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Foundation Center

Ray Cuellar
Resource Development Specialist
5885 Haven Ave., AD 109B
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91737-3002
Phone: 909-652-6469

Common Elements in a Grant Proposal

| Institutional Information | Steps in Preparing Your Proposal | Common Elements in a Grant Proposal |
| Budgets & Budget Justifications | Partner Proposals & Subawards

Grant Writing

Sponsors generally will provide specific instructions regarding proposal forms or formats, proposal content, page limitations, formatting and numbers of copies that should be submitted (for paper submissions). Proposals which do not conform to the sponsor’s guidelines are at risk for being returned without review. Therefore it is in Chaffey’s best interest to ensure all proposals follow the sponsor's published guidelines exactly.

Proposals typically contain the following basic elements:

Authorization to Submit
Application Cover Page
Sponsor Forms and Requirements
Proposal Narrative
Budget and Budget Justification
Biographical Sketches, Resumes, Curriculum Vitae

Authorization to Submit Form is an internal Chaffey College document that must be prepared prior submitting a proposal. It is not submitted to the spnsoring agency. The Authorization to Submit form is routed through Directors and senior administrators who review critical elements of the grant application (i.e. abstract, proposal narrative and budget).

Approvals on the Authorization to Submit Form certify that the proposed work is consistent with the College’s mission, goals and policies and that all faculty and staff involved in the proposal have agreed to participate, to accept the obligations and commitments described in the proposal and to perform the work in accordance with the College’s and the sponsor’s policies. The form is routed with the required supporting documents no later than 10 days prior to the sponsor’s submission deadline.

Chaffey College Superintendent/President and the Governing Board reserve the right to refuse or reject any grant awards which have not secured the required authorizations prior to submission.

The Application Cover Page is an important component of a grant application because it captures critical information about the applicant institution and contains the signatures required to make the proposal a formal, certified document. If a sponsor does not require an Application Cover Page nor requires a specific format for providing Chaffey College information, the Resource Development Office will provide and sign a cover letter to include with the application.

Sponsor Forms and Requirements. Many sponsors, especially in state and federal sectors, require completion of forms specific to their agency or level of government. These may include agency-specific budget forms, certifications and disclosure of lobbying activities among others.

Some sponsors require statements addressing the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA) and the Government Performance and Reporting Act (GPRA). GEPA and GPRA documents do not have a specific format, but are general statements assuring the sponsor that Chaffey College has provisions and policies in place to address the requirements of these federal Acts. These statements are usually included in the attachments section of a proposal application.

Abstract. The abstract is generally a one-page description of the major objectives and purpose of the proposed project. It is used for a variety of purposes. Sponsors often use the abstract to assign the proposal to the appropriate review panel. Reviewers use it to gain an initial perspective of the key concepts of the proposal. After funding is secured, the abstract may be used for entry in national databases that are indexed and available for public searches. Chaffey College may also use information from the abstract for informational purposes including Governing Board agendas and public press releases.

Proposal Narrative. The Proposal Narrative is the core of any proposal application. The Proposal Narrative contains a detailed program description, including an explanation of the objectives, a description of the target population (if any) and the activities or services that will be performed by the applicant. The Proposal Narrative can be divided into specific sections which may include some or all of the following:


  1. Statement of Need identifies the problem to be addressed by the grant if funded based on verified data and evidence.
  2. Objectives are measurable outcomes anticipated as a result of the project's activities. Objectives may be linked to over arching project goals. For example, the projects goal may be to increase college completion rates of students served by the project. The specific objective related to that goal may be to increase participants' persistent rates. Therefore, a measurable objective might read: "80% of participants will persist from one academic year to the next."
  3. Significance of the project describes the intended impact the project will have. It is directly related to the problems identified and described in the Statement of Need.
  4. Plan of Operation/Statement of Work describes the specific activities which will take place to address the needs identified. This section provides details of the specific services and activities which will take place. Sponsors may require applicants to provide a timeline or work plan outlining when each activity will occur and who will be responsible for carrying out those activities.
  5. Applicant and Community Support identifies the resources (i.e. staff time, space, facilities, in-kind donations, etc.) the applicant institution and outside partners will contribute to the project. Support should identify tangible assets, goods and/or services.
  6. Personnel section identifies key faculty, staff and administrators who will engage in the project. Personnel may include existing campus employees who will contribute time and effort to the project or describe new employee positions which will be added as a result of the award. In either case, this section should provide details about the qualifications and experience of key personnel.
  7. Evaluation Plan describes the processes and methods the applicant will employ to measure the effectiveness of the project in achieving the objectives identified in the proposal. Results from the Evaluation Plan are often submitted to the sponsoring agency as part of the annual reporting requirements.

The Proposal Narrative is the section of the application which the review panel will read and consider in deciding the proposals merit and whether or not to fund the project. Proposals are generally ranked on a point system which will vary from sponsor to sponsor. Some programs assign specific point values to specific sections of the Proposal Narrative, i.e. Statement of Need (25 points), Objective (10 points), etc. It is generally good practice to place more weight (i.e. more text and content) on those sections of the Proposal Narrative which have a higher point value.

Feed the piggy bank

Budget and Budget Justification. Each proposal must include a detailed budget which identifies all proposed costs required to carry out the activities and services described in the Proposal Narrative. Budgets must comply with the sponsor’s guidelines and Chaffey College’s business and accounting policies. Budget line items must be detailed and explicit. For example, travel costs for transfer students to visit a university campus might include the real cost for bus rental and a set stipend for lunch based on College meal reimbursement rates for the number of students and chaperones attending the event.

The Budget Justification is a narrative description of the need for each specific cost and how those costs were estimated. For example, the need for a specific activity, like student travel, may be implied in the Proposal Narrative, but the implications may not be apparent to the review panelists. The need must be made explicit and fully justified in the Budget Justification. For example, the cost for bus rental and meals or meal stipends for student travel to tour a university campus is considered appropriate and allowable for a proposed project which seeks to increase student transfer rates.

Guidance for drafting a realistic budget and budget justification.

Biographical Sketches, Resumes & Curriculum Vitae. Some sponsors will require applicants to provide detailed information about the key personnel, including the Project Director, along with the proposal. Sponsors like the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health require detailed information in a specific format for the Biographical Sketches. Other sponsors may require a shorter resume-style versus longer, more detailed curriculum vitae.

Appendices. The appendices are used to include additional documents which support the objectives of the project. For example, they may include letters of commitment from the institution or partners, brochures, examples of exhibits, performances, etc. Some sponsors and programs disallow appendices and will disqualify proposals which include them, so read the application guidelines very carefully if you intend to include additional documentation.

Rev. 1/28/14