Grant and Contract Related FAQs

I. General FAQs:

I.1. What services are available to faculty and departmental staff?

I.2. How do I locate my Sponsored Research Officer (SRO) or account administrator?

I.3. Who should I contact for assistance—Research Affairs or the Development Office?

I.4. How do I determine if my project is a gift or a grant?

I.5. Who Can Serve as a Principal Investigator (PI) at Sacramento State?

I.6. What is the Role of the Principal Investigator?

I.7. What is the difference between a Co-Principal Investigator, a Co-investigator, and a Project Director?

I.8. Why is University Enterprises, Inc. listed as the applicant organization on my proposal?

I.9. When would my funding be administered by the University Foundation at Sacramento State (UFSS)?

II. Proposal Preparation and Submission:

II.1. When should I let Research Affairs know that I'm planning to submit a proposal?

II.2. Can I get a copy of a successful proposal?

II.3. Are there templates available to help me create my budget and justification?

II.4. Can another Sacramento State faculty member be a consultant on my grant or contract?

II.5. Where can I obtain basic info and statistics on Sacramento State for my proposal?

II.6. What are the current fringe benefit rates?

II.7. What is the University’s facilities and administrative (F&A) cost or indirect rate?

II.8. What are matching funds and cost sharing?

II.9. What is our institutional policy on matching funds and cost sharing?

II.10. What needs to happen before my proposal can be submitted?

II.11. Are there any institutional sign offs or approvals that need to be obtained before submitting my proposal?

II.12. Why is a proposal approval form (PAF) necessary?

II.13. When should I begin the Proposal Approval Form (PAF) process?

II.14. Who is authorized to sign and submit grant and contract proposals on behalf of the University?

III. After Proposal Submission:

III.1. How do I learn the status of my proposal?

III.2. What are my next steps if my proposal was unsuccessful?

III.3. My proposal has been funded, now what?

IV. Account Administration and Award Management:

IV.1. Why are grant awards and contracts made to University Enterprises, Inc.(UEI)?

IV.2. What types of accounts are administered by University Enterprises, Inc. (UEI)?

IV.3. Can I deposit funds of any type into UEI accounts?

IV.4. How soon can I begin working on a project and expending funds?

IV.5. What types of expenditures are allowed?

IV.6. How do I expend funds?

IV.7. Who has authority to expend from the account(s) I oversee?

V. Facilities and Administrative (F&A) Cost Rate:

V.1. What are Sacramento State’s current federally negotiated F&A rates?

V.2. What is F&A?

V.3. Why is F&A charged on grants and contracts?

V.4. How is our F&A rate determined?

V.5. How does Sacramento State’s F&A cost rates compare to rates at other major universities?

V.6. Will adding F&A to my budget hurt the chances of my project being funded?

V.7. How are recovered F&A costs distributed across campus?

V.8. What are "forgone" or unrecovered F&A costs?

V.9. Why don’t some sponsors pay F&A costs?

V.10. Does the F&A rate on my proposal affect the services or assistance that I receive?

I.1 Visit our services page for more on assistance with finding funding, developing a proposal and administering your account.

I.2 Visit our contacts page for details on who assists your department/unit with proposal development and account administration related-activities.

I.3 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. The Office of Advancement/Development pursues and accepts gifts and philanthropic donations in support of the institution.

I.4 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.

I.5  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.

I.6   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.

I.7. What is the difference between a Co-Principal Investigator, a Co-investigator, and a Project Director?
A 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. 

A 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.

A 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.

I.8 UEI is the campus auxiliary organization authorized to accept and administer all externally funded grants and contracts on behalf of Sacramento State.

I.9 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.

II.1 As soon as you’ve made the decision to apply, contact your Sponsored Research Officer. The earlier we know that you are working on a submission, the more proposal development assistance we can provide.

II.2 Research Affairs has sample proposals available upon request through your Sponsored Research Officer. 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.

II.3 Yes, visit our Budget Development section for a template. Your Sponsored Research Officer is also available to develop your budget and ensure that it meets institutional policies, funder guidelines, and Cost Accounting Standards.

II.4 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.

II.5 Visit the University Data Center or Quick Facts page for data and narrative on Sacramento State.

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

II.6 Visit our Institutional Information and Data page for current rates for various personnel classifications.

 II.7 Effective as of 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)

II.8 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.

II.9 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.

II.10 A 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.

2) All proposal elements must be provided to your Sponsored Research Officer 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.

II.11 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.

II.12 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.

II.13 The proposal approval process can be initiated with assistance of your Sponsored Research Officer (SRO) once a brief abstract and a draft budget have been prepared.

II.14 The Assistant Vice President for Research Affairs, David Earwicker, has been delegated the authority to sign and submit proposals on behalf of the University.

III.1 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 Sponsored Research Officer for assistance.

III.2 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 Sponsored Research Officer to request reviewer comments if not automatically received and discuss possible re-submission.

III.3 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.

IV.1 UEI is the campus auxiliary organization authorized to accept and administer all externally funded grants and contracts on behalf of Sacramento State.

IV.2 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.

IV.3. 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.

IV.4 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.

IV.5. 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.

IV.6 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 at

IV.7. You and any other campus/project personnel you grant authority to on the Signature Authorization form. Department Chairs and College Deans also have universal signing authority on all accounts under their purview.

V.1 Per the rate agreement dated July 11, 2014, the F&A rates for the University and University Enterprises, Inc. (UEI) are as follows: 

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

                  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.

V.2 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.

V.3 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.

V.4 The federal government recognizes that it is not possible to accurately capture all organizational costs that are allocable to a particular project. Guidelines in OMB Circular A-21 (2 CFR, Part 220), Cost Principles for Educational Institutions, 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 three to four years.

V.5 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.

V.6 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.

V.7 Recovered F&A costs are used for many purposes throughout the University. Much of the funds are returned to the college deans and principal investigators. Uses of F&A include:

  • University programs including the UEI Faculty Grants 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 running research and educational projects.

V.8 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.

V.9 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.

V.10. All projects receive the same services regardless of the F&A recovered from the sponsor.

Human Subjects FAQ