Frequently Asked Questions for Grants

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Definitions
Planning Your Application
Find Funding
Proposal Development
Grant Essentials Workshop

DEFINITIONS

What is a grant?
A grant is a funding that comes from an external funder to Saint Mary's College to support activities undertaken by a faculty or staff member in the college's name. All grant applications must be submitted by an authorized institutional official.

For more information, see the Grant Essentials Workshop here.

PLANNING YOUR APPLICATION

How long ahead should I plan for my application?
Nine to twelve months is ideal. Keep in mind that, for many awards, there may be only one application period per year. You should plan for three months to write your proposal, and up to six months for a funder to announce the award. For more information, see the Proposal Development Process section of the How to Apply page

Am I eligible to serve as a primary investigator (PI) or project director (PD) on a grant-funded project?  Are there any special guidelines when applying for grants as an adjunct faculty member or a staff member?
Yes, there are special guidelines for eligibility. Saint Mary’s Academic Administrative Protocol 2.2.10, posted on the provost’s website, provides details on eligibility. See: 2.2.10 Eligibility to Serve as a Primary Investigator or Co-primary Investigator on an Externally Funded Project.

What are the rules for citizenship for grants? May I be a PI if I am not a citizen?
The rules vary by agency. For many Federal agencies, PIs are not required to be U.S. citizens. For instance, the NSF states that “Except for NSF fellowships . . . there is no general policy restricting involvement on NSF grants based on nationality. A proposing organization in the U.S. may designate as Principal Investigator anyone it believes to be capable of fulfilling the role.” Please consult with the Office of Research if you have questions related to a specific funding opportunity.

How do I calculate grant funds to support my time during the academic year or during the summer / non-academic year?
Saint Mary’s Academic Administrative Protocols 2.2.7, 2.2.8, and 2.2.9, posted on the provost’s website, provide guidelines for workload calculations. See:  
2.2.7. Tenure-track Faculty Workload Calculations for Federal Grant Submissions
2.2.8. Adjunct Faculty Workload Calculations on Federal Grant Submissions
2.2.9. Non-salary Reimbursement Rates for Faculty on Grant Submissions

May I request grant funding to travel for a conference? 
Conference funding is typically provided through Faculty Development. For an externally funded grant, conference funding would only be included as part of a larger research and dissemination project.

Can you walk me through the process of how to apply for grants at Saint Mary's (i.e. in what order do I decide on a grant, meet with dean, fill out forms, etc.)
See the How to Apply page for a breakdown of the application process.

General advice on planning an application:
● If your project involves letters of commitment from internal or external partners, make your requests early in the process.  Ask your letter-writers to return their letters to you at least five business days ahead of the Saint Mary's submission deadline.
● Identify proposal reviewers and line them up so they are ready to read a draft when you have it.  Leave time to make the changes they suggest.
● The strongest proposals are prepared over time and in multiple drafts, so start early to plan a great proposal.

FINDING FUNDING

Where do I find funding resources for my project?
● Saint Mary’s has a subscription to the SPIN funding database.  Use this resource to look up opportunities.
● Talk with your colleagues at Saint Mary’s and at other institutions about who is funding their work. Some of the best leads come from word-of-mouth.
● Use the Office of Research Find Funding page to identify grant opportunities.  
● Refer to the Office of Research Fellowships page for fellowship and/or sabbatical funding opportunities.

Who helps me to interpret what the agency guidelines mean?
Staff in the Office of Research have expertise in interpreting  funding agency guidelines. It is also advisable to review previous grant awards to determine agencies’ interests.  

What if I have a question for the program officer at the funding agency?  Should I contact them, or does the Office of Research do that for me?
The primary contact with a program officer is typically the researcher, sometimes joined by his/her dean or the director of the Office of Research. If the question is related to the technical application or administrative or regulatory requirements, the director of the Office of Research should make the call. 

WHO DOES WHAT IN PROPOSAL DEVELOPMENT

What is my role in proposal writing?
As a faculty or staff member you will need to identify prospective funding opportunities; prepare and route the Intent to Apply form; design the project; write proposal content except for college boilerplate; develop the budget, and gather supporting documents required for the application.

What is the role of the Office of Research in grant proposal development?
The Office of Research is responsible for pre-award services. The office:
1.  Guides faculty and staff in preparing their Intent to Apply form.
2.  Advises on timeline and strategy for proposal development.
3.  Provides advice on funders' guidelines and how to make the proposal competitive.
4.  Provides Saint Mary's boilerplate.
5.  Prepares business pages and secures Business Office approval.
6.  Submits the proposal.
7.  Collaborates to negotiate the terms of the award.
8.  Once the award is finalized, coordinates hand-off to the Business Office for post-award services.  

Who signs the grant application or award acceptance on behalf of the college?  
The vice president for finance and administration signs all contracts on behalf of the college and is the signatory for both applications and award agreements. The director of the Office of Research acts as authorized organizational representative (AOR), submitting application forms with the approval and on behalf of the vice president for finance and administration.

Faculty or staff applying for fellowships should submit their applications directly to the sponsoring agency. Faculty applicants are asked to notify their dean, department chair, and the director of the Office of Research when they apply for a fellowship.

When I receive a new award, where do I send grant award documents to be processed and reviewed?
Send grant award documents to the Office of Research with a copy to your dean. As part of its award negotiation function, the office processes grant award documents and coordinates with the Business Office to finalize award acceptance and the transition to post-award.

Who supports me in processing revised statements of work and other contract documents after the award is underway?  
The grant accountant in the Business Office supports revised contracts and statements of work.

What if I want to apply for a fellowship?
For more information, please visit the Frequently Asked Questions for Fellowships page. 

QUOTES FROM AGENCY PROGRAM OFFICERS AND PEER REVIEWERS

On following guidelines:
“Send us what we ask for when we ask for it.”
“Read the solicitation. It is clear that some PI’s have not read it.  Read, re-read, then have a buddy read it.”
“This program is about big new ideas that would not be funded by anyone else, including your mother. Say why it’s innovative, why dramatic, why a big idea, and why it isn’t fundable by others.”
“See what’s competitive – test your ideas against funded projects."

On writing clearly:
“Use headers that point the reader to the required information.”
“State succinctly and clearly what is innovative. If I can’t ascertain in two minutes what your idea is, your application goes into the ‘no’ pile.”
“Summarize your idea in two sentences at the beginning.  If it can't be summarized, you need to hone your project description until it is more clear and can be summarized.”
“Make it perfect. Otherwise, I won’t trust that you can deliver the project. Take care with grammar, spelling, and formatting."  
"Make your concept easily seen and understood, with enough words and graphics, but not too many."

General advice:
Reviewers notice when they have seen a proposal elsewhere. “If it gets rejected at least change the words. Don’t just recycle it. Rework it.”
Mention milestones in your application. “Milestones show what success looks like and make it sound like it's something you can deliver.”
“If you get to the finalist stage and have to make a presentation for the funder, have a group of peers listen to and critique your talk before you present. Rehearsing makes a big difference.”
Be persistent.