Get Started Writing a Grant

Though there are several types of grant agencies and a myriad of grants within those agencies with different requirements, this section of the OSP website is geared toward elements common to nearly all grants.  Whether you are looking for help with a narrative, a budget, or some other aspect of a grant, you should be able to find an example or template here that will be of assistance.  If you are looking for a specific grant element and do not see it here, please  contact and let us know!

Often times, faculty may wish to undertake an activity which requires resources beyond what is available through the University. Such activities might include research, curriculum development, public service, or outreach programs. In these instances, faculty can approach external funding sources, such as government agencies and private foundations, for support. Such support might include:

  • provisions for release time from normal duties to conduct professional development or curriculum reform and pedagogical improvement activities;
  • summer support to engage in the same activities;
  • equipment acquisition;
  • support for tuition and stipends for undergraduate and graduate students;
  • and/or travel funds either for attending professional meetings or for conducting professional meetings.

Funding Basics


Funds that Bradley receives from outside sources are defined as either sponsored projects or gifts. It is important to determine what category one’s project falls under, since the University handles sponsored projects differently than gifts. OSP processes proposals that qualify as sponsored projects. Requests for gifts from external sources are coordinated through the Advancement Office.

Sponsored Projects

Sponsored projects are established when funds are awarded to the University by external sources in support of research, instruction, training, or service under a written agreement. Typically a sponsored program has some of the following characteristics:

  • The agreement requires a specific line of scholarly/scientific inquiry, or the development or delivery of educational or training programs, or the providing of specific services. A proposal for such programs typically follows a plan, provides for orderly testing or evaluation, or seeks to meet stated performance goals.
  • The agreement commits specific University resources and/or staff for the fulfillment of the sponsor’s objectives.
  • The sponsor requires a line item budget that identifies expenses by activity, function, or project period.
  • The agreement creates an obligation to report project results, or dispose of tangible or intangible properties resulting from the project. Examples of tangible properties include equipment, records, technical reports, theses, or dissertations. Intangible properties include rights in data, copyrights, or inventions.
  • The agreement requires fiscal accountability as evidenced by the submission of financial reports to the sponsor, an audit provision, or the return of unexpended funds at the conclusion of the project.
  • The award instrument is a written agreement that binds the University to a set of terms and conditions and requires endorsement of appropriate University administrators.
  • The agreement seeks considerations such as indemnification or imposes other terms that require legal accountability.


In general, projects funded by federal, state, and local government agencies, as well as those from corporations, are sponsored programs. Foundations also provide funding for sponsored programs.


Gift accounts are established when funds from outside sources are free of the constraints or obligations of sponsored projects as described above. Gifts to the University normally do not require line item budgets, specified principal investigator(s), or deliverables, and the donor would have no special rights regarding the outcome(s) of the activities funded by the gift account. The acceptance of a gift usually precludes financial accounting and reporting by the University. Normally, funds provided by individuals are gifts; this includes endowments and scholarship contributions.

At times it may be difficult to ascertain the status of an externally funded activity, particularly when solicitation is from a foundation. In these cases, a determination of the status as being a sponsored project or a gift will be made jointly by the Controller’s Office, the Advancement Office, and OSP.

Program Types

In general, sponsored projects are awarded in one of four forms:

  • Grants,
  • Contracts,
  • Cooperative Agreements,
  • and Fellowships.


A grant is an award of funds included in a written instrument executed by the head of the awarding agency or his/her duly authorized representative. Generally, grants have the following characteristics:

  • they are made for stated purposes;
  • the purposes are specified in writing;
  • they are usually made for a stated period of time during which funds may be spent;
  • the grant instrument names the Principal Investigator or Project Director under whose direction the project will be carried out;
  • the grant carries a minimum number of limited conditions which are stated in the award document;
  • and the most minimal conditions are generally the requirement of final fiscal and project reports, but conditions are frequently more extensive than this.


A contract is “an agreement between two or more people to do something, especially one formally set forth in writing and enforceable by law.” In the simplest sense then, a grant, as defined previously, is a form of a contract. Certainly a good research and development contract has all the characteristics of a grant. On a functional level, however, a contract differs from a grant in the following respects: (1) The terms of the contract tend to be spelled out in greater detail, (2) The activities supported by the contract are frequently dictated by the grantor or sponsor rather than being generated by the applicant or grantee, (3) The applicant is generally given less latitude to modify the scope of the agreed upon activities and/or the expenditure of funds provided by the contractor, (4) A greater number of terms of conditions are included in a contract, and (5) There is a greater likelihood that the contractor, through its technical representatives, will be directly involved in the day-to-day conduct of the project.

The principal differences between a grant and/or contract and a cooperative agreement is the way in which the statement of work is spelled out. In the case of a grant, the statement of work is usually defined by reference to your proposal. This may also be the case for a contract. Alternatively, the statement of work may be defined with some degree of specificity in the contract instrument itself. In a cooperative agreement, however, the statement of work tends to be more open-ended; details are filled in during the term of the funded project by mutual agreement between the sponsor and the recipient. A cooperative agreement is necessary in instances where it is difficult, if not impossible, at the outset of a project to anticipate most contingencies and define the full parameters of the activity.

As already suggested, grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements, in most instances, are awarded to institutions, not individuals. Institutional recipients are ultimately accountable for the outcomes of the project and for the proper expenditure of the project funds. Fellowships (and Scholarships), in contrast, are often awarded to individuals. While universities receive and administer fellowship awards on behalf of students or faculty, the recipient of a fellowship frequently enjoys a one-to-one relationship with his/her sponsor and is personally (though no less) accountable for the appropriate deployment of resources.