All sponsored project proposals are reviewed and submitted by the Office of Contracts and Grants Proposal Development team.

On this page:

Proposal Analysts begin working on your proposal using the Proposal Submission Request (PSR) form (see the PSR User Guide for guidance), budget, and budget justification provided, working toward a final budget that will need Principal Investigator (PI) approval.   

You will need to have your annual Disclosure of Professional Activities (DEPA) up to date (filed annually) prior to submission. Information on how to file the DEPA is available through the Office of Research Integrity's Conflicts of Interest and Commitment Office (COIC).

Proposal Information

At a minimum, proposals consist of a statement of work, budget, and budget justification.

Typically, federal sponsors require a cover page in their format, project summary, project description/narrative, biographical sketches and current/pending information for key personnel such as PIs and Co-PIs, budget, budget justification, bibliography, facilities and equipment documents, and a data management plan. View the Proposal Forms, Templates and Samples page for additional resources.

In addition to sponsor requirements, you may also need to provide CU Boulder internal documents. Your Proposal Analyst will guide you through the sponsor and CU Boulder processes for proposal submissions.

The following are common proposal terms and explanations to assist you in this process. Additional proposal information is available on the Proposal Development FAQs page.

A sponsor is the funding entity. They are the creator of the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) you will apply to and they provide the money for your project. They can be industry, government, State institutions, other universities and nonprofits.

A PI is a Principal Investigator. They are primarily responsible for project management and reporting. Only certain staff are eligible to be a PI; see the PI Eligibility policy for requirements.

A Co-PI is a Collaborative Principal Investigator. They are also responsible for the management of a project, but collaborate with the PI to make decisions.

Pre-proposals (Step-1) are sometimes required by a sponsor to help them decide which projects they would like to fund and/or for a sponsor to get an idea of how many full proposals to expect. A pre-proposal (Step-1) may be required when a sponsor wants the option to “invite” a PI to submit a full proposal.

Note: Sometimes a pre-proposal (Step-1) will not require a detailed budget or an official signature. If neither of these are required, you can submit without OCG's involvement. As soon as a budget is required, please involve your Proposal Analyst.

Proposal guidelines and award terms and conditions are not always clear as to when OCG needs to be involved in a proposal or award. The best course of action is to contact your Proposal Analyst about all proposals, and he/she can assist in making this determination.

OCG allows and encourages PIs to submit on their own without OCG’s involvement when all of the following conditions apply:

  • Funding will be awarded directly to the PI or student and does not need to be routed through OCG. This is typically based on award terms and conditions
  • A budget is not required for the proposal
  • An authorized organization representative (AOR) or other institutional representative signature is not required on the proposal
  • There are no human subjects, use of animals, biohazards or other compliance related areas involved in the project
  • The PI can submit his/her proposal on his/her own per the proposal guidelines

If any of the above do not apply to your proposal, a Proposal Analyst needs to assist with a proposal submission. While providing budgeting and proposal preparation expertise, Proposal Analysts can also help prevent budgeting errors and other issues that delay awards.

A collaborative proposal is one in which investigators from two or more organizations wish to collaborate on a unified research project.

Collaborative proposals may be submitted in one of two methods: as a single proposal, in which a single award is being requested with subawards administered by the lead organization; or by simultaneous submission of proposals from different organizations, with each organization requesting a separate award. In either case, the lead organization’s proposal must contain all of the requisite sections as a single package to be provided to reviewers.

All collaborative proposals must clearly describe the roles to be played by the other organizations, specify the managerial arrangements, and explain the advantages of the multi-organizational effort within the Project Description.

Internal competitions within the University’s system happen when a sponsor desires a limited number of submissions from one entity. University of Colorado Boulder has a process that we follow in these instances. More information is available about Limited Campus Competitions on the Research and Innovation Office website.

Back to top

Budget Information

Sponsored projects proposal budgets are guided by Federal, sponsor specific, State, and University policies.

Your Proposal Analyst will assist you in preparing and reviewing your budget. Following are some basic things to keep in mind, as well as additional details, about typical budget items:

  • For all budgets, items must be allowable, allocable to the project, reasonable, and consistently treated.
  • Typical budgets include costs for salaries and wages, fringe benefits, equipment, participant support, travel, subawards, materials and supplies, consultants, other direct costs, and indirect (F&A) costs. View the F&A Costs Handout for more information about what is included in F&A costs.
  • Use the current Fringe Benefit and Indirect Cost Rates during internal budget preparation.
  • A Budget Justification must accompany all budgets. There is a Budget Justification Checklist available to help you ensure that all required sections are included.

Depending upon your project and sponsor requirements, you may also need to include:

When GRAs appear on your proposal budget, please refer to the GRA Salary sheet in our Frequently Needed Information and the Bursar's Office Tuition Rate document for budgeting purposes. The salaries that are listed on the GRA Salary sheet are for a 20 hour work week, which is considered full-time for a student during the academic year. If the student is working full-time during the summer, the time referenced from the sheet needs to be multiplied by two. Tuition Remission will appear as a line item under Other Direct Costs.

GRA salary rates and compensation are negotiated between departments and the Graduate School and must follow the Graduate Student Appointment Manual. Any deviations from graduate student appointment policies must be approved by the Graduate School.

For Graduate Research Assistants working on NIH research grants, there is additional policy guidance: NIH Limits on Graduate Student Compensation.

Tuition costs are not included in the Indirect Costs calculation.

Cost share essentially means “donating” a quantified amount of money, employee effort, or tangible goods towards the direct costs of a sponsored research project. These contributions are made by CU Boulder, the PI, or by other third parties, but all are a form of cost share.

If cost share is an element of your budget, there are differences in the budget template used. Additionally, required cost share will be entered into a form that your Proposal Analyst will complete and return to you for the Chair’s and other contributing parties’ signatures.

If you are the Chair, a Co-Chair or your superior must sign.

CU Boulder generally prohibits cost share unless it is specifically required by the sponsor or program announcement and/or is in the best interests of CU.

Three general types of cost sharing should be noted:

  1. Mandatory cost share = required in order to receive consideration from the sponsor
  2. Voluntary committed cost share = not required by the sponsor and specifically budgeted for
  3. Voluntary uncommitted cost share = not required by the sponsor and not budgeted for (e.g. PI ends up contributing extra time that was not budgeted for a specific project)

The Campus Controller's Office has additional Cost Share information.

When a sponsor limits the amount of indirect costs we are allowed to charge to a project there is a slightly different process for budgeting. The IDC section of the budget will be adjusted to reflect the amount the sponsor allows, even if it is zero.

An IDC Addendum will be filled out by your Proposal Analyst and returned to the PI for the Department Chair’s signature. This form is sent back to the Proposal Analyst to indicate that the Chair understands that less money in the form of Indirect Costs or no Indirect Costs will be returned to the Department if the proposal is funded.

A subaward or subcontract is work on a project that is being completed by another institution or business and that is an intellectually significant portion of the overall project effort. Subcontracts appear as a line item on the PI’s proposal budget. This means that funding will be distributed to the Sub from the University.

In order for us to work with a subcontractor, they need to fill out a Subrecipient Commitment Form and provide a statement of work, budget, and budget justification. The CU Boulder PI needs to fill out a Sole Source Justification Form when the subawardee is on a contract proposal or award. The sole source justification is not required for grant proposals and awards. All sub forms and information must be received and reviewed by your Proposal Analyst prior to submission of a proposal.

Work that is completed to assist in research activities, but does not dictate outcomes for the project is considered Consulting. Work that is completed by another party that has a direct impact on and is responsible for the outcome of a project is performed via a Subcontract.

Note: If a subcontractor fails to perform as agreed on a project, the PI is responsible for making sure that work continues or contacts OCG immediately for any renegotiation to be attempted with the sponsor.

Modular budgets are usually required when submitting to NIH for any budget with direct costs less than or equal to $250,000 per year. Modular budgets will be mentioned in the funding opportunity announcement. The format is different; it’s less detailed yet includes a cap on yearly costs.

Including travel in a budget requires the inclusion of several details such as number of persons traveling, number of times traveling to the destination per year, destination, number of nights, airfare, ground transportation, conference registration, and per diem rates for the travel location.

Sometimes you need to correct or revise a budget that has already been submitted to a sponsor. In these cases, it’s best to contact your Proposal Analyst and explain the need for the change in budget amount. If the proposal has already been awarded, contact your grant or contract officer for the revision.

More information can be found about specific sponsors on the Sponsor Resources page

Submission Registration Methods

​For system registrations not listed below, contact Lyn Milliken in OCG at or 303-492-3192.

Several federal agencies use to receive proposals. For all submissions, the application package is downloaded by your Proposal Analyst. He/she will fill in as much information as possible.

NIH Applications - All PIs must have a Commons ID. If you do not have a Commons ID, please email Lyn Milliken in OCG,, to have one set up.

Once the proposal documents are ready, the PI emails them to and to the Proposal Analyst. Your Proposal Analyst will upload the documents and budget into the package. Our Forms page has proposal checklists to assist with proposal preparation.

When everything is ready, your Proposal Analyst will review the proposal for anything that might prevent submission or review and then submit the package through and follow up if any errors occur.

For NSF, we use the FastLane system for proposal submission. If you do not have a FastLane login, please email Lyn Milliken in OCG at to have a login set up.

Your Proposal Analyst will start a proposal in FastLane and complete the Cover Sheet and budget forms once the budget is finalized. When the proposal documents are ready, you are responsible for uploading the required documents to FastLane (except for the budget) and reviewing the proposal for completeness. Our Forms page has proposal checklists to assist with proposal preparation.

Your Proposal Analyst will review the proposal for anything that might prevent submission or review.

When everything is ready, you will need to Allow SRO Access so that your Proposal Analyst can submit your proposal.

For NASA, we use the NSPIRES system for proposal submission. Lyn Milliken in OCG,, handles all NSPIRES registrations.