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Budget Writing

The items in a proposal budget can be divided into three broad categories: Direct Costs, Indirect Costs, and Matching Contributions.

The budget can be a very complicated section to tackle when writing your proposal. OSP and the Controller's Office are ready to assist you in preparing your project's budget. This section examines the basic components of a budget to give you a general understanding of what should be included and why.

NOTE: Most program sponsors specify how the budget should be presented, with the exception of fellowships. The fiscal policies of sponsors as well as the University change periodically, so OSP should be consulted early in the budget planning process.

The budget should reflect all the anticipated costs of the project. Proposal reviewers generally use the budget as one criteria to determine whether or not the investigator is fully aware of the requirements of the program. Agencies are unlikely to fund a proposal that purports to do too much with too little money and vice-versa. If the agency has a limit on grant requests, adjust the scope or target of your proposal to fit the resources you may obtain.

Direct costs

A costs directly attributed to the project (i.e. salaries, travel, supplies) and must be covered in any research project. Following are the main categories of direct costs, and Bradley policies concerning them.


Compensation requested for personnel from the funding agency must be for actual time devoted to the activity.

Faculty (Senior Personnel)

Your department may consider your participation in sponsored program activities as part of your normal or reasonable faculty load, in which case your salary is your compensation for sponsored program activities during the period of appointment. If your participation in such activities is considered beyond a normal load, you may seek compensation through a variety of mechanisms as described below. When compensated for a sponsored project, the project directors are expected to be in full time residence at Bradley, unless otherwise indicated in the proposal.

Release time from normal duties during the academic year. Release time refers to the freeing of a part of an individual's time from regular duties to carry out the sponsored activity. Release time can be budgeted for any employee, not just faculty members. It is the mechanism by which a department and the University can be reimbursed directly for faculty and staff time devoted to externally funded sponsored projects. Prior to budgeting release time, you need to contact your Department Chair for the appropriate arrangement.

There are two types of release time - that for which the sponsor pays and that for which the University pays (matching contributions). Sponsor-paid release time funds are shared by the department and college.

To calculate the amount to be budgeted for your release time, you need to determine what percentage of your time will be devoted to the activity. For example, if you need to be released from one course during each semester (1/4 or 25% release time), then you need to ask for 1/4 of your academic salary in your budget. This example assumes a 4 course teaching load each semester.

Summer support

For federally funded projects, the monthly rate of compensation is 1/9 of the 9 month contract total, if you are on an "academic year" (9 months) appointment, and 1/12 of the full-year contract total, if you hold a 12-month appointment. Other agencies may have different policies and in those cases the University policy on extra compensation will apply.

Extra Compensation

The Faculty Handbook describes the University's Extra Compensation Policy.

Student Research Assistants

Salaries and stipends for graduate and undergraduate student assistants must be identified in the budget. To budget for student help you need to specify:

the total number of hours for the project, or the percentage of time (full or part time) for each student's rate of pay for each student, noting that salaries must be at least minimum wage.

Students may receive stipends and tuition from a sponsored project. The sponsored project duties are in addition to their course and thesis work as students. Undergraduate students typically are not assigned work loads of over 10 hours per week during the academic year. Graduate students may be classified as full-time (20 hours) or part-time (10 hours). Graduate student assistantships generally are a combination of tuition remission and stipend. Graduate student stipends are generally set by departments or colleges, and you should budget accordingly. Contact the Graduate School for graduate tuition and stipend amounts. Depending on the sponsor guidelines and indirect cost policy, a graduate student may have to pay tuition and fees or may receive a fee waiver.

Secretaries and Technicians

Secretarial and technical assistants are generally compensated on an hourly basis. If they are Bradley employees, their compensation rate is governed by the applicable University policy.

Fringe Benefits

For every salary charged to the sponsor for Bradley University personnel, related fringe benefit charges must be budgeted as well. Employee benefits include such items as FICA, insurance, retirement plan contributions, etc. These amounts must be charged to the grant in relation to the salaries that are given. Fringe benefits are  currently calculated at 25% for full-time employee wages (including grants, contracts, etc.) and 10.0% for Part-time employees and extra compensation/summer and winter interims for full-time Bradley University  employees. Fringe benefits for employees are not waived in grant proposals where they are an allowable cost. However, fringe benefits are not calculated against undergraduate and graduate student salaries.


Each major item of equipment should be described in the budget and justified in the proposal. Equipment is defined in accordance with federal regulations (OMB A-21 Circular). To be classified as equipment, an item must meet all of the following criteria:

  • have an acquisition cost of at least $1,000
  • have a useful life of more than one year
  • not be expended or consumed in research
  • be complete in itself and retain its identity as a separate item.

Allowable equipment is equipment not already available through the University. Freight charges should be included in the purchase price of the equipment. Maintenance, lease and rental contracts, equipment repair and fabrication should be budgeted separately. If any equipment requires special space needs, maintenance and/or staffing beyond the grant period, permission for continued support for these needs must be obtained before submission of the grant. Title to equipment purchased for sponsored projects should remain with the University.


Consultants' or lecturers' expenses, including fees, travel, per diem, lodging, and other expenses while staying in Peoria on Bradley business, should be included in the budget. Consultants should be named and their organizational affiliation identified. The nature and extent of their service to the project may have to be justified in a written narrative. Federal and University regulations generally do not permit payment of consulting fees to our own employees from sponsored projects. If University faculty and staff are needed on a sponsored project, they should be considered part of the personnel budget and their salaries budgeted accordingly.

Materials and Supplies

The types of expendable equipment and supplies required should be indicated, with estimated costs. If substantial funds are required for supplies, you should offer a detailed breakdown of these items in the proposal, and give justification. Examples of items to include in this section are:

Lab supplies such as chemicals, glassware, disposables, histology supplies; Office supplies, questionnaires, and test materials; Animals: including purchase, shipping, housing and maintenance; Small equipment items such as hot plates, power supplies, water baths; Materials for equipment fabrication; and/or Instructional materials.


Travel, both domestic and foreign, is often a necessary part of a sponsored project. Transportation and per diem costs should be budgeted in accordance with the University's approved travel reimbursement rates, but also take into consideration any special sponsor requirements (for example, that a US airline should be used for foreign travel if possible).

Clearly state the reasons why travel is necessary for the project. Special permission from agencies may be needed for foreign or out-of-state travel. Allowances for air travel normally will not exceed round-trip jet economy-air accommodations. In general, only people directly involved with the project may travel on grant funds. Examples of expenses to include in this section are:

Attendance at professional meetings, including air fare or mileage, hotel and meal costs, and registration; Field work, including vehicle, mileage charges, field station fees and living expenses; Travel to sponsor-required meetings or to consult with experts; and/or Local travel for interviewers, outreach personnel.


If some part of your project must be performed by colleagues at another university or by an outside company, a subcontract will be issued for the work.

A complete proposal (budget and technical information) should be requested from the prospective subcontractor. This proposal should be signed by an official authorized to enter into contractual agreements for the subcontractor. It may be necessary to solicit subcontract bids from several firms or organizations, including minority-owned or small business firms. If it is necessary to consider only a single source, a sole source justification may be required before the University can enter into an arrangement with that firm.

The subcontract proposal will be incorporated into your proposal to the sponsor. At no time before receipt of the award should a commitment be made or implied to a subcontractor. Commitments will be negotiated with a subcontractor only after the sponsor has awarded Bradley the contract or grant.

If you are contacted by someone at another institution about being a subcontractor on a project, talk with OSP before sending a proposal to the prime contractor. Subcontract proposals are treated in exactly the same way as any other proposal to an off campus sponsor, and the university routing procedure must be followed.