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Developing a Proposal Budget

Once you have decided on the major activities in your project, it is time to develop a proposal budget. SRS will help you to put the budget into the appropriate format used by the sponsoring agency.

A proposal must include a budget that details the costs required during the performance of the project. In the absence of specific sponsor or program guidelines, the cost principles for educational institutions of the Office of Management and Budget must be adhered to. The cost principles are detailed in Uniform Guidance (formerly OMB Circular A-21).

The tests of allowability of costs under these principles are:

  1. Costs must be reasonable;
  2. Costs must be allocable to the project;
  3. Costs must be given consistent treatment through the application of generally accepted accounting principles; and
  4. Costs must conform to any limitations or exclusions set forth by 2 CFR §200 (formerly A-21) principles or those of the sponsor.

Sponsors frequently set limits on costs per year or project period. In those cases, the scope of the project should be consistent with the costs available under the program. In the absence of cost limitations, costs should be consistent with the scope of the project, which in turn should be consistent with the objectives of the sponsor or program.

When drafting a budget, the general question that should be answered is: "What personnel will be expending effort on this project, and what will I need to spend in order to accomplish the goals and objectives?"

Specific questions and tips to help determine costs:

What level of effort will I be expending on the project?
Some sponsors, like NSF, prefer effort to be described in "person-months", while other sponsors, like NIH, prefer percentages of effort. It is important to differentiate between "calendar", "academic year", and "summer" effort. When calculating summer effort, please note that 100% summer effort (3 months) is represented by 33.3% of the academic year salary.

What other personnel will be expending effort on the project?

  • Co-investigators
  • Postdoctoral associates
  • Other professionals
  • Technicians
  • Programmers
  • Graduate students (see for info on GRA and stipend ranges)
  • Undergraduate students
  • Secretarial or administrative support

What equipment will I need to buy?
Please note that equipment must be for special purposes and not for general use.

What fringe benefits must be added?
Use the appropriate RIT fringe benefit rate for each position budgeted. Refer to the RIT Standard Rates for Budgets for the rates.

What domestic or foreign travel will I need to take?

  • Where is the conference or meeting?
  • What is the approximate airfare?
  • When will it take place?
  • How many persons will be attending?
  • How many days will each trip take?

Are funds needed to support participants of the project?
Participants support costs are stipends or subsistence allowances, travel allowances and registration fees paid to or on behalf of participants or trainees (but not employees) in connection with meetings, conferences, symposia or training projects.

What other direct expenses will there be?

What Facilities and Administrative costs must be added?
RIT has established rates that you need to use for your proposal budget, depending on the type of activity being conducted. Review the RIT Standard Rates for Budgets for the current Facilities and Administrative (F&A) rates.

Writing a Budget Narrative

A budget narrative is often required by the sponsor. The narrative explains the method used for estimating and calculating costs and also justifies the need for the cost.