University of California
ANR Employees

Contracts & Grants: Common Proposal Components

How to Review a Funding Opportunity

When the government, university, foundation or a private company issues a funding opportunity, this is often referred to as a RFP (Request For Proposal) or RFA (Request For Application). It is important to review the RFA/RFP to ensure that you understand what the agency is looking for as part of its review criteria both in terms of the technical aspects of your proposal and other administrative requirements/documents required to be submitted with the RFP.

Here are some Key Areas to review as well as some possible questions to consider when reviewing the RFP. Please note this list of possible questions is not exhaustive, but rather a starting point to help you in reviewing the RFP.

Consider the following questions:

PI and Institution Eligibility

  • Is the PI/University eligible to submit a proposal under this RFP?

  • Are there limitations on the number of proposals accepted from UC ANR (a limited submission proposal)?

Proposal Format

  • What are the requirements for font type and size, margins, line spacing?
  • Does the Sponsor specify page or character limits?
  • Are footers and headers permitted?
  • Is pagination required?
  • Should the proposal be prepared within the Sponsor’s provided templates, as a Word file, or converted to a pdf?

Budget Guidelines

  • Does the Sponsor restrict the amount of indirect costs in the RFP?
  • Is there a cap on the amount of funding you can request?
  • Are there any unallowable costs?
  • Are you direct charging or voluntarily cost sharing your effort on this project?
  • Is a cost share match required per the RFP?  

Organizational Requirements

  • Does the Sponsor require any other documentation such as a 501(c)(3) tax exemption status, State of California Franchise Tax Board exemption, W-9, Letters of Incorporation, University audited financial statements, or a Cover Page signed by the authorized institutional representative (Office of Contracts and Grants)?
  • Is documentation prohibited, such as the inclusion of letters of support or appendices?

Deadlines and Submission Instructions:

  • Please review the submission instructions carefully to ensure that all aspects and the proposal format, deadlines, and how to submit the proposal have been met.
  • Is submission electronic or hard copy, or both?
  • An important item to always note when reviewing the RFP is the due date of the proposal including submission time (i.e. eastern or pacific standard time).

Common Proposal Components

The information on this page is intended to offer basic information regarding different possible components of a proposal. Remember that each sponsor is unique and sponsors may revise their grant guidelines periodically. That is why it is important to review the Funding Opportunity to ensure that you meet the sponsor’s requirements when drafting your proposal.


Cover Page/Face Page: 

The Cover Page provides information that assists the sponsor in determining the type of application, which program is being applied to, and contact information for the PI and university official among other items.

  • The Office of Contracts and Grants has a generic cover page available
  • Check the Funding Opportunity for any required cover sheet formats that must be used.


Table of Contents: 

The Table of Contents facilitates easy navigation of the proposal components.


Abstract/Project Summary: 

The Abstract is a summary of your project which is generally less than one page. It should clearly and concisely communicate the problem you are addressing, how it relates to the sponsor’s objectives identified in their funding opportunity, who will benefit from the project, and why it is important to find a solution. The abstract should be suitable for public distribution and understandable to both the scientist and layperson. See the sponsor’s proposal guidelines to ensure all formatting and other requirements are met.


Project Narrative/Description: 

The Project Narrative describes in detail the project, its purpose, relevance, and implementation. In this section you should provide sufficient information for your reviewer to understand what the problem is you are addressing in this proposal. In your statement of the problem you should reference current literature and data, use graphics, describe previous efforts and any long term impacts this research may provide. Expanding the details of your project; you should include information such as the larger goals of your project, your specific objectives, what activities or strategies you plan on using, what resources are available, what additional resources are needed, time table for implementation, how will you evaluate the success of each objective, and how will you disseminate the results. Each sponsor has specified guidelines for the Project Narrative/Description and you should review the sponsor’s guidelines to ensure requirements are met.


Budget and Budget Justification: 

The financial proposal consists of a Budget and Budget Justification (also called a budget narrative), and reflects the work proposed and outlines the expected project costs in detail. Please see the Budget Preparation page for additional information regarding this proposal component.



Biosketches (Curriculum Vitae) for key personnel are required by most funding agencies. Some agencies may have specific formatting requirements.


References Cited: 

Include a References Cited section for all references cited in the Project Narrative/Description.


Facilities and Resources: 

The Facilities and Resources section provides information on the organizational and principal investigator-specific resources that will be used in conducting the proposed work. This description should outline the lead and collaborating institutions' facilities, infrastructure, equipment, and other internal or external resources applicable to the project.


Data Management Plan/Resource Sharing Plan: 

Data Management Plans/Resource Sharing Plans describe how proposals disseminate and share results. (See Resources page for additional information.)


Current and Pending Support: 

The Current and Pending Support section describes what funding a researcher is currently receiving as well as what funding the researcher has applied for. Information on Current and Pending and Other Support forms assist awarding agency staff in the identification of potential overlap of support. The goal is to ensure there is no duplication of funding for scientific aims and that an individual’s effort commitment does not exceed 100%. The PI is responsible for reviewing and ensuring accuracy of the information provided prior to submission. (See Resources page for additional information.)


Letters of Support/ Commitment:

Letters of Support serve to document the participation and commitment of resources from collaborators.


Compliance Documents: 

Dependent upon the specifics of your project and sponsor, the researcher may need to complete a variety of compliance documents such as Conflict of Interest Disclosure Forms, IRB approval, IACUC approval, or other EH&S approvals.

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