Draft a Preliminary Budget

Write the Research Plan

Assemble Proposal Package

Draft a Preliminary Budget


THE BUDGET AND PROPOSAL SHOULD BE MUTUALLY SUPPORTING. Proposal budgets directly reflect the degree of project planning. An inconsistent or weak budget may be an indication of an inadequate project design. A reviewer should never be surprised to find a line item in the budget not referenced in the narrative project plan.

BUDGETS SHOULD BE REASONABLE. Sponsors have years of experience in reviewing budgets. As experts, they know when a budget is insufficient for the activities proposed and when a budget is exaggerated. Do not fail to appreciate their expertise. Anyone asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars should be able to show why that money is needed and where it will be used.

Read the Sponsor's Guidelines

Following sponsor instructions is a must when creating a proposal. Where no forms or instructions are provided, use the LLU Budget Categories as a guide.

Pay special attention to the sponsor's guidelines on the following:

NIH Modular Budgets vs Detailed Budgets

NIH requires only a simplified, "modular" budget for certain research grant applications requesting $250,000 or less in direct costs per year. Detailed categorical information is not required to submit the proposal to NIH, but it may be required by Financial Management in order to calculate F&A costs. If the award is made, you will submit a detailed budget before the project account can be opened.

Detailed budget: Itemize costs by all necessary budget cost categories for each project year as required by LLU and sponsor's guidelines. Financial Management has developed a detailed budget template to use as a guide.

Modular budget: For NIH modular budgets, a total of the direct and F&A costs for every budget period is generally acceptable for an initial submission with the exception of personnel costs. Personnel costs (salaries and fringe benefits) must be detailed and the committed effort must be considered. Financial Management has developed a modular budget template to use as a guide.

If an award is made, you will submit a detailed budget before Financial Management can set up your award account.

Follow LLU Guidelines

Use the following guidelines to provide the best possible estimate of costs for each phase or year of the proposed project:

FOLLOW ALL REGULATIONS AND POLICIES. The proposal must conform to government regulations and all LLUH policies and procedures for sponsored projects.

CREATE THE BUDGET BY THINKING ABOUT ALL THE TASKS NEEDED TO COMPLETE EACH ACTIVITY. The easiest way to begin drafting a budget is by identifying the different tasks that must be performed to accomplish a project aim and breaking those tasks down into a series of logical steps. For example, if a project requires advertising by mailing fliers, that would mean someone would have to create the flier (staff time), print the fliers (per piece price), and distribute (labels and postage).

USE CURRENT RATES ADJUSTED FOR INFLATION. Current rates for salaries, services and supplies, equipment, travel, tuition, and health insurance should be used to develop the budget. Given that project periods normally begin six to twelve months after proposal submission, it is important to prepare a budget that will cover projected expenses such as salary increases or fringe benefit rate increases by using current rates plus reasonable percentage increases. The Budget Planning Rate Guide for Sponsored Projects contains helpful tools to do this.

BASIC BUDGET CATEGORIES. At a minimum , a budget should include personnel (salaries & wages and fringe benefits broken down), travel, equipment, materials or supplies, consultants/contractual agreements, and F&A costs. Research Affairs - Financial Management recommends that the PI simultaneously begin working on the budget justification as they calculate the amounts for each budget category.

USE THE RIGHT COST CATEGORIES. Use LLU's budget categories unless a sponsor's budget form or policies require more detailed organization. Try to assign the costs using general descriptions that can be tracked and reported through LLU's financial system. For example, if the proposed supply costs are test tubes and beakers, these costs should be combined in one general description as lab glassware. LLU's accounting system can track lab glassware under account code 72107, "research project supplies," but does not have an account code specifically for test tubes.

Cost Sharing

Cost sharing is the portion of sponsored project costs not borne by the sponsor, i.e. costs paid for by the institution. Occasionally a sponsor requires cost sharing as a condition of the award (mandatory cost sharing). Cost sharing also occurs when the institution voluntarily commits funds beyond those awarded by a sponsor to support a particular grant or contract (voluntary cost sharing).

Unless cost sharing is required by the sponsor, avoid making cost sharing commitments in a proposal. If the PI and/or department head feel that cost sharing must be included, then the PI must submit a Cost Authorization form which will require written approval from the PI's chair, director, and/or dean. Cost sharing must follow LLUH policy & procedure: Cost Sharing, Matching, & In-Kind Contributions on Sponsored Projects.

Assigning Percent Effort for Project Personnel

The most common form of cost sharing is committing salaries and fringe benefits without requesting compensation from the sponsor. For example: if a proposal states that a researcher will contribute 10% of her time to a project during the first budget period, but her salary will not be charged to the award, then the PI's department has committed to pay the cost of the dollar amount (i.e. cost share) equal to 10% of the researcher's salary, plus associated fringe benefits.

For most awards, the percent effort reported for each person should be the same as the fraction of salary requested. The proposed level of effort should be reasonable.

Calculate the Total Project Costs

Direct vs. Indirect (F&A) Costs

To develop a proposal budget, the PI calculates the Direct Costs: the costs that will directly benefit the project. The Facilities & Administrative Cost Rate (also known as the F&A or Indirect Cost Rate) is then applied to help reimburse the institution for costs of items not specifically associated with the proposed project, but that instead support LLU research in general.


Frequently Asked Questions for Budget Development

Charging Facilities & Administrative (F&A) Costs as Direct Costs (under Plan the Proposal)

Waiving Facilities & Administrative (F&A) Costs (under Plan the Proposal)

F&A Primer

Explanation of LLU Budget Categories

Provide a Justification for Project Costs

The budget justification should explain the rationale and calculations used to estimate the total cost for major budget categories as well as any special or unusual circumstances.

See example budget justification document here.

DETAIL DOES MATTER. The details are what justify a request for money. For example, a budget requesting a flat $1,000 for "travel" will not be as strong as a travel request that identifies specific destinations and breaks down the total request into conference fees, transportation, and lodging. Transportation includes airfare and ground transportation; lodging includes hotel and meals. The sponsor's guidance or instructions on what the budget justification should specifically entail should be discussed with the PI's Financial Analyst.

For negotiation and audit purposes, the PI and/or department may want to maintain supporting documentation related to project cost estimates on a proposal-by-proposal basis. This documentation should clearly describe or demonstrate the processes, methods, and data used to estimate project costs.

Examples of documentation include:

  • copies of current entity's salaries and wage scales used for personnel costs
  • projected range adjustments (cost-of-living increases) and merit increases for personnel
  • projected costs and the periods to which they apply
  • source of the benefit rate used (composite rate or actual rate)
  • vendor quotes
  • catalog prices
  • historical records indicating the supply/material costs incurred for like projects


As described under Plan the Proposal, a subaward is an award issued under the prime award (the formal agreement with an external sponsor to obtain research funding) to procure specific services or program-related tasks from a third party, usually because the resources or skills are not readily available at the primary institution. The third party is known as the subrecipient (or "sub").

Proposals arriving at Financial Management that have subawards in the budget must have a Subrecipient Commitment form that illustrates the subrecipient's intent to support the award, signed by the sub's authorized organizational official. Indicate in the justification the reasons why a portion of the technical or programmatic effort must be contracted and provide an explanation of the method used to select the subaward (i.e. sole source, competitive bid, etc) as well as the reasons why the subrecipient was selected. For a sole source selection, describe why the selection has to be a sole source.

If an award is made, the institution will enter into a written agreement with each subrecipient. LLU will be responsible for monitoring subrecipients for compliance with all federal regulations and grant conditions. The institution may recover indirect costs on only the first $25,000 of the subrecipient's total budget expenditures (direct and indirect costs) to cover administrative expenses.


Frequently Asked Questions regarding Subawards

Prime vs. Subawards (under Plan the Proposal)

Subaward process when LLU is the grantor

Complete the Budget Checklist

Financial Analysts follow a checklist when reviewing proposal budgets. Reviewing this checklist before submitting a budget may be helpful in preventing last minute problems:

Personnel costs: Verify institutional base salaries, fringe benefit rates, time and effort, affiliated institution, position titles

Consultant costs: Verify that the consultant is not listed on the Excluded Parties list, note if vendor is internal or external

Equipment: Verify that major equipment is >$2,500 and whether it is scientific or general purpose

Supplies: Verify classification (research lab or office for major projects)

Travel: Verify classification (domestic or foreign)

Patient Care Costs: Verify that costs are classified correctly

Other expenses: note the composition of other expenses

Consortium Contractual Costs: Verify that the subrecipient is not on the Excluded Parties List. Review scope of work, budget, and justification, Subrecipient Commitment form signed by the authorized official, and F&A rate agreement (if applicable)

Inflation: Verify that the rate is allocated correctly

F&A: Verify DHHS agreement date, rate, base, and calculations

Note: In addition to the checklist above, keep in mind that final budget approval will require all applicable forms and documentation listed in the Proposal Budget Review Guide.

Submit the Preliminary Budget to Research Affairs - Financial Management

Submit the preliminary budget to your assigned Financial Analyst no later than 2 months before the sponsor's submission deadline. This will allow you and your analyst sufficient time to resolve any remaining budget issues and make necessary changes before the final budget is submitted for review and final approval. Please note that final budget approval will require all applicable forms and documentation listed in the Proposal Budget Review Guide.

Example Budgets and Templates including:

LLU Budget Categories

Frequently Asked Questions for Preparing Proposal Budgets (on FAQs for Researchers page)

Consider Key Budget Issues (under Plan the Proposal)

Proposal Budget Review Guide

Write a Research Plan

Before Writing Begins

Write the Research Plan

  • Follow the sponsor's instructions for research plan content and format, including using sponsor-specific forms

For electronic submission: Create the research plan in any preferred word processor. Use LLeRA or another electronic process, as specified by Research Administration, to complete any sponsor-specific forms and to upload the research plan for electronic submission of the proposal package. Note: Many sponsors require attachments to be in a PDF format, therefore it is advisable to have Adobe Professional on your computer.

  • Write with the sponsor's review criteria in mind
  • Use our Checklist for Writing a Proposal (adapted from the University of Washington Researcher's Guide. Used with permission.)

Evaluate the Research Plan

  • Problems and Concerns Most Commonly Cited by Reviewers (Compiled by NIH's National Institute for Neurological Disease and Stroke)
  • Request peer review of research plan from extramurally funded colleagues; address concerns and incorporate suggestions for improvement of both the science and its presentation

Grant-Writing Resources

LLU Training & Consultation

Online Resources

For NIH Proposals

For NSF Proposals

For other Federal Agencies

For Health Research Associations and Societies

For Philanthropic Foundations

Assemble Proposal Package

Minimum Proposal Requirements

Sponsors often specify the necessary components of the proposal package. If none are specified, LLU will require the following components in order to process the proposal:

Application Information

Proposal applications are provided by some sponsors and can often be downloaded from the web. It is critical to follow all application instructions precisely, as a proposal can be rejected simply because it was not completed properly.

For electronic submissions, the PI may be able to complete and submit sponsor forms via LLeRA ( Request LLeRA password). Contact the Electronic Research Specialist early in the pre-award grants cycle to determine the submission route. If the electronic submission is not available via LLeRA, contact Research Administration for assistance in completing the sponsor forms and submitting the proposal.

Institutional Rates & Cover Sheet Information

Current institutional F&A rates and fringe benefit rates can be found on the LLU Budget Planning Rate Guide.

Cover sheet information for SF424 applications can be found here.

Representations & Certifications ("Reps & Certs")

Some sponsors require the institution to adhere to certain public policy regulations in order to promote high ethical, safety, and health standards in the conduct of research. Such regulations may include:

  • Drug-free workplace
  • Lobbying
  • Certification Regarding Debarment, Suspension, and Other Responsibility Matters - Primary Covered Transactions
  • Certifications Regarding Lobbying for Contracts, Grants, Loans, and Cooperative Agreements

Contact Research Administration to prepare these forms. They will require the signature of the appropriate signatory authority (which NIH refers to as the Authorized Organization Representative or AOR), who signs on behalf of the institution, and possibly the PI's signature.

Biographical Sketches

Guidance for NIH Grants

Use the sample format on the Biographical Sketch Format Page to prepare this section for all (modular and other) grant applications. Include biographical sketches of all Senior/Key Personnel and Other Significant Contributors. The Biographical Sketch may not exceed four pages per person. This 4-page limit includes the table at the top of the first page. See the sample of a completed Biographical Sketch.

If the individual is registered in the eRA Commons, include the Commons User Name. This data item is required for the PD/PI but is currently optional for all other Senior/Key Persons. In other federal forms this information is referred to as "Credential, e.g., agency login." For information on the eRA Commons, see https://commons.era.nih.gov/commons/index.jsp

Complete the educational block at the top of the format page beginning with baccalaureate or other initial professional education, such as nursing, and include postdoctoral training, separately referencing residency training when applicable. For each entry provide the name and location of the institution; the degree received (if applicable); the month and year the degree was received, and the field of study. For residency entries, the field of study section should reflect the area of residency.

Following the educational block, complete sections A, B, C, and D as described below.

A. Personal Statement. Briefly describe why your experience and qualifications make you particularly well-suited for your role (e.g., PD/PI, mentor) in the project that is the subject of the application.

B. Positions and Honors. List in chronological order previous positions, concluding with your present position. List any honors. Include present membership on any Federal Government public advisory committee.

C. Peer-reviewed publications or manuscripts in press (in chronological order). NIH encourages applicants to limit the list of selected peer-reviewed publications or manuscripts in press to no more than 15. Do not include manuscripts submitted or in preparation. The individual may choose to include selected publications based on recency, importance to the field, and/or relevance to the proposed research. When citing articles that fall under the Public Access Policy, were authored or co-authored by the applicant and arose from NIH support, provide the NIH Manuscript Submission reference number (e.g., NIHMS97531) or the PubMed Central (PMC) reference number (e.g., PMCID234567) for each article. If the PMCID is not yet available because the Journal submits articles directly to PMC on behalf of their authors, indicate "PMC Journal — In Process." A list of these journals is posted at: http://publicaccess.nih.gov/submit_process_journals.htm. Citations that are not covered by the Public Access Policy, but are publicly available in a free, online format may include URLs or PubMed ID (PMID) numbers along with the full reference (note that copies of publicly available publications are not acceptable as appendix material).

D. Research Support. List both selected ongoing and completed (during the last three years) research projects (Federal or non-Federal support). Begin with the projects that are most relevant to the research proposed in this application. Briefly indicate the overall goals of the projects and responsibilities of the Senior/Key Person identified on the Biographical Sketch. Do not include number of person months or direct costs.

Don't confuse "Research Support" with "Other Support." Though they sound similar, these parts of the application are very different. As part of the biosketch section of the application, "Research Support" highlights your accomplishments, and those of your colleagues, as scientists. This information will be used by the reviewers in the assessment of each individual's qualifications for a specific role in the proposed project, as well as to evaluate the overall qualifications of the research team. In contrast, "Other Support" information is required for all applications that are selected to receive grant awards. NIH staff will request complete and up-to-date "other support" information from you after peer review. This information will be used to check that the proposed research has not already been Federally-funded.

See important changes to biosketches for NIH grant applications (4/2015)

Facilities and Resources (Scientific Environment)

Guidance for NIH and other Public Health Service Grants

Describe how the scientific environment in which the research will be done contributes to the probability of success (e.g., institutional support, physical resources, and intellectual rapport). Emphasize the ways in which the proposed studies will benefit from unique features of the scientific environment or subject populations, or will employ useful collaborative arrangements.

For Early Stage Investigators, describe institutional investment in the success of the investigator, e.g., resources for classes, travel, training; collegial support such as career enrichment programs, assistance and guidance in the supervision of trainees involved with the ESI's project, and availability of organized peer groups; logistical support such as administrative management and oversight and best practices training; and financial support such as protected time for research with salary support. To be credible, new investigators should request the department chair, Dean or designee to complete this section. If that fails, consult an experienced investigator or an Associate Vice President for Research.

Helpful Links and Resources

Finalize the Budget

Procedures for submitting the FINAL budget to Research Affairs - Financial Management is described on the Get Approvals page.

Data Safety and Monitoring Plans (Research involving Human Subjects Only)


Data Safety and Monitoring Plans (DSMPs) are meant to assure that each clinical investigator has a system for appropriate oversight and monitoring of the conduct of clinical investigation. This oversight ensures the safety of the participants and the validity and integrity of the data.

Requirements for a DSMP are commensurate with the risks involved with the study. The DSMP can be as simple as the investigator annually submitting his/her safety and adverse event (AE) information to the LLU Institutional Review Board (IRB), or as complex as having a Data Safety and Monitoring Board.

NIH requires a Data Safety and Monitoring Plan to be submitted with all proposals using human subjects. Funding is being withheld from investigators who have not submitted a DSMP. In most cases, a proposal submitted without a DSMP will not even be considered. A copy of the DSMP must also be submitted to Research Affairs for record-keeping. Contact Research Administration for more details.

DSMP Information from NIH Institutes