Proposal Development

Roles & Responsibilities

Principal Investigators (PI)

  • Prepare proposals including:
    • Scientific and technical design
    • Scope of work
    • Overall budget, including direct and indirect costs
  • Ensure proposals conform to sponsor and university requirements for proposal submission, and any governmental regulations
  • Obtain all necessary compliance approvals

See Administrative Procedure AP 12.401 for more information.

Fiscal Administrators

  • Consult with the PI to understand the program needs and assist the PI with budget development
  • Advise the PI on allowability of budget items and the application of indirect cost rates
  • Ensure that all costs are properly identified and realistically estimated in the proposed budget

See Administrative Procedure AP 12.401 for more information.

Chancellor / Dean / Director/ Chairperson

  • Ensure that the proposal is desirable and compatible with the unit’s mission
  • Ensure that the commitment of resources stated in proposal can be met, including cost sharing/matching commitments if required by sponsor*

*Note: Unless incentives exceed administrative burden, voluntary cost sharing is highly discouraged. See Administrative Procedure AP 12.401.

Office of Research Services

  • Provide guidance and assistance to the PI/FA during the proposal preparation process
  • As the UH authorized organizational representative, contact the sponsor on UH’s behalf for interpretation of the funding opportunity or any sponsor requirements

See Administrative Procedure AP 12.401 for more information.


In order to ensure that proposals are systematically reviewed and timely processed, all proposals for extramural funding should be prepared and submitted to the Office of Research Services (ORS) via myGRANT no later than five (5) business days prior to the proposal submission deadline.

Review funding opportunity

Once you locate a funding opportunity of interest, review the announcement and take note of specific requirements, including the following:

  1. Submission deadline
  2. Eligibility requirements, including limited submission restrictions
  3. Workshop or information session attendance requirements
  4. Deadline to submit questions or clarification requests to sponsor
  5. Letter of intent, white paper or pre-proposal submission requirements

Please contact your assigned ORS Pre-Award Specialist if you need assistance with funding opportunity review.


Confirm eligibility: regular & limited submissions

UH is a state instrumentality created under Hawai‘i Revised Statutes Chapter 304A, and is statutorily exempt from taxes under Internal Revenue Code §115. The UH institutional profile for extramural funding proposals may be found here.

Obtain limited submission approval, if applicable

Funding opportunities which restrict the number of submissions per institution are known as “limited submissions”. Proposals for limited submissions must undergo an internal UH pre-review, and receive approval from the appropriate UH office (see below). Once approval is obtained, it should be attached to your myGRANT proposal development record when submitted to workflow routing, and subsequently to ORS.

Contact your assigned campus contact below if you are interested in applying for a limited submission:

University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa – Office of the Vice Provost for Research and Scholarship (808) 956-0813
University of Hawai‘i at Hilo – Interim Vice Chancellor for Research (808) 932-7036
University of Hawai‘i West O‘ahu – Chancellor (808) 689-2770
University of Hawai‘i Maui College and all Community Colleges – Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs (808) 956-4587

Notices of interest in limited submissions should be submitted to your campus contact as soon as you identify that a solicitation has a submission restriction. Some limited submission opportunities contain a deadline by which questions can be submitted. If the sponsor does not accept questions after the deadline, and the submission limitation is vague, UH must interpret the limitation in the most restrictive manner possible, which may reduce the number of submissions allowed. In addition, holding internal competitions early will maximize the time PIs have to prepare a quality proposal, increasing the chance of being funded.

If the limited submission restriction is a “per campus’ limitation and there are more interested submitters than there are slots available, an internal competition will be held by your campus contact, identified above.

If the limited submission restriction is a “per institution” (i.e., one per all ten campuses) limitation and there are more interested submitters than there are slots available, a systemwide competition will be held by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation (OVPRI). The above campus contacts will coordinate obtaining notices of interest from each interested PI.

Submitted notices of interest for systemwide competitions are submitted to competition committee members for review, so it is in the PI’s best interest to include as much detail as possible about the proposal and the key persons involved. At a minimum, the notice of interest should contain the name and department of the interested PI, and a description of the PI’s proposed project, including the amount being requested.

Questions regarding limited submissions should be directed to your assigned ORS Pre-Award Specialist.

National Science Foundation Requirements

  • By default, all National Science Foundation (NSF) limited submissions are considered “per institution”, which restricts the indicated number of submissions over all ten (10) UH campuses. Exceptions are limited and specific to only certain NSF funding opportunities. NSF program officer approval must be obtained by ORS for “per campus” limited submissions.
  • All proposals to NSF must be submitted under NSF organization number 0016105000 and SAM UEI number NSCKLFSSABF2, regardless of campus.

Consider other options if UH is ineligible

Options to consider if UH does not meet the sponsor’s eligibility criteria:

  • If the funding opportunity allows collaborative proposals, UH may inquire about collaboration opportunities with an eligible applicant, for example, private entities or other state agencies.
  • If the funding opportunity restricts submission to entities that are tax exempt under Internal Revenue Code §501(c)(3), please contact the University of Hawaiʻi Foundation to coordinate proposal submission.

Provide advance internal notice of intent to submit

Once you confirm eligibility and decide to submit a proposal, advance notice of your intent to submit should be emailed to your assigned ORS Pre-Award Specialist. The advance notice should include the sponsor name, program name, funding opportunity number and copy of or link to the solicitation (if available), as well as any other relevant information such as compliance requirements or subawards. If the funding opportunity is a limited submission, please also include that in your email notice.

Comply with sponsor pre-proposal requirements

Review the funding opportunity carefully to ensure compliance with any sponsor pre-proposal requirements.

Attend required sponsor workshops, information sessions & training

If the funding opportunity requires attendance at a workshop or information session as a condition to proposal submission, please make sure the required parties attend. Some sponsors may also require the PI/PD or specified project staff to complete training as a condition of receiving the award. Such training should be completed as soon as practical to avoid delays with award acceptance.

Submit information requests by indicated deadlines

Some sponsors require submission of questions or requests for clarification by a certain date. Please make sure all questions are timely submitted, especially questions about eligibility.

Prepare pre-proposal / white paper

A pre-proposal (also known as a white paper) refers to a brief concept outline of your proposed project submitted to a sponsor in advance of a full proposal. Pre-proposals should be prepared in accordance with sponsor requirements (usually found in the funding opportunity announcement). A myGRANT proposal development record is optional at the pre-proposal stage.

More information on the pre-proposal submission process may be found here.

Submit letter of intent to sponsor

If the sponsor requires a letter of intent to submit prior to submission of a full proposal, make sure the letter of intent complies with sponsor requirements and is transmitted to the sponsor by the indicated deadline.

If the sponsor requires institutional approval of the letter of intent, contact your assigned ORS Pre-Award Specialist for signature.

Register in sponsor electronic submission systems

If the sponsor requires proposal submission through an electronic portal, make sure to register well in advance of the proposal submission date. As the authorized organizational representative (AOR) for UH, ORS staff should already have accounts in most major federal electronic proposal submission systems such as, eRA Commons, FastLane, FedConnect, G5, Grants Online and NSPIRES. For other systems which require registration by the authorized organizational representative, please inform your assigned ORS Pre-Award Specialist.

Prepare scope of work

The scope of work (SOW) describes the work to be performed or activity to be conducted, and the standards by which to measure that work has been completed and any deliverables met. The following should be included:

  • Detailed description of the proposed activity
  • Clear and concise description of the issues being addressed
  • Periods of performance, including specific start and end dates
  • Places of performance
  • Personnel requirements, if applicable
  • Equipment requirements, if applicable
  • Milestones, delivery timelines and/or reporting schedules, if applicable

If there are specific terms or acronyms used frequently within the SOW, including a glossary may also be helpful.

Secure space, facilities and equipment

Space and any specialized or secure facilities (collectively, “space”) and equipment requirements should be identified at the proposal development stage. The following should be considered to ensure availability and support for the proposed project:

  • Approvals required for the space or equipment use, including institutional and compliance approvals
  • Any sponsor, legal or UH requirements or restrictions
  • Personnel eligibility, or travel or training required for use of the space or equipment
  • Procurement requirements or possible procurement barriers
  • Precautions required to mitigate any potential risks of the proposed project

Prepare budget

The program budget provides the sponsor with the opportunity to examine the composition and viability of the proposed activity. The budget translates the proposed scope of work into a plan of operation, expressed in dollars, over one or more specific periods of time.

Calculate direct costs

Direct costs are explicit project expenditures listed as line items in the budget, and are usually categorized into personnel (people) and non-personnel (things) components. Personnel costs include salaries, wages, fringe benefits, consultant fees and contractor/subcontractor charges. Non-personnel costs include equipment supplies, travel and publication charges.

Calculate indirect costs

Indirect costs [also known as facility and administration (F&A) costs] represent project costs which are usually less quantifiable. Examples of indirect costs include:

  • Centralized and departmental contracts and grants administration
  • Research compliance functions, such as protection of human & animal subjects, and environmental health and safety
  • Use of offices, labs, classrooms, conference rooms or space in university-owned facilities
  • Related building and grounds maintenance and utilities
  • Use of campus and departmental libraries
  • Administrative and clerical costs, such as payroll preparation and general project administration

An exception to the above would be extensive administrative and clerical costs required by large projects or major activities, beyond what departmental administrative staff typically provide. Such expenses must be identified in the direct cost section of the budget, and well-justified in the budget narrative.

If the indirect cost rate is not specified by the sponsor, the federally negotiated rate should be used. It is strongly recommended that UH not voluntarily reduce or waive indirect costs in its proposal. Please follow the waiver policy for your campus if your budget uses a rate lower than the federally negotiated rate and:

  • There is no current blanket waiver in place; or
  • The lower rate is due to a sponsor cap not consistently applied to all applicants.

Address cost sharing issues

“Cost sharing” is the sharing of project costs that are from sources other than the sponsor, usually through internal or third party in-kind contributions. Different types of cost sharing are as follows:

  1. Mandatory cost sharing – The portion of UH’s contribution to project costs required by the sponsor, or mandated by legislation or regulation.
  2. Voluntary committed cost sharing – Any cost sharing not required by the sponsor, but included in the proposal at time of submission. For federal awards, voluntary committed cost sharing cannot be used as a factor during merit review of proposals unless it is both in accordance with federal sponsor regulations and specified in the notice of funding opportunity (see Uniform Guidance § 200.306). When included in a proposal, voluntary committed cost sharing becomes a binding requirement of federal awards (see Uniform Guidance § 200.99). UH proposals should limit voluntary committed cost sharing to items that can be easily documented and verified, such as salaries, wages and fringe benefits.
  3. Committed cost sharing – Any cost sharing that has been specifically committed to a project, and that must be budgeted, accounted for, and recorded properly in UH’s financial system. This includes both mandatory and voluntary cost sharing.
  4. Voluntary uncommitted cost sharing – Any effort or other contributions to the project that are above and beyond commitments made in the proposal budget or narrative at the time of proposal submission. This type of cost sharing is not required to be tracked and shall not be accounted for in UH’s financial system. To minimize administrative burden, voluntary uncommitted cost sharing is strongly discouraged.

Federal funds may not be used to share costs for any federal or non-federal sponsored program or activity. Trust funds may be used for cost sharing only with the written approval of the trust fund sponsor.

In proposing any cost share commitments, the PI should be conservative and realistic in the effort to satisfy the sponsor’s requirements. Commitments must be commensurate with available resources and represent achievable goals. Cost sharing commitments should be reduced proportionately if a reduced funding amount is awarded by the sponsor.

The PI is responsible for obtaining appropriate approvals (dean/director or chancellor) for all cost share commitments. The FA is responsible to maintain and update the cost sharing subaccount in the UH financial system on a timely basis so that cost sharing information is available for ORS Accounting to report when required for interim financial reporting purposes or closeout.

See Administrative Procedure AP 12.410 and UH’s Cost Sharing FAQs for more information. Additional references and samples may be found in the Resources tab.

Review budget checklist

Items to check for during budget preparation:

  • Sponsor-specific forms are used, if required
  • All costs are allowable, reasonable and allocable to the award
  • Budget subtotals and totals are accurate and consistent (check for calculation/rounding errors)
  • Budget periods are accurately reflected, with start and end dates consistent with the project period of performance
  • Proper fringe and indirect cost (F&A) rates are used, especially if the budget crosses multiple fiscal years
  • Administrative costs normally recovered through the indirect cost (F&A) rate are explicitly budgeted and justified
  • Other budget justifications contain the level of detail required by the sponsor
  • Line items conform to any sponsor limitations, for example, salary caps, indirect cost caps or equipment purchases

See Extramural Award Cost Guidelines for more information. Additional budget development resources can be found in the Resources tab.

Review for accuracy and compliance

Once the proposal is in its final stages, it should be reviewed for the following:

Accuracy of UH institutional information

A quick reference of institutional information for extramural proposal submission is posted here.

Some important items to check are that the applicant name is “University of Hawai‘i”, and not a specific campus name, and that the correct SAM Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) number is being used.

Compliance with sponsor requirements

  • Use specific font types and sizes, if required
  • Comply with any margin or page limitations
  • Sponsor forms have been used, where required
  • Documents are in the requested format, where required (e.g., Word or Excel document, or pdf format)

You may also consider using headings and organizational levels for ease of readability.


Click for Institutional Profile

Forms & Samples



Cost sharing – proposal language

Cost sharing – third party cost sharing commitment letter


National Institutes of Health (NIH) Forms Library

National Science Foundation (NSF) Forms Library


General Proposal Development

Proposal Checklist

Global Sponsored Activities Guide (sponsored activities abroad)

ORS Grantseeker’s Handbook

Storytoolz Readability Tools


Sample Budget

Extramural Award Cost Guidelines

Fringe Benefit Rates

Graduate Student Compensation & Tax Withholding – University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

Indirect Cost Rates


Prohibited Expenditures

Cost Sharing

Cost sharing FAQs

Cost sharing – General Information (ORS Grantseeker’s Handbook) (pp. 46-51)

Calculating F&A on shared costs

Calculating unrecovered F&A on shared costs

Sample proposal language

Sample third party cost sharing commitment letter (proposal stage)


SF424 Application for Federal Assistance – UH-tailored Guide for Completion Workspace

Department of Education

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

National Science Foundation (NSF)


RP 12.202 Principal Investigator
RP 12.211 Ethical Guidelines in the Conduct of Technology Transfer Activities
EP 12.214 Conflicts of Interest and Commitment
AP 8.927 Facilities & Administrative Cost Charges in Contracts and Grants
AP 12.304 Procedures for Disclosing and Addressing Conflicts of Interest Related with Extramurally-Funded Activities
AP 12.401 Procedures for the Preparation and Submission of Proposals to External Sponsors and the Review / Approval Requirements
AP 12.402 Procedures for Fringe Benefits Included in Proposal Budgets
AP 12.410 Accounting for Cost Sharing