Proposal Preparation

Steps in the grant-seeking process
How to draft a proposal
Components of a proposal
Checklist for proposal writers
Grant-writing tips
Other Helpful Information

Steps in the grant-seeking process

Preliminary proposal. If you plan to seek a grant, you should first receive preliminary approval from your department chair and then contact the Office of Foundation & Corporate Relations at (814) 332-3864. We will guide you through the initial stages of creating a fundable project. We will discuss your idea in some detail, including the purpose of your project, potential funding sources, a budget, timelines and the degree of commitment required from the College.

In addition, you will need to complete our grant proposal endorsement form. This form is required for all grant proposals, preliminary proposals, letters of inquiry and letters of intent that meet any of the following conditions:

  • grant funds will be paid to and administered by Allegheny
  • application process requires a signature from an “Authorized Organizational Representative” or an officer of the institution
  • proposal commits any time and effort on behalf of any college employees or students
  • proposal includes use of Allegheny equipment or space (other than individual faculty offices)
  • proposal includes funding for equipment
  • proposal includes course or program development or modification
  • proposal includes indirect costs (some grants—including nearly all federal grants—require these overhead costs to be included in the budget)
  • proposal requires an institutional financial match or cost sharing (including student or employee work hours, in-kind services, release time)
  • proposal commits, explicitly or implicitly, Allegheny funds
  • proposal commits Allegheny to a future action (such as a new course or program, a course release, work that requires Physical Plant or Information Technology Services’ assistance, conferences or meetings held on campus, etc.)

Final proposal. When submitting a proposal to an external funding agency or organization, it is important to note that awards are almost always made to the institution rather than to the individual faculty member. Allegheny College acts as the fiscal agent and is responsible for making certain the terms of the award are fulfilled. In addition, the Foundation & Corporate Relations Office works to ensure that all approaches from Allegheny to funding sources are coordinated.  Therefore, all applications for external funding must be approved before submission. This includes applications to the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), any other state or federal source, any local source, and any private foundation or corporate source. You must receive approval to apply for funding for any research activity that will occur on or off campus, or that involves students or faculty.

Proposal Tip: The more assistance you need, the further in advance the Office of Foundation & Corporate Relations needs to know about your project. Also, please note that we need to have complete narrative and budget drafts a minimum of two full weeks before the deadline.

In addition, as noted above, you will need to complete our grant proposal endorsement form if you have not already done so.

The Office of Foundation & Corporate Relations will coordinate the approval process for you. This may include review and approval from the President, the Provost, the Chief Financial Officer and others. If an institutional match is required and if there are additional financial, personnel or other implications for the College, additional College officers may be added to this sign-off group.

Follow-up for funded proposals. If your proposal is funded, our office will help to coordinate arrangements between the project director/principal investigator, the accounting manager and other appropriate administrative officers. This group will review the College’s obligation to the benefactor, discuss reporting requirements, establish guidelines for administering the grant, and determine the accounting procedures applicable to the grant, using the Grant Management Guidelines.

Stewardship and reporting. All stewardship reports to foundation and corporate benefactors must be coordinated through the Office of Foundation & Corporate Relations.

How to draft a proposal

As you begin drafting your proposal, consider the following questions:

  • What do I want to do?
  • Why is this important? What will be its impact?
  • Why me? What are my/my department’s qualifications?

Components of a proposal

Although each funding source has its own proposal format, ranging from a simple letter to a multi-part application with very specific guidelines, most proposals include the following components:

  • Executive Summary/Abstract. This brief summary must capture your reader’s attention, convey the essence of your project and request a specific amount. It may be in the form of a letter of endorsement from the president of the College. The Foundation & Corporate Relations Office can help to secure this letter.
  • Proposal narrative. This includes a description of your project in both non-technical and technical terms, your goals, a literature review or a review of other similar programs, methodology, procedures, resources available, resources needed, timeline and evaluation procedures.
  • Budget and budget narrative/justification. The resources needed section of the proposal narrative should provide the basis for your budget. Ask for what you need, and explain why you need it. Avoid vague or ambiguous budget requests. For more information on budgets, refer to the Frequently Asked Questions section on this website.
Budget Tip: If the foundation you are applying to does not have its own budget template, you can use this budget template as a guide. (Please make a copy of the Google Sheet so you can make edits.) You can also use this budget narrative/justification template as a guide. (Please make a copy of the Google Doc so you can make edits.)
  • Appendices. These supporting documents may include an institutional description, history and financial statement; IRS status; and a list of the board of trustees. Many funding sources also request a two-page curriculum vitae of the proposal’s principal investigator.
  • Cover letter. This may come from the President, the Dean of the College, the Director of Foundation & Corporate Relations or another officer of the College. It often presents information that might not otherwise be conveyed to the reader. Again, the Foundation & Corporate Relations Office can help to secure this letter.
  • Assessment/Evaluation. Many foundations and agencies are placing a greater emphasis on accountability. They want to know how effective the projects they support are in achieving the desired outcomes. In this section of the proposal, you should describe how you are going to assess the impact of your proposed project.

Checklist for proposal writers

      • Have you read the request for proposal (RFP) or proposal guidelines to make sure you are answering the specific questions and addressing the specific guidelines requested by the funding source?
      • Do you know your audience? Research prospective benefactors to make sure that you understand their objectives and interests. Your proposal will not be funded if it does not advance the strategic goals of the funding source.
      • Have you kept it simple? Assume that your audience is interested and educated, but include a non-technical explanation of your project. Avoid jargon and acronyms.
      • Have you written in the active voice? This will help streamline your writing and strengthen its impact.
      • Have you addressed WHY your idea is important? The people making the decision about whether or not to fund your proposal need to know how it will make a difference to you, to your students, to Allegheny and to the broader community.
      • Have you read your proposal out loud to make sure it sounds clear and flows smoothly?
      • Have you asked a colleague to read your proposal and provide constructive criticism?
      • Are your goals reasonable? Avoid grandiose or unmanageable goals. Develop goals that can be met within the time frame of the grant period.
      • Have you included evaluation methods? Show how you plan to measure your success in meeting your goals.
      • Have you completed the Allegheny College grant proposal endorsement form?

Grant-writing tips Community Blog: Grant Writing Basics 
This blog includes topics such as, “How to Start Working on Future Funding Opportunities,” “Understand the Funder before Writing” and “Prepare for Reporting Requirements.” Be sure to scroll down the page to see the complete list of articles.

“10 Tips on Grant Writing From a Seasoned Reviewer” by Jude P. Mikal, which appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education on June 18, 2021. (If you don’t have an account with The Chronicle of Higher Education, you can read the article here.)

10 Tips for Successful Grant Writing” by Lisa Chasan-Taber, which appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education on February 14, 2018. (If you don’t have an account with The Chronicle of Higher Education, you can read the article here.)

“On Grant-Writing: Just What Are Your Project’s ‘Specific Aims’?” by Jude P. Mikal, which appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education on April 12, 2021. (If you don’t have an account with The Chronicle of Higher Education, you can read the article here.)

For more information about Allegheny’s policies, compliance information and other institutional data, go to Policies & Procedures.