who devote trackable, scientific effort to sponsored projects may be directly charged to the project, but the time of those central and local administrators providing general assistance and oversight is not tracked in a way that can determine their direct benefit to the project and cannot be directly charged.

Facilities and Administrative Costs
F&A/indirect costs are for functions that benefit such a range of activities that those costs cannot be reasonably and accurately ascribed to any particular project.  These costs are recovered in a sponsored agreement as a percentage of the direct costs awarded the project, in essence providing a general determination of the share of the F&A functions to each research project.  Examples of F&A functions include the maintenance and depreciation of buildings, utilities, security, libraries, and administrative support from departments, schools, and central university offices. 
F&A cost rates are proposed by the university, negotiated with one federal agency and then formalized in a negotiated rate agreement that applies to all federal awards.  The facilities part of the agreement will allow federal reimbursement of all those facilities costs identified with a particular university function (such as organized research).  The administrative portion is capped at 26% regardless of its actual cost.  Facilities and Administrative funds received on sponsored programs are returned to the schools as reimbursement for actual costs which they incurred.

Modified Total Direct Costs (MTDC)
MTDC are the direct costs upon which the F&A rate can be charged, recognizing that some of the awarded expenses of a sponsored project do not utilize the facilities or administrative personnel assigned to the particular university function under which the awarded project acts.  The actual F&A recovered for a project will be calculated as the MTDC of the project multiplied by the F&A rate. The types of costs excluded from the MTDC base include equipment, subs >$25k, rent, renovations, etc.

Cost sharing or Matching
Cost Sharing or Matching is the University’s agreement to commit resources to a particular project without reimbursement from the sponsor for the cost of those resources.  A proposal which specifies the use of personnel effort, resources, or makes a commitment to provide funds dedicated to the project, without requesting sponsor reimbursement commits the university to dedicate that effort or those resources to the project upon receipt of the award.  If the sponsor required the cost-share at time of proposal, the cost share is considered mandatory.  If not required, yet offered, the cost share is considered voluntary committed.  In either case, because the award was at least in part predicated on the university’s offer, the university is required to record and report to the sponsor the cost-shared activities as though they were funded by the sponsor.

Cost-shared funds are subject to the same standards that apply to sponsor-provided funding.  So, for a federal project, funds used to provide wine to participants at a project meeting would not be an allowable cost for federal funding and so would not be allowable as reportable cost-share.  Cost-shared funds also usually cannot be funds received from the same sponsor as the sponsor to which the cost-sharing is being committed.  So funds from a USDA project cannot be offered as cost share for a similar project funded by NIH because both funding sources are the U.S. government.

Institutional Collaborative Splits
Institutional Collaborative Splits document the appropriate sharing of resources across schools and divisions for collaborative projects.  The university policy provides principles to determine the school or division that should be the administrative home of the proposal, the F&A rate that should be calculated and the distribution of its funds, the distribution of direct funds and their accompanying F&A, and the timetable and process for setting up accounts.   The official policy is availabel with the following link: Collaborative Split Policy.

The majority of agencies which accept grant or contract proposals have developed their own application forms or kits for submission of such proposals. Agencies vary on whether they require submission of paper hard copy proposals (and the number of copies needed), whether they will accept fax or emailed proposals, or whether they require electronic submission. Proposal submission, including electronic submission, is discussed in further detail below. Principal Investigators and their support staff are responsible for completing all aspects of a grant proposal, including forms completion and uploading of any necessary documents or files. PIs and their support staff should consult any instructions provided by the sponsor to ensure appropriate completion of proposal forms and adherence to all guidelines and limitations. In instances where an instruction kit is unclear or information is contradictory, PIs and their support staff are encouraged to contact the appropriate Research Analyst in the Office of Sponsored Programs.

Emory University has implemented the use of Cayuse 424 for the completion of most electronic grant proposals to federal agencies. Cayuse 424 is intended to replace the Adobe forms kit. Cayuse 424 is a web-based system in which applicants create their proposals, enter data into forms, and upload all necessary files. In most cases, when a Cayuse 424 proposal is submitted, no paper copy is necessary. Proposal submission occurs electronically as described below. While Cayuse 424 is a single system, it is important to understand that each federal agency which accepts electronic grant submissions may have different forms kits. PIs and support staff should follow all agency instructions for the specific proposal being prepared. Cayuse 424 may be accessed at: If you do not have access to Cayuse 424, please consult the OSP website:

GRANTS.GOV was designed as a unified storefront for submission of grant proposals to the 26 federal grant-making agencies. is not a web-based proposal development system. Rather, is a repository containing all Funding Opportunity Announcements for grant opportunities, as well as the application kits for such submissions. To submit a application, investigators must download an Adobe-based application package. The forms are then completed off-line and the file stored on an investigator’s server or desktop computer until it is completed for submission. Any necessary files (such as the research plan, etc) are uploaded into the Adobe form kit. Submission of such files is addressed in the Proposal Submission section. For the majority of federal grant applications, Emory policy requires the use of Cayuse 424. However, there may be certain applications that are not available for submission via the Cayuse 424 system. For those applications, PIs should follow the steps above and in the application section.

Grant applications, whether to federal or non-federal sponsors, require provision of certain pieces of institutional data. These may include numbers such as Emory’s federal Entity Number or federal Tax ID number, the assurance numbers provided to Emory by the agencies that oversee human or animal research, Emory’s congressional district, or information on Emory’s F&A rates and our negotiated agreements. All such data may be found on the OSP Fact Sheet. The Fact Sheet is updated regularly and may be accessed online at:

Other granting agencies (whether foundation sponsors or other sponsors) may also have their own forms. Investigators should complete these forms as required by the agency. Much of the data may be similar to that required in federal forms; however, investigators and their support staff should closely review all guidelines to ensure appropriate completion of application packages.