Grant and Contract Related FAQs

Below in the drop down menus are some frequently asked questions regarding the procedures, forms, and services involving the Office of Research Affairs. If you have any questions not covered by this FAQs, please direct your questions to research@csus.edu and we will contact you regarding your inquiry.

What services are available to faculty and departmental staff?

The Office of Research Affairs (ORA) provides an array of research support services to faculty and staff pursuing external funding, including assistance with: 

  • funding opportunity identification
  • proposal narrative development
  • budget development
  • proposal submission
  • contract development, and
  • research integrity and compliance. 

In addition, Protected Writing Time and Statistical Assistance are available to all Unit 3 faculty.

For more, visit our Research Support Services page.

How do I locate my primary points of contact for assistance with grant proposal and contract development, and account administration?

Visit our Find Your ORA Contacts for details on who assists your department/unit with grant and contract proposal development and account administration related activities.

Which office should I contact for proposal development assistance – Research Affairs or University Development?

The Office of Research Affairs assists with the pursuit of grants and contracts in support of faculty research, education, service, and outreach activities and is the point of contact for related matters. University Development pursues and accepts gifts and philanthropic donations in support of the institution and Sac State Students.

How do I determine if my project is a gift or a grant?

Typically the line between gift and a grant is made obvious by the application guidelines or the intent of the proposal to the funder. When it is not clearly defined during the application process, additional coordination between the Office of Research Affairs and University Development may be required to ensure that the institution’s compliance and reporting obligations are addressed. Visit our Gifts vs Grant Guidelines for additional clarity on roles and responsibilities and making a gift vs. grant determination.

Who Can Serve as a Principal Investigator (PI) at Sacramento State?

Generally, Principal Investigators (PIs) must be full-time, tenure-track faculty members or full-time university administrators.  Emeritus and part-time/adjunct faculty are eligible to serve as PIs with approval of their department chair and college dean, typically with either the chair or dean serving as Co-PI on the project, and the concurrence of the Associate Vice President of Research Affairs. In rare circumstances, full-time University Enterprises, Inc. (UEI) employees may serve as PIs with the approval of UEI and the Associate Vice President of Research Affairs. Any exceptions to the above require the concurrence of the appropriate department chair, college dean, and the Associate Vice President of Research Affairs.

What is the Role of the Principal Investigator?

The Principal Investigator (PI) is the individual responsible for the overall fiscal, administrative, and scientific/programmatic conduct of a project.  PIs are responsible for day-to-day project management and accept responsibility for carrying out commitments as outlined in the proposal within the time limits and budgetary resources provided, and for complying with University, UEI, and funder policies and procedures related to the administration of funds and submission of narrative and/or technical reports.

What is the difference between a Co-Principal Investigator, a Co-investigator, and a Project Director?

Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI) is typically recognized by a funding agency as an individual who shares the responsibility for the conduct of a project with the PI, including meeting the reporting requirements. A Co-PI may also be delegated spending authority and other fiscal and management related authority on an award by the Principal Investigator, in accordance with UEI policy.  

Co-Investigator is an individual recognized as making a significant contribution scientifically or programmatically to a project, but with limited or no fiscal or operational authority for the project.

Co-PIs or Co-Investigators affiliated with a subrecipient must meet their organizations’ PI eligibility criteria and conduct all designated project related activities through their home institution. Consultants do not typically meet the definition of an investigator.

Project Director is a University or UEI staff member active in the administration and/or fiscal management of a sponsored project. Project Directors serve under the direction of a Principal Investigator, and with the concurrence of the appropriate college dean. Except in very rare circumstances, individuals designated as consultants, or those working in a consultant capacity, may not serve as Project Directors or fulfill the role of a Project Director.

Any exceptions to the above require the concurrence of the appropriate department chair, college dean, and the Associate Vice President of Research Affairs.

Why is University Enterprises, Inc. listed as the applicant organization on my proposal?

UEI is the campus auxiliary organization authorized to accept and administer all externally funded grants and contracts on behalf of Sacramento State.

When would my funding be administered by the University Foundation at Sacramento State (UFSS)?

UFSS is the University’s primary philanthropic auxiliary organization which oversees gift funds to Sacramento State. If your department or project receives a gift or a donation, these funds would be administered by UFSS.

When should I let Research Affairs know that I'm planning to submit a proposal?

As soon as you’ve made the decision to apply, contact your Research Development Analyst and Proposal Specialist. The earlier we know that you are working on a submission, the more proposal development assistance we can provide.

Can I get a copy of a successful proposal?

Research Affairs has sample proposals available upon request through your Research Development Analyst. If you’re looking for a proposal from a specific program or funding agency, consider contacting faculty colleagues who have been previously funded for a copy of their proposal. Databases of recent awardees containing abstracts of funded proposals can be utilized to identify projects in your field.

Are there templates available to help me create my budget and justification?

Yes, visit our Budget Development section for a template. Your Proposal Specialist is also available to develop your budget and ensure that it meets institutional policies, funder guidelines, and Cost Accounting Standards.

Can another Sacramento State faculty member be a consultant on my grant or contract?

Per Chancellor’s Office policy, CSU faculty and staff must be paid as employees on grants or contracts received by campuses within the system. They may not be paid as consultants. Sacramento state faculty or staff are typically included in the personnel category or in the case of an individual from another campus, may be included as personnel on a subcontract.

Where can I obtain basic info and statistics on Sacramento State for my proposal?

Visit the University Data Center or Quick Facts page for data and narrative on Sacramento State.

Visit our Institutional Data for Proposals page for data and rates commonly requested in proposals.

What are the current fringe benefit rates?

Visit our Institutional Data for Proposals page for current rates for various personnel classifications.

What is the University’s facilities and administrative (F&A) cost or indirect rate?

Effective July 1, 2015, the F&A rates for the University and University Enterprises, Inc. (UEI) are as follows:
On Campus Projects from July 2015-June 2017: 41% of Modified Total Direct Costs (MTDC)
On Campus Projects from July 2017-June 2019: 42% of Modified Total Direct Costs (MTDC)
Off Campus Projects: 22% of Modified Total Direct Costs (MTDC)

For more on F&A rates, please see the F&A section of our FAQs. 

What are matching funds and cost sharing?

Contributions, including cash and in-kind, made toward a project that a recipient and/or an affiliated third party makes to an award are referred to as “cost sharing” or “matching.

What is our institutional policy on matching funds and cost sharing?

Visit our Policies and Procedures page for more on when cost sharing can be included in a proposal and the types of items that can be contributed.

What is Cayuse?

Cayuse 424 is a web-based tool that facilitates proposal preparation, routing, and submission of federal proposals. Learn more »

What needs to happen before my proposal can be submitted?

proposal approval form (PAF) accompanied by a brief abstract of the project and a draft budget must be completed before proposal submission as required by CSU Chancellor’s Office and Sacramento State policies. In addition, all proposal elements must be provided to your Proposal Specialist at least three business days before the funder’s electronic submission or postmark date to allow for final review and finalization. For more, visit Proposal Submission Procedures.

Are there any institutional sign offs or approvals that need to be obtained before submitting my proposal?

Yes. A proposal approval form (PAF) must be completed before the submission of a grant or contract proposal and be accompanied by a brief abstract and a draft budget. This form must also be completed for amendments and supplements that add additional funds to existing awards.

Why is a proposal approval form (PAF) necessary?

The purpose of this form is to request approval of the proposed project by department chairs, deans, and administrative officials as required by CSU Chancellor’s Office and Sacramento State policies. In signing, the signatories acknowledge receipt of information about the project and indicate approval to submit the proposal to the funding agency.

When should I begin the Proposal Approval Form (PAF) process?

The proposal approval process can be initiated with assistance of your proposal specialist once a brief abstract and a draft budget have been prepared.  Typically, it will take 5-7 business days to obtain all of the required approvals.

Who is authorized to sign and submit grant and contract proposals on behalf of the University?

The Associate Vice President for Research Affairs, David Earwicker, has been delegated the authority to sign and submit proposals on behalf of the University.

How do I learn the status of my proposal?

The time frame for reaching a funding decision ranges from two months at private sponsors, to upwards of a year with federal agencies. Plan on a minimum of four to six months wait time in most cases. Typically PIs will be contacted directly via email or a letter with the funding decision. If you have questions regarding the status of your proposal, contact your Proposal Specialist for assistance.

What are my next steps if my proposal was unsuccessful?

Unsuccessful applicants to federal grant programs typically receive reviewer feedback. Studying the reviewer comments is one way to significantly improve your next submission. Work with your Research Development Analyst to request reviewer comments if not automatically received and discuss possible re-submission.

My proposal has been funded, now what?

Congratulations! Once award terms and conditions have been reviewed and accepted by Research Affairs, an account administrator will be assigned to work with you throughout the duration of your project. Your administrator will ensure fiscal requirements are met, invoice sponsors, prepare financial reports and assist you with the processes to establish and maintain accounts, make purchases, hire faculty and other project personnel, contract with consultants, and process travel.

Why are grant awards and contracts made to University Enterprises, Inc.(UEI)?

UEI is the campus auxiliary organization authorized to accept and administer all externally funded grants and contracts on behalf of Sacramento State.

What types of accounts are administered by University Enterprises, Inc. (UEI)?

UEI serves as the sponsored program administrator for the campus per CSU EO 890. UEI also administers a number of University Support Programs accounts.

Grant/ Contract Accounts: Sponsored programs restricted funds administered in accordance with award document (grant) or agreement for services (contract).

University Support Program Accounts: Discretionary funds administered on behalf of the University for programs benefiting specific academic and administrative units and other campus organizations. Accounts are requested via the UEI Request to Establish Account form and established per Chancellor’s Office guidelines for non-general funds.

Can I deposit funds of any type into UEI accounts?

There are two types of accounts, and each has limitations on the types of funds that can be received.

Grant/ Contract Accounts are only eligible to receive deposits from a sponsor for the purpose outlined in the award/agreement document.

University Support Program accounts can only receive deposits in accordance with the revenue source specified in the Request to Establish Account form.

State general funds cannot be held by UEI; therefore, State general funds are not allowed for deposit. Gifts and donations are typically deposited into University Foundation at Sacramento State (UFSS) accounts. UFSS contracts with UEI for management of gift accounts.

How soon can I begin working on a project and expending funds?

A grant or contract typically has an approved start date. Work can begin on a project once a completed Proposal Approval Form (PAF) is on file, a fully executed award or contract has been received by UEI from the sponsor, and any protocols for human subjects or animal care have been approved.

What types of expenditures are allowed?

Grant/contract accounts may only expend funds in accordance with the sponsor approved purpose and budget.

 University Support Program accounts may only expend funds in accordance with the purpose specified in the Request to Establish Account form.

Funds must be used for their intended purposes and expensed from the appropriate account.

How do I expend funds?

Reimbursement of or payment for expenditures are processed using a Check Request or Purchase Order Request form. Travel reimbursements are submitted on a Travel Claim form. Forms are available on the UEI Sponsored Programs Administration website.

Who has authority to expend from the account(s) I oversee?

The PI and any other campus/project personnel the PI grants authority to on the Signature Authorization form. Department Chairs and College Deans also have universal signing authority on all accounts under their purview.

What are Sacramento State’s current federally negotiated F&A rates?

Per the rate agreement dated July 11, 2014, the F&A rates for the University and University Enterprises, Inc. (UEI) are as follows: 

                  On-campus
                  July 2015 – June 2017                     41% of Modified Total Direct Costs (MTDC)
                  July 2017 – June 2019                     42% of Modified Total Direct Costs (MTDC)

                  Off-Campus
                  Our off-campus rate continues to be 22% of Modified Total Direct Costs (MTDC).

On multi-year projects, the proposed start date of each budget period will determine the rate that is budgeted for that year.  For example, if you have a three year project and the proposed start date is September 1, 2015, F&A should be budgeted at 41%  in  Years 1 and 2, and 42% in Year 3 (begin date 9/1/17).   

A project is considered off campus if the activity is conducted at locations other than in University or UEI-owned or operated facilities and indirect costs associated with physical plant and library are not considered applicable to the project.

Federally negotiated F&A costs, also known as indirect costs, are charged against modified total direct costs (MTDC). MTDC consist of all salaries and wages, fringe benefits, materials, supplies, services, travel, and subgrants and subcontracts up to the first $25,000 (regardless of the period covered by the subgrant or subcontract). Modified total direct costs exclude equipment, capital expenditures, charges for patient care, tuition remission, rental costs of off-site facilities, scholarships, and fellowships as well as the portion of each subgrant and subcontract in excess of $25,000. At Sacramento State equipment is defined as an item having an acquisition cost of $3,000 or more and a useful life of over one year.

What is F&A?

F&A costs are costs incurred for common or joint objectives and therefore are not readily identifiable with a particular sponsored project, instructional program or other institutional activity. Due to the nature of the costs, F&A is generally stated in proposal budgets as a percentage of direct costs.

F&A costs are those expenses associated with maintaining the infrastructure of universities. F&A recoveries go toward the support of research, instructional, and public service projects that receive external funds, e.g., grants and contracts.

The facilities portion of F&A includes utilities, custodial services, plant operations such as heating and cooling services, and maintenance expenses.

The administrative portion of F&A includes payroll and accounting services, office supplies, departmental administration, procurement services, library services, and sponsored projects administration.

F&A costs are an integral part of the proposed budget and are not “taken off the top” of an award. As expenditures are made during the course of a project, the corresponding amount of F&A is charged. The institution only collects F&A allotted on the direct costs expended during the life of a project.

Why is F&A charged on grants and contracts?

F&A cost recovery recognizes that the work on the grant or contract is being conducted through the University—whether on or off campus—using University resources, including facilities, utilities, libraries, and administration. Using these resources is a real cost which, if not reimbursed, would adversely impact department budgets and university resources. Sponsoring agencies recognize this and are willing to cover the cost for use of these resources. Research Affairs is responsible for ensuring that these indirect—but real—costs are included in proposed grant and contract budgets when permissible.

How is our F&A rate determined?

The federal government recognizes that it is not possible to accurately capture all organizational costs that are allocable to a particular project. Guidelines in the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (Uniform Guidance), 2 CFR 200, define a process for grouping costs into specified cost pools, which are then distributed to appropriate activities in a cost allocation process. Once the cost allocations are made, negotiations take place between Sacramento State and our cognizant agency, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to negotiate our federal indirect cost rates. Rates are generally renegotiated every four to five years.

How does Sacramento State’s F&A cost rates compare to rates at other major universities?

Sacramento State´s F&A rates are below average when compared to similar institutions across the nation. F&A rates vary from university to university ranging from 30% to 70%. There are numerous factors that account for differences in F&A rates, including costs of heating and cooling, age of buildings, amount of administrative activity devoted to research management, need for replacement of research equipment, and the balance between research and instruction on campus. In addition, some state institutions choose to bear a greater share of research costs than others.

Will adding F&A to my budget hurt the chances of my project being funded?

F&A costs are only one part of a proposal budget. By itself, the inclusion of F&A will not affect a proposal’s competitiveness. The substance of a proposal is far more important factor in determining whether a project is funded than the inclusion of F&A. This is true for two reasons. First, funding agencies recognize that F&A is a real cost and do not discriminate against institutions that include F&A. Second, other applicants will be including F&A costs in their budgets as well.

Funders not willing to pay full F&A will typically indicate this at the proposal stage or work with prospective grantees to revise the budget prior to making an award. If a sponsor has a published policy limiting use of our full F&A rate, a copy of the published policy will serve as sufficient justification for budgeting at a lower rate.

How are recovered F&A costs distributed across campus?

Recovered F&A costs are used for many purposes throughout the University. Uses of recovered F&A include:

  • Supplemental funding for internal grant competitions such as the RCA Faculty Awards program
  • Research Incentive Funds allocated to college deans and principal investigators
  • General research administration support including grant accounting, proposal submission, payroll and personnel, purchasing, clerical support, and other expenses associated with managing research and educational projects.

What are "forgone" or unrecovered F&A costs?

When a grant or contract is accepted that does not reimburse F&A costs at the full negotiated rate, the difference is called “forgone” or unrecovered F&A. Because the University and UEI must still support the infrastructure that enables faculty to attract funding and conduct projects, the university and/or UEI funds bear the cost of unrecovered F&A.

Why don’t some sponsors pay F&A costs?

Private foundations, nonprofits, and charitable organizations are often looking to help support programs, but not cover the entire costs of a project. This allows them to leverage their funding with other sources of support. Such funders typically limit the amount they will allow for F&A and will typically indicate this at the proposal stage or work with prospective grantees to revise the budget prior to making an award. Some federal programs, e.g., educational training grants, establish F&A restrictions for many of the same reasons as charitable organizations. If a sponsor has a published policy limiting use of our full F&A rate, a copy of the published policy will serve as sufficient justification for budgeting at a lower rate.

Does the F&A rate on my proposal affect the services or assistance that I receive?

All projects receive the same services regardless of the F&A recovered from the sponsor.