Preparing a Proposal: Faculty

Before You Begin

Before submitting a Letter-of-Inquiry (LOI) or Proposal you should contact with the following information:

  • Your name
  • Funder and due date
  • Project title and brief description
  • Department or Center that you want the grant to run through

Once we have the above information the appropriate grant manager will get back to you (typically within 2 business days) to help you with your proposal.

Assistance provided by the Office of Research typically includes:

  • Developing and formatting budgets
  • Coordinating proper University clearances and approvals
  • Alerting PI to special requirements and issues
  • Preparing and uploading Cayuse SP proposal
  • Preparing COI certification
  • Assisting in the coordination of any subcontract materials

Submitting Letters of Inquiry

Once you have contacted the Office of Research and read the funding guidelines to determine if you are eligible for funding, your next step is to submit a Letter of Inquiry (LOI).

The Letter of Inquiry is very similar to a proposal, except it is shorter and does not contain all of the components of a full funding proposal.  A Letter of Inquiry is not a vague exploration of an idea. It is assumed that you have already thought through your proposed project - including a budget! - and are presenting an abbreviated description. Some LOI’s require a line item budget, while others require an estimate of what you think the project may cost – for this reason the Office of Research needs to be made aware prior to the submission of an LOI. While each funder may have their own guidelines and page requirements, generally speaking, a Letter of Inquiry should include:

  • An introduction to your research project (1 paragraph)
  • A clear statement of need explaining the issue you are addressing and answering the 'why' of the project. (1-2 paragraphs)
  • The methodology you will use to conduct your research. (2-4 paragraphs)
  • The outcomes, indicating how you will evaluate your findings (1-2 paragraphs)
  • A budget overview, stating what the project will cost and any additional funding sources. (1-2 paragraphs)
  • Closing (1 paragraph)

Components of a Funding Proposal

Once you've contacted the Office of Research and received all necessary approvals to move forward, you've come to the larger task of writing the proposal.

Your grant proposal is essentially a sales tool. You want to sell your research to the grantmaking organization of your choice. The writing should be engaging and easily understandable by someone who does not have an academic background in your area of expertise. Public funders often have more specific guidelines, but most organizations request the following information:

Cover Page/Cover Letter

Should be no more than two pages (though one is recommended) and include the following information:

  • University's name
  • Funder agency's name, title, and address
  • Addressed to the individual responsible for the funding program
  • Proposal title
  • Funds requested
  • Include the principal investigator's signature and contact information (name, address, telephone number, e-mail address)
  • Include the NYU Office of Sponsored Programs Projects Officer's signature and contact information (name, address, telephone number, e-mail address)

A brief, coherent one-page summary of the attached proposal (usually 200 words or less).

Table of contents

Should be included for proposals over five pages in length.

Proposal Narrative/Project Description

The Project Description is typically anywhere from 10-30 pages and should follow posted guidelines on font size, margins and spacing.  The following sections should be included in the body of the proposal and address all issues:

  • Background and Significance: Describe the present state of knowledge in the area of study. Provide a rationale for this study and describe the impact/significance of the proposed project on the state of knowledge in its field.
  • Program Overview, Design, and Procedures: Describe the project aims and goals and how these relate to the present state of knowledge. Describe the methodology and the procedures, which will be employed, including a detailed description of study participants, measures to be utilized, analytic plan, and the roles the investigator(s) will play in undertaking this study. Provide a detailed procedure for executing the work, the individuals who will be involved in the project. If human subjects are used provide a description of how participant rights will be protected in light of both NYU and community based IRB procedures.
  • Dissemination: Provide a detailed explanation of how findings will be utilized and disseminated to academic and community audiences. Be specific about how findings from this work will be of benefit to the communities with whom you are working.
  • Timeline: Provide a timeline for completing the study.
Other Proposal Elements
  • References
  • CVs of all key personnel
  • Budget
  • Budget Justification

The Proposal Process

  1. Contact the Office of Research
  2. Draft Your Research Proposal
  3. Editing and Critique from Colleagues
  4. Submit Your Proposal for Clearance to the Office of Research
  5. Submitting Your Proposal to the Funding Organization
  6. Tracking Your Proposal
  7. Getting Funded (or Rejected)
1. Contact the Office of Research

Let us know that you are pursuing funding so we can support you throughout the process. Contact us at

2. Draft Your Research Proposal

Work with our team to develop a compelling introduction, define clear research methodologies, and begin developing a budget. Our office can help guide you through the proposal-drafting phase. In some cases, a single project proposal may need to be tailored differently for each potential source of support in order to meet the characteristics and requirements of those specific sources.

3. Editing and Critique from Colleagues

Like your other publications (articles, monographs, book chapters, books), your proposals are documents that reflect your thinking, command of the literature, and writing skills. Proposals are important: proposal writing helps you clarify your thoughts and methods for the project, as well as your plans for disseminating your findings.

Proposals must be responsive to the demands of the funding agencies and their reviewers. Therefore it is in your best interest as the proposal writer to line up "fresh pairs of eyes" to look at the proposal before it is submitted. Sometimes your chair, or other members of your department, will be generous with their assistance. Sometimes you may have collaborators or associates at other institutions who can help. In addition, our team can assist you in finding readers or providing hands-on editorial help if this is appropriate. Such readers may offer a range of assistance -- from checking the budget, to checking that all evaluation criteria identified by the funding agency are addressed, to tracing your argument through the relevant sections of the proposal.

4. Submit Your Proposal for Clearance to the Office of Research

Before submitting your proposal, you must receive University clearance. This process normally takes 5 business days. We will work with you to obtain any additional clearances and fulfill other requirements before submitting. The clearance process is critical. Should you fail to get clearance, your proposal may need to be withdrawn.

5. Submitting Your Proposal to the Funding Organization

The Office of Research will coordinate with the central Office of Sponsored Programs or the Development Office on the delivery of your proposal via US mail, an express overnight service, a messenger, or electronically (which is increasingly recommended). Note that for electronic submission requirements, additional time may be needed during the drafting process to format the proposal appropriately. We will also prepare appropriate copies of the proposal, and distribute them to all relevant parties, including the official University files.

6. Tracking Your Proposal

The Office of Research maintains a tracking process for proposals under development. This information is shared on a regular basis with the School's Dean and Dean's Group, and reviewed periodically by the Chairs. You can also track your proposal status in UDW+.

7. Getting Funded (or Rejected)
  • Any information received about the acceptance or rejection of a pending proposal should be relayed immediately to our office.
  • At the point when an acceptance has been received, the project enters the "post-award" phase.
  • Please note that having a proposal "rejected" is not the end of the funding process. Understanding why a proposal was rejected is often key to obtaining future funding.
  • Please note that it is imperative that any projects that are funded comply with all the source's stated reporting requirements. Faculty members are responsible for the timely submission of any and all narrative reports for their projects. The Office of Research will work with Sponsored Programs Administration on any necessary financial reports, invoicing and billing.

Following Up

Public Grants

With public agencies, once proposals are submitted contacts at the agencies tend to limit themselves to procedural matters: Was the proposal received in a timely manner? Are there any changes in the proposal review procedures that you need to know? When will you hear? In order to assure equitable review procedures for tens of thousands of proposals, public agency officials will most likely keep their opinions on proposals to themselves until all submitters are notified. So until you get your results, keep your contact short and formal.

Private Grants

Active follow up is a critical step in the process of obtaining private sector support. While government agencies typically have dates by which they decide upon proposals and advise applicants of results, the same is often not the case when foundations, corporations, nonprofit associations, and individuals are the proposal reviewers.

Consequently the post submission phase can be extremely important. The applicant should consider strategies to ensure that letters of inquiry or proposals are reviewed and, hopefully, the subject of a full discussion by phone or – preferably – in person.

The Post-Submission Call
  • It is usually important to call the potential funder within 10 business days after your proposal or letter of inquiry is submitted. In the first instance, the call will allow you to ask whether your material has been received. Funders receive a heavy volume of submissions and their staffs are often small. Consequently, it is vital that you check that your request has been received.
  • Second, you can inquire during the same conversation whether your submission has been assigned for review to a particular individual. This information allows you to consider whether and when to call the reviewer for a full discussion.
  • Third, the call helps to place your submission on the "radar screen" of the grant or gift prospect. This is always helpful.
  • Finally, the post-submission call may offer the opportunity to request a meeting with the reviewer. As discussed below, an in-person discussion can be extremely valuable in the effort to secure funding.
Request a Meeting on Your Submission

Most foundations, other nonprofits, and corporations hold meetings with grant seekers. The number of such meetings that they can hold is limited, but trying to secure an in-person discussion is almost always helpful. These talks are useful for several reasons. There is an old adage in the funding world that says, "People really fund people, not projects." In other words, those awarding funds are really making their decisions on the basis of their personal confidence in the person, or team of individuals, who are requesting support. Such factors as track record and relevant experience are key – but so too is personal chemistry and a sense of confidence and enthusiasm that can best be relayed in person.

These discussions are also valuable because they allow you to hear and immediately respond to the prospect's questions or suggestions on the shape of your proposed undertaking.

In-person discussions, especially with foundations, also have a benefit not offered by routine correspondence back and forth, or by quick phone calls. That benefit is the ability to obtain information on the directions that the funder may be pondering for future grant making, allowing you to obtain significant early information that can be followed up on at a later point, whether or not the prospect responds positively to the proposal or letter of inquiry at hand.

And, finally, the discussion will give you the chance to ask whether the reviewer or prospect wishes additional information or would be interested in a site visit, a meeting with other members of the project team, etc.

After the Meeting

Depending on the content and tone of the meeting, there may be several steps to consider next. A brief letter expressing thanks for the time spent and for the consideration your request is receiving should always follow a meeting. The letter may also refer to enclosed materials that will advance your submission.

When a Meeting Cannot be Secured

With many submissions to review, the staff of private sector grant making organizations is often unable to meet with grant applicants. In such cases, it makes sense to make periodic calls to check on the progress of the review underway and to, again, keep your request on the "radar screen." As with all these suggested steps, judgments must be made as to the frequency and nature of the follow up so that reviewers do not become annoyed with the inquirer. While it is wise to be cautious, rest assured that many competitors will be quite aggressive.