Office of Sponsored Programs and Research

Red Square Clark University Worcester MA

Pursuing External Funding: Frequently Asked Questions

What offices on campus are responsible for external funding requests?

What is the difference between Corporate & Foundation Relations, housed within University Advancement, and the Office of Sponsored Programs and Research?

Exactly what is a sponsored program?

If I am considering preparing a request for external funding for submission through the University, who should I contact and when?

Do I need to check with anyone before I send my proposal to OSPR or CFR for review?

Do letters of inquiry or pre-proposals require internal review and approval?

How long does the internal review and approval process take?

Can campus units (centers, schools or departments) submit grant proposals on which they are the applicant organization?

Can individual faculty or staff submit grant proposals independent of the University?

Do I need to include indirect costs on every proposal I submit through the University?

How do I decide whether to use the on-campus or off-campus indirect cost rate?

Can I receive salary from an external funding source?

How do I calculate the funding for a course release?

I need to submit a proposal electronically through grants.gov. Is Clark registered with grants.gov, and who do I contact if I need to be set up in the agency's system to submit my proposal?

What if I am offered an opportunity by colleagues at another institution or organization to participate in a project (i.e. receive a sub-award) - what should I do?

What if I want Clark to be the lead institution for an application involving another university or organization?

Can I sign agreements with sponsors when I receive external funding?

Where do I send any award checks sent directly to me?

What if I leave Clark? Can I take my project with me?

What if I am not interested in outside funding for my research? Why should I write a grant?

I have not had an active research program for many years, and would now like to renew my efforts. Is there support for someone like me?

Aren't most funding organizations controlled by "old boy" networks, making it difficult for newcomers to secure awards?

What resources are available to me?


Q. What offices on campus are responsible for external funding requests?

A. Two offices on campus are responsible for the review and approval of external funding requests, also known as grant proposals, agreements or contracts: the Office of Sponsored Programs and Research (OSPR), and Corporate & Foundation Relations (CFR) within University Advancement. The former is responsible for approving ALL non-gift external funding requests; in addition, the latter is responsible for approving both gift and non-gift external funding requests to private sponsors, i.e. corporations, foundations and non-government organizations.

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Q. What is the difference between University Advancement and the Office of Sponsored Programs and Research?

A. University Advancement is responsible for charitable gifts to Clark. Such gifts help fund a wide range of needs such as scholarships, endowed chairs, new facilities and other areas, including research, critical to the University's mission. Most contributions obtained by Advancement are in the form of gifts. However, some contributions from private sources (corporations, foundations, or non-government organizations) are for sponsored programs and require the same review process as funding requests made to public sponsors (federal, state and local governments, and government agencies). OSPR is responsible for the review and submission of external funding requests as well as the acceptance of external funding for all university based research, educational, training and other projects for which the sponsors mandate terms and conditions in return for their financial support.

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Q. Exactly what is a sponsored program?

A. A sponsored program is an activity which receives external support that carries with it conditions regarding the expenditure of funds, such as requiring a tangible (e.g. a written report) or intangible end product, or obligating the University to return support if project objectives are not realized. In contrast, a gift is support which has no stipulations of this kind and can be used by the institution as agreed upon with the donor. (See the related diagram on the OSPR web site.)

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Q. If I am considering preparing a request for external funding for submission through the University, who should I contact and when?

A. If your request will be sent to a public sponsor, contact OSPR to get guidance. If your request will be sent to a private sponsor, contact CFR to get guidance. Both should be contacted as early as possible in the process. Staff in both offices can answer questions, provide advice and refer you to other university resources for assistance. Once a proposal is ready and has been reviewed and approved by your supervisor, it should be submitted, along with a signed Proposal Summary and Approval Form and all supporting materials, to either OSPR or CFR (depending on the type of sponsor). The Dean of Research should be directly contacted well in advance of the submission deadline when a project involves institutional issues such as cost-sharing, new programs, leaves of absence and/or course buyouts. Contact with the Dean is best handled through OSPR (contact Lisa Gaudette at lgaudette@clarku.edu).

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Q. Do I need to check with anyone before I send my proposal to OSPR or CFR for review?

A. Yes. Your department chair, director or administrative supervisor must be aware of your plans to pursue external funding and approve of the activities that the funding will support. Thus, before submitting your external funding request to either OSPR or CFR for internal review and approval, your department chair, director or the person to whom you directly report will need to review your funding request and sign the Proposal Summary and Approval Form. We recommend that you touch base with this person early in the process as well.

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Q. Do letters of inquiry or pre-proposals require internal review and approval?

A. Yes, particularly if there is a preliminary budget required as part of the pre-proposal. In addition, many private sponsors only allow one proposal per institution, so CFR needs to make sure that multiple inquiries are not being submitted in these cases.

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Q. How long does the internal review and approval process take?

A. You should allow five business days for OSPR review and approval of your request. For private sponsors, CFR requires five business days for review and approval in addition to OSPR's five days. In other words, proposals with specific submission deadlines should be submitted for internal review: to OSPR at least one week prior to deadline for public sponsors; or to CFR at least two weeks prior to deadline for private sponsors. In order to expedite the review and approval process, proposals should be in final, or close to final, form when submitted for internal review and all items being submitted should be included. If you are planning an electronic submission through NIH or grants.gov, additional lead time is strongly encouraged.

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Q. Can campus units (centers, schools or departments) submit grant proposals on which they are the applicant organization?

A. No. Clark is the legal entity that is applying for funding and to which a grant award is made. Accordingly, basic organizational information is available on the OSPR web site for inclusion in proposals. Institutional attachments, such as Clark's IRS letter of determination, audited financial statements, list of trustees, operating budget, or other often-requested documents are available from OSPR or CFR. Because private sponsors sometimes ask for institutional information that must be compiled from multiple sources, CFR requires ample lead time to provide such information. Please provide a list of all required institutional attachments as early as possible in the application process.

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Q. Can individual faculty or staff submit grant proposals independent of the University?

A. Sometimes. Grants and contracts are typically awarded to the institution, on behalf of faculty and staff. However, some awards are made directly to individuals. If the University will be administering and reporting on the grant, it must be submitted via the processes described here. If an individual will be receiving an award directly and is responsible for its administration, that application would not go through the University. Note that awards made to individuals may have tax implications, so it is advisable to consult with an accountant or attorney in these cases.

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Q. Do I need to include indirect costs on every proposal I submit through the University?

A. Yes. In certain cases, sponsors may provide either no administrative overhead reimbursement or only a fraction of what Clark's negotiated agreement for indirect costs allows. It is important to determine the percentage of indirect costs permitted by the sponsor and to apply it to your budget. The difference between what the sponsor is willing to provide and what the university requires is considered "cost-sharing." Before a proposal is submitted, cost-sharing must be approved by the Dean of Research as the University must understand its financial obligations toward the project. If the agency includes information in their guidelines concerning the payment of indirect costs, please include a copy of this with your supporting materials as this will speed up the review process.

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Q. How do I decide whether to use the on-campus or off-campus indirect cost rate?

A. The appropriate indirect cost rate to apply is determined by where the preponderance of project work is to be done. If, for example, 51% or more of the work plan is undertaken on campus, then the on-campus rate should be used. Conducting fieldwork or using off-campus facilities for short-term project-related activity does not qualify for the off-campus rate. Utilizing the on- and off-campus rates for different line items within the same project budget is not permitted per the federal Office of Management and Budget (see OMB Circular A-21, Cost Principles for Educational Institutions). Thus, there can be no "blended" rates.

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Q. Can I receive salary from an external funding source?

A. In some cases, yes. Faculty or staff with 9- or 10-month appointments or otherwise working part-time can receive salary support, but this means different things to different sponsors. NIH, for example, allows investigators or project directors to receive three months of summer salary. NSF only permits two months. The best advice is to check the grant guidelines and follow up with the sponsor if needed. Faculty or staff with 12-month appointments cannot receive additional compensation from external funding sources. Fringe benefits must be calculated and included in your budget if you are requesting salary support.

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Q. How do I calculate the funding for a course release?

A. Add one-sixth of your academic year salary to one-sixth of your fringe benefits for the total.

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Q. I need to submit a proposal electronically through grants.gov. Is Clark registered with grants.gov, and who do I contact if I need to be set up in the agency's system to submit my proposal?

A. Yes, Clark is registered with grants.gov and OSPR is responsible for providing the necessary information for electronic submission through this web portal. Please allow extra time for these submissions (at least 2-3 weeks ahead of the submission deadline).

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Q. What if I am offered an opportunity by colleagues at another institution or organization to participate in a project (i.e. receive a sub-award) - what should I do?

A. Working on a project funded by an outside agency to another college or university is, in principle, no different from applying directly to a sponsor for external funding. OSPR or CFR should be contacted soon after it is clear that an application will be made by the collaborating institution. In effect, you are applying to the lead university to fund your research, program or project. You must provide it with a description of the work you propose and a budget which includes the appropriate direct and indirect costs. This information needs to be reviewed and approved, just like any other external funding request, PRIOR to submission of the application by the lead institution. If the proposal is successful, the lead institution will make an award to Clark in the form of a subcontract or sub-grant which contains the same terms and conditions to which it is bound.

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Q. What if I want Clark to be the lead institution for an application involving another university or organization?

A. Collaborative proposals in which Clark is the lead institution usually require more lead time than other funding requests. It is important to contact OSPR so it can establish ties with appropriate administrative officials at participating universities and/or other participating organizations. Before a proposal can be sent to a sponsor, it is critical that Clark receive permission from an authorizing official from each of the collaborating institutions. Keep in mind that budgets involving sub-awards have limitations on the indirect costs allowed. Contact OSPR for assistance with any budgets that contain sub-awards.

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Q. Can I sign agreements with sponsors when I receive external funding?

A. Not in the case of institutional awards. In these cases, agreements accompanying an award need to be signed by an authorizing official in Clark's administration. (Sometimes sponsors provide a space where both the project director or principal investigator and an authorizing official can co-sign such documents.) Clark's "authorizing official" is designated as the Dean of Research. Accordingly, all institutional award letters from public sponsors should be forwarded to OSPR when received to ensure proper recording and processing. All private sponsor award letters and accompanying materials, including the mailing envelope, should be date-stamped and forwarded to CFR.

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Q. Where do I send any award checks sent directly to me?

A. Please send public sponsor checks directly to grants accounting. Please send private sponsor checks, along with award letters and all accompanying materials, including the mailing envelope date-stamped to indicate when received, to CFR.

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Q. What if I leave Clark? Can I take my project with me?

A. For the vast majority of sponsored projects, faculty can transfer grants when they are the principal investigator or project director. However, institutional grants which have been awarded to Clark in support of a program or some other general purpose remain with the University.

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Q. What if I am not interested in outside funding for my research? Why should I write a grant?

A. Funds from sponsors can be awarded for many purposes other than research. Support for conferences, travel and curriculum development are just a few of the categories funded by external agencies.

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Q. I have not had an active research program for many years, and would now like to renew my efforts. Is there support for someone like me?

A. Depending on the research focus, there are sponsors that have programs designed to provide support for researchers who, for a variety of reasons, have been inactive for a considerable time or who have made a sea-change in their interests and wish to work in a new field.

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Q. Aren't most funding organizations controlled by "old boy" networks, making it difficult for newcomers to secure awards?

A. There is no substitute for experience and a demonstrated record of success in a given area to enhance the chances of being funded. However, many sponsors have programs specifically set aside to support new or young investigators. Public sponsors, in particular, tend to maintain a level playing field and fund according to the quality of the proposal rather than the reputation of the applicant.

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Q. What resources are available to me?

A. OSPR's Web site, contains proposal preparation tips and research tools to assist you if you choose to look for external funding. It also contains institutional information often requested by sponsors as well as internal forms and instructions. Once you have completed your preliminary research on possible funding sources, Corporate and Foundation Relations can help with additional research on private sponsors using their online subscription services. In addition, CFR notifies various departments on campus when they identify funding opportunities that may be of interest to faculty and staff.

Proposal preparation is primarily the responsibility of the person seeking funding. CFR assists with proposal preparation for institutional and departmental requests to private sponsors that align with Clark's strategic priorities. For additional information, contact Robert Riddles, Director of CFR.

For post-award grant administration information, visit Grants Accounting.

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