Putting Together a Proposal

OCFR supports widespread engagement between faculty and funding organizations (with a few notable exceptions). We encourage you to pursue such opportunities and to let our team know when you are engaging with a foundation or corporation.

When you are ready to consider a proposal to a foundation or corporation, here are some resources and insight to assist you along the way.

Letters of Inquiry

Many foundations and corporations require a letter of inquiry (LOI) as a first step in the proposal process as part of their process for choosing grants to fund. After reviewing the applicant’s LOI, the funder will decide whether or not they wish to request a full proposal.

An LOI should be a concise (2-3 pages) but thorough presentation of the need or problem you have identified, the proposed solution, and your qualifications for implementing that solution. Similar to a full proposal, an LOI should include an introduction:

  • Amount of funding requested
  • Statement of need and your proposed solution
  • Discussion of methodology/activities
  • Description of the organization and qualifications for undertaking this project
  • List of other prospective funders for the project
  • Contact information for the prospective project director

The OCFR staff is happy to provide editorial assistance and input as you develop an LOI.

Notifying OCFR

OCFR asks that you notify our office when you are engaging a foundation or company. This enables us to provide you with the broader context of Rice’s relationship to that organization and mitigate potential conflict with other Rice activities.

Preparing a proposal

A company or foundation may require the submission of a proposal as the first step in soliciting support or may invite you to submit a full proposal after responding favorably to your LOI.

Before writing the full proposal, carefully review the guidelines and deadlines for the company’s or foundation’s grant program. Should you have any questions about the requirements, please feel free to contact OCFR for assistance.

The proposal will vary in length depending on the funder and will often be accompanied by various institutional documents. Proposals tend to include: an executive summary, statement of need, description of the proposed project, organizational background and qualifications, budget, and conclusion.

The following websites offer guidance around proposal-writing.

Guide from the Minnesota Council on Foundations

Grant-writing Tools for Non-Profits

University of Michigan's Proposal Writing Guide

We recommend that you seek feedback on your proposal from multiple sources, including those within and outside of your field of expertise. The OCFR staff is, of course, happy to help in drafting a proposal and/or providing feedback.

Increasingly, both foundations and companies are employing online systems for the submission of inquiries and proposals, as well as for the submission of grant reports. In many cases, OCFR manages the master account for this purpose.

Cayuse and SPARC

Every grant proposal at Rice must be entered into Cayuse before the grant is awarded or rejected. If it is awarded, SPARC uses the Cayuse record to accept the award, process it and pass it along to RCA, who establishes a new restricted fund. For consultation on proposal budgets, our office recommends that you consult with your departmental partners and our colleagues in SPARC. Your SPACR pre-award administrator can assist you in starting the Cayuse SP proposal and discuss the components of the proposal. You can contact your SPARC Grant Specialist at any time with any question related to your grant proposal.

All proposals must include overhead (also referred to as F&A or indirect costs) as part of the budget. The Vice Provost of Research is the ultimate authority on the appropriate rate, but typically will abide by a foundation’s written policy or, absent that, OCFR’s judgment. In the case of companies, the Vice Provost of Research has established a sliding scale, depending on the nature of the proposed work. Exceptions to the industry scale must be requested via a formal process, which includes the completion of an Indirect Cost Waiver form. Approval for a reduced or waived F&A must be obtained prior to submission of a proposal, contract, or final negotiated budget. The university will not consider F&A waiver requests for (after-the-fact) proposals/awards not submitted to SPARC for review and approval prior to submission to the sponsor.