Concept Approval Form

As soon as you have decided to undertake a grant, you need to fill out the Concept Approval Form for the grant. The form provides the University with core information regarding your proposed activity. It also provides everyone with documentation that this activity was discussed and was approved, at least at the conceptual level.

After filling out the details on the form, you have your Department Chair sign it. Your Department Chair passes it onto the next administrator on the list for approval. At any point in this process, discussions may occur to further clarify what will be entailed in the proposed activity. Once the President has signed the form, it is sent to Shara Moore in Business Affairs with a copy also residing in the Provost’s Office.

General Information on Grants at FMU

How the Grants Development Program can assist you:

The Grants Development Program works with campus members to prepare grant proposals to external funding agencies.  In doing so, the Grants Development Program also works closely with the Office of Financial Services, Human Resources, Accounting, the University Foundation, and the Office of the Provost.  Faculty are encouraged to meet with the Director of the Grants Development Program to acquaint the office with their current and anticipated interests.   Doing so enables the office to add that information to search criteria so that campus community members can be notified of funding sources and opportunities that may support their project interests.  As soon as a faculty member plans to pursue a particular funding source, they are asked to complete a Grant Concept Approval form to obtain requisite permissions from their Department Chair, Dean, Provost and the President of the University.  The form is available on-line at this site in word processing formats for both Macs and PCs.

Reasons to consider doing a grant

Grants provide faculty with some amazing opportunities. This is your chance to turn ideas into reality – whether to carry out a research project or to demonstrate a new way of doing something. Many grants provide faculty with a way to build in additional professional development, equipment, materials, and travel. They provide a rich environment to gather data for peer-reviewed articles. Most importantly, they are a key scholarly activity that enhances your overall development as an academic.

An article you may want to look at was written by Kenneth Henson of the Citadel, a specialist in grants at the post-secondary level. He has done a nice job of providing some insights into the grants process for faculty members.

Steps in doing the grant

1. You have a passion to do something.
2. You find a funding source that is compatible with your idea.
3. You complete the Concept Approval Form and submit it to your Department Chair or Dean who then moves it up the list of people.
4. You begin mapping out the overall grant. You might brainstorm ideas with fellow faculty or you may be setting up meetings with partner groups to get their input and direction.
5. With a better idea of what will happen in the grant, you talk with the Director of Grants Development (Jane Madden, 1230) or the Director of Financial Planning (Shara Moore, 1132) to see if there are some points you should be checking. For example, does your proposal need to be submitted to an IRB review for Human Subject Research? Do you need to check with Physical Plant on alterations to facilities? Calling or meeting with the Director of Grants Development will be a quick way to find a partner to help you sort through the issues.
6. You are working diligently on writing the grant. You have friends lined up who are willing to read and see if it makes sense. Does it fit together? Does it sound doable? They could also check it for spelling and grammar.
7. You are also working on the budget section and have started to share that with Shara Moore, the Director of Financial Planning so she can spot problems early on.
8. You have completed the entire grant and have submitted it to the Provost’s Office for a preliminary review. He may ask the Director of Grants Development and the Director of Financial Planning to look it over at this time.
9. You take the feedback from the various groups that have reviewed the document and have incorporated the appropriate changes. Seven working days (not including weekends) ahead of the deadline for the grant leaving campus, you submit the grant to the Provost’s Office for a final review. Again, the Director of Grants Development and the Director of Financial Planning will usually be involved in the process.
10. Everything looks good. You submit it online or you make your copies and send it off and breathe a sigh of relief that it made it out the door on time.

Why the University must sign-off on the grant

Despite the hours we may put in on a grant, it really isn’t ours. A grant is normally a contract between the funding agency and the University. The University has the responsibility to be sure that whatever efforts take place on the campus, or through the campus, are consistent with the mandate of the University and abides by all the regulations governing the University. That last part is very significant. The rules and regulations governing the University are many and varied. Fortunately, each administrative department is quite cooperative in helping to decipher what those are and how they impact your grant efforts.

Foundation vs. University

On occasion, you will come across funding opportunities through private foundations. If it is a situation where the funding agency (the private foundation) can only give the funds to another non-profit agency such as the University Foundation, then you must gain permission from the Foundation before applying. There is a separate form for applications that must go through the Foundation. The reason for seeking approval for the Foundation is that it must practice due diligence in reviewing the activities in which it will engage to be sure they fit within the guidelines established for its operation. Again, even though you may be the one carrying out the activities in a successful grant application, it is technically the Foundation (in this scenario) that is receiving the funds.

Grant Deadlines

You will find that you will read the guidelines for a grant several times, if not more! Keep an eye on the deadline date. This can be tricky. Check for the following:

a. The grant RFP says that the grant must be received by a particular time and date. Remember – all your work will be for nothing if it is not received on time. If 5:00 p.m. is the cutoff, then 5:01 p.m. is too late.

Don’t assume because you sent it via the post office that the funding agency will still accept it if it shows up a day late. Many agencies will tell you that if you send it via the postal service, you’ll have to have a postmark on your package that must be 5 working days (not including weekends) in advance of the deadline. Keep a receipt for your package that you can use to argue your case in the event the parcel does arrive late. You’ll need it.

The State does have a free courier service that runs between state agencies. Unfortunately, it can’t guarantee that a package will get into Columbia on time. In that situation, a date stamp doesn’t do a thing for you according to one of the state agencies with whom we dealt. Get behind on your project or run into last minute difficulties and you’ll find yourself dashing to Columbia with the package in hand. Don’t worry – you won’t be the first person to do it and you won’t be the last.

The University does have a regular commercial courier pickup on campus. Call the Warehouse to arrange a time early in the day. Normally, someone will be around to pick up your package by 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon. If you’re not going to be ready until later in the day, get your label with the proper account number on it and then drop it off yourself in town at the correct courier depot on your way home. Talk to your department to get one of the labels filled out and ready to go.

B. The grant RFP says the grant must be sent by a particular time and date. In this scenario, you feel like you’ve got a little bit more breathing room. In reality, you don’t. A lot of federal agencies seem to be encouraging people to use commercial courier services over the post office because of the security issues in place for handling postal packages. There can be significant delays for items travelling through the regular mail service due to the security precautions at the other end.

Electronic Submissions of Grant Applications

In this scenario, the grant RFP says you must submit the grant electronically by a certain time and date through an online portal. NSF has been using this for quite a while. The federal department of education has also started the move to online submissions. Their system is actually quite user friendly compared to NSF.

The NSF uses something called “FastLane.”
For details on how to use the Department of Education’s online submission portal, check out:
How to use the e-Application process in the federal Department of Education

Concerns you should have over electronic submissions:

Apart from the usual nightmares that you have left it until the last minute and are now concerned that the entire University network will go down, you have to be very concerned about the authorization process and the time lines associated with that process. Electronic submissions are actually a multi-step procedure.

Once you get all of your bits and pieces uploaded, the system sends a message to the authorized representative for the University who must electronically sign your document to authorize it to go forward to the competition. Without that step, your proposal is going nowhere. For electronic submissions, the Provost’s Office has been the authorized representative. NSF provides a breathing space between your submission of the proposal and the authorized university representative signing it. This allows for anomalies such as submissions that occur late at night or for a situation when a person could be out of town. Note that the federal department of education does not do that. If your submission is to be in no later than midnight on a particular date, then once you submit your proposal, the authorized representative must also electronically sign your proposal before that midnight hour. Of course, if you’ve got the proposal in early, that won’t be a problem. On the other hand, if you are indeed submitting it at the very last minute possible, and it will be happening well after work hours, you could have some excitement.

Getting a focus for your grant efforts

Many people approach grants with a shopping list of things they want rather than with an outcome in mind. The “shopping list” approach can result in a lot of stress because you end up twisting yourself out of shape to try and get it to fit the objectives of the funding source. Without a logical outcome, trying to set up coherent arguments that justify the “shopping list” gets very tricky.

The easy way to begin your process is by playing the “So what?” game with yourself. Simply state your case in a sentence or two as to why you need this money. Next, if you can find a volunteer to assist you with this process, read aloud your statement and get them to say “So what?” Now, try and answer that question. Each time you come up with an answer, have them challenge you by saying, “So what?” Eventually, you’ll either discover you’ve been heading in the wrong direction or you’ll find that you have hit on the heart of the matter and are ready to put everything else into place. Play “So what?” by yourself or with a partner – it’s a little exercise that can save you a lot of time.

Salary-related issue for grants

A large number of grants provide faculty with the opportunity to buy out their time from the University or to arrange to receive additional hours – both during the year and especially in the spring and summer months. The State does not allow faculty to earn more than their regular hourly wage. Nor can faculty earn more than a particular percentage over their regular salary during the course of the year. Therefore, it is important that you get accurate figures to use in your budget section. Human Resources can supply you with the necessary information. The person to contact there is Danagene Razick (661-1142).

When it comes to including the cost of your time in a proposal, you have to remember that your salary consists of both wages and fringe benefits. Those fringe benefits can cost up to an additional 35% (and as health costs continue to increase, that number may also increase). The University pays for a large percentage of our benefits. Remember, we still have to pay our own portion of retirement, social security, and taxes, and any other applicable deductions on top of that.

So why worry about salary and fringes when doing a grant budget? Consider the following examples:

a. The budget shows one flat rate for the faculty member, $1,000. In real terms, that means the check they receive from their work might show a total of anywhere from $650 to $825. (Everything is dependent upon your individual deductions as well as the employer fringes.) That’s what they can put in the bank. The institution had to deduct the benefits portion from the grant funds as the grant was picking up the faculty member’s time. It also had to deduct those items we are personally responsible for. Occasionally, a grant might be set up such that the grant picks up the wages for the faculty member and the institution picks up the fringe benefits. All of those things have to be negotiated prior to the grant being submitted.

b. In our second example, the grant budget is set up to cover both the salary at $1,000 and a calculated estimate of the fringe benefits on top of that. Apart from the individual deductions such as social security, retirement, and taxes, the amount on the check that goes in the bank will be much higher than in our first example (a).

c. Any money over your regular salary will not have health and dental deducted.

d. If your intention is to receive additional funds from another state agency or a grant during the time you are under contract with the University, it is imperative that you meet with Human Resources to be sure you are within the State regulated guidelines.

An important exception you should know about . . . .

In the beginning, I naively assumed that all PreK-12 schools and Universities were state agencies. PreK-12 schools are not considered state agencies. Therefore, in a situation where a school is the fiscal agent (they get the money directly from the funding agency and handle the bills) for the grant and they’ve retained your services, then the salary you receive from them is not counted towards your annual total, nor is it subject to the hourly wage limitations. In other words, it is as if it didn’t even happen! However, if they buy your services from the University and you receive your check from the University, then it does count towards the annual total limitations and the hourly wage limitations. Always, make sure that your time commitments do not interfere or conflict with your scheduled teaching and office hours. Clear any such arrangements with your department chair. Watch how you set it up and always double-check on regulations as they change!

DUNS, TNS, EIN Numbers

On all federal grant applications, you will come across a request on the cover sheet for a DUNS identification number. Recent application forms are also calling for the TNS number. Shara Moore, Jane Madden, and Cathy Shwartz all have those numbers or can find out for you.

REAL Grants

The REAL Program at Francis Marion University solicits proposals for funding for new and existing programs in experiential or nontraditional learning. Experiential learning opportunities occur outside the traditional classroom, library or laboratory. REAL program funds are only for undergraduate students.

See Financial Services policies on Grants for more information.