Award Review & Acceptance

The University Review Process

An official proposal is a request on the part of the University of Colorado for funding for a specific project. Any award resulting from a proposal will be made to the University, which is the grantee or contractor. The Office of Contracts and Grants (OCG) is the department of the University charged with overseeing the orderly submission of all proposals, and assisting in compliance with funding agency requirements.

In other words, always come to OCG with questions relating to proposals and funded projects, especially when your proposal is in preparation and questions arise. When proposal preparation is complete, bring the document itself and any other necessary materials (e.g. forms, attachments, letters, etc.) to OCG. Our offices are on the 4th floor of the Administrative and Research Center located at 3100 Marine Street. Submission of the proposal to OCG constitutes the initiation of University review. OCG's review of the proposal covers all aspects touched on in this guide: format, style, completeness, and budgetary correctness. Also, we will review and complete the administrative details required by the University. Most of this can be done without troubling Principal Investigators, although budgets are always completed in consultation with them.

After OCG's initial review is completed, the draft proposal is given to other OCG staff members for final preparation. After typing by OCG staff, the Principal Investigator gives the entire document a last reading and signs the proposal and the attached Office of Contracts and Grants Proposal Processing Form. This form, filled out by our staff in concert with the Principal Investigator, is essentially a questionnaire covering salient points (mostly budgetary) of the proposal. In December, 1999 a new routing procedure was initiated which eliminated the need for the proposal text, budget, and normal supporting documents to route to departments or deans. Therefore, most proposals will require only the signature of the PI(s) and the Director of OCG. However, University commitments must have all required approvals before the proposal can be submitted (this can be accomplished by fax, email, memorandum, or letter). "Commitments" include (but are not necessarily limited to): matching funds for equipment; requirements for additional space or other significant facilities; compensation beyond the normal rate of pay (overload); and indirect cost recovery (ICR) sharing agreements. When the appropriate signatures are obtained on the proposal, all the necessary copies are made, packaged, and mailed. Subsequent communications relating to the proposal are also handled through OCG. Here are a few suggestions for speeding proposal processing by OCG:

  • Call when in doubt. Many questions surrounding proposals do not have obvious answers, and OCG is the best source of information.
  • Call and make an appointment before bringing your proposal to OCG (492-6221).
  • Always try to bring the following information with your draft proposal: a) the submission deadline established by the funding agency, if any; b) the exact street address to which the proposal should be submitted, and/or the person to whom it should be directed at the agency; and c) any specialized guidelines or forms by the funding agency.
  • To ensure adequate time for budget review, routing, copying, and mailing, complete proposals need to be at OCG at least five working days before the mailing deadline. When adequate time is not granted for OCG to process proposals, difficulties often arise in obtaining required signatures, and the potential for human error greatly increases. The possibility of missing a deadline also increases, especially near major deadlines (which usually occur on the first of each month).
  • If your proposal requires us to type equations, provide a symbol chart to help the typist interpret cursive representations of Greek or other alphabets.
  • When proofreading the final version of your proposal, read the Office of Contracts and Grants Proposal Application and Routing Form with particular care, and consult with our staff on any questions. Your signature on the routing sheet certifies your acceptance of that document as a whole, and in any subsequent discussions (not to say disputes) with the University administration, that signature will be taken at its full value.

Post Submission Period

It is helpful to know that proposal review takes time. Some agencies will acknowledge receipt of your proposal with a card or letter, while others will not. A telephone call to the agency may be appropriate if you do not receive an acknowledgment.

Some agencies publish a specific date for announcement of awards. If not, you should allow at least six months for review of your proposal. Sometime toward the end of the six month period, a written inquiry can be sent, asking about the progress made in evaluating your proposal and closing with some such statement as "If you need any further information or clarification, please feel free to call me."

Frequently, they will call you. Negotiations of some sort are often part of grant and contract award process. Very often the proposed budget must be trimmed and/or reapportioned, and the Principal Investigator, the department, and OCG must all be involved. Additional materials may be required: for example, DOD agencies often request actual quotes from vendors in order to approve large equipment purchases. In some cases, the proposal itself must be revised or even resubmitted in a different form.

Once the revised budget and other requested information is submitted, the agency will begin processing the formal paperwork to initiate the award. In general, the University cannot authorize expenditures until the contract or grant documentation is reviewed, approved,and endorsed by both the University and the sponsoring agency. This process may take months or it may take only days, and depends on the situation and the agency involved. (NSF awards are generally transmitted 30-60 days after the Program Director receives the revised budget.)

Because there will never be enough money to fund every worthwhile project, many proposals (even those that have been approved by the reviewers) will go unfunded. Yet even a grant proposal that is not funded, yields positive results. First, the reviewers comments usually give you an idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the proposal. If these comments are not provided, you should request them. Second, you may submit a revised proposal that is stronger and more likely to be funded than the original proposal. Revised proposals typically enjoy a higher rate of success than first-time submissions. Click here for tips on resubmission of a proposal.