Sponsor Specific Guidance

Sponsor guidelines are especially helpful as a tool in proposal preparation, as they can provide information on the key components required in proposal packages, including how to calculate indirect costs and formatting of proposals. Often there is more than one set of guidelines that may apply to a single proposal application.

For example, an NIH application should observe the SF424 Guidelines, as well as the specific funding opportunity announcement. Studying the funding opportunity instructions will provide detailed instruction regarding eligibility, sponsor guidelines, deadline dates and proposal format.

Here are some key components in the guidelines to help with a smoother proposal preparation process:

  • Instructions for Eligibility

    • This indicates the type of organization the sponsor will fund (for example: educational institutions, hospitals, or community organizations).
    • At times, the eligibility to submit can depend on a required level of educational degrees and/or career experience of the Principal Investigator. The instruction might require a specific percentage of time that the PI will be required to spend on their project by the sponsor.
    • The time and effort that a PI is able to spend working on the project can also be considered as a factor for being eligible to apply.
  • Deadline Dates

    • The sponsor deadline for the receipt of the proposal is the most critical detail of the proposal process. The deadline date can be either a “received by” date or a “submitted by” date, and can also include a deadline time. It is important to make sure OCGA knows the date, time, and time-zone (PST versus EST) the deadline pertains to in order to ensure timely submission.
    • The submission method may also vary, whether it is an electronic submission or a hardcopy.
  • Sponsor Funding Opportunity/ Funding Opportunity Announcement Instructions

    • Be sure to read each funding opportunity very carefully for vital and specific instructions pertaining to the application. Pay close attention to details regarding proposal format, required forms and/or certifications, and budget restrictions. Make sure the opportunity is the most current version available.
    • Keep in mind that these funding opportunities may be varied in terms of length and detail, and may include very specific guidelines depending on the sponsor. It may be helpful to visit the sponsor website for the most current guidelines.
    • The funding opportunity may have specific instructions on the proposal format, and the required layout/order the proposal needs to be in. It may include a narrative explanation of what is to be included in each section, such as the Research Plan, Budget, Budget Justification, etc. The requirements for the proposal formatting may be as specific as using a required font size, font style and even page margins.

Elements of a Proposal

When preparing a new proposal for submission, it is important to contact the funding sponsor to inquire about any specific guidelines, instructions or requirements they may have. In addition, the sponsor’s website may have helpful information regarding the application process, and may have any information regarding any sponsor required forms. Through this process, it is imperative to keep OCGA in the loop regarding any impending submission, along with the deadline date, time and format. It is helpful for OCGA to review the guidelines prior to review and submission.

Most agencies specify proposal forms or formats and provide guidance about content, page limitations and numbers of copies of proposals that are to be submitted. In most instances, proposals contain most or all of the following elements:

  • Cover Page - pre-printed or created by department
  • Abstract or Project Summary
  • Table of Contents
  • Project Description
  • Budget and Budget Justification
  • Biographical Sketch - for key personnel
  • Current and Pending Support - for key personnel
  • Resources (Equipment and Facilities)
  • References
  • Appendices
  • Certifications and/or other forms as may be required by agency

Additional information that is commonly required in contract and proposal applications can be found under our Standard Institutional Information page.

Steps for Preparing Your Proposal

Once you have determined eligibility and have studied the funding opportunity, you can take the following steps to prepare your proposal application:

  1. Principal Investigators (PIs) should be working with their appropriate departmental administrator/fund manager to review the proposal guidelines and prepare the required documents.
  2. Department Administrators/Fund Managers should obtain signatures and Institutional Approval for compliance documents in advance of proposal submission. When applicable IRB and ARC applications should be initiated at this time.
  3. To initiate OCGA review, Departmental Administrators/ Fund Managers should submit the minimum proposal requirements.
  4. After review and approval of all documents, OCGA will sign and submit the application or return it to the department for submission.
  5. If funded, OCGA will then process the award.


For pre-proposals, such as a Letter of Intent (sometimes known as a “white paper”), OCGA will require a draft EPASS with the PI’s Signature, the current sponsor guidelines (if any exist), and the document that requires institutional approval.

Page Last Updated: June 22, 2017