Reading a solicitation can be a time-consuming and overwhelming process, yet it is critical as the solicitation is the primary guide to creating and writing a successful proposal. All of the sponsor's priorities should be referred to in the solicitation and should be responded to in the proposal to reduce the risk of proposal rejection. Here are some tips and tricks for finding these key pieces of information within the solicitation.
Pay close attention to formatting requirements including but not limited to the following:
- File size
- File type (PDF, Excel, Word)
- Font size
- Font type
- Page limits
Pay close attention to the following eligibility requirements:
- Limited submission
- PI experience or specialty
- Required capabilities or institutional resources
Make sure to read whether there are special requirements or exclusions as well as additional compliance requirements.
There are many names for solicitations and funding opportunities. Here are some of the most common ones:
|BAA||Broad Agency Announcement |
|FOA|| Funding Opportunity Announcement|
|NOF(O)||Notice of Funding (Opportunity)|
|PON||Program Opportunity Notice|
|RFA||Request for Applications|
|RFP||Request for Proposal|
Sponsor-specific Guidance: Federal Government Solicitations
Smart Tip: Use the search function on each solicitation. Enter “CTRL F” to activate the key word search on any document type.
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
These tips refer to the most common type of NIH grant solicitation, the R01.
- Part 1. Overview Information: Scroll down until you get to Key Dates.
- Take note of the Open Date, Application Due Date(s), and the Expiration Date.
- Continue scrolling to the Table of Contents. There are clickable links that will take you directly the sections outline below.
- Part 2: Full Text of Announcement—from the Table of Contents, click on these sections or scroll down or to find them:
- Section II: Award Information—Any special instructions will be found here (e.g., funding ceiling)
- Section III: Eligibility Information—Read this section carefully to determine eligibility requirements for both the PI and the institution.
- Section IV: Application and Submission Information—
- Pay special attention to Part 2: Content and Form of Application Submission as this is where the formatting information can be found. Make sure to bookmark the link to the Table of Page Limits which can be found under the heading “Page Limitations”.
- Read Part 4: Submission Dates and Times in this section.
- Section VII: Agency Contacts. If you have questions for the sponsor, call or email them using the information provided here. Although these email addresses look generic, they will connect you to a real person. The federal sponsors want to hear from the PI about the science of their project. Make sure to copy your UCSD SPO on your communication with the sponsor.
National Science Foundation (NSF)
These solicitations can be quite long and repetitive. Here are tips to make it easier to find what you need.
- Table of Contents—there are clickable links that will quickly take you to the following sections:
- Section III—Read this section carefully as it contains award information, submission dates and instructions
- Section IV—Eligibility Information
- Section V—Proposal Information and Submission Instructions: This section often includes formatting information and a Submission Checklist. Pay special attention to how titles should be formatted and any supplemental documents.
- Section VIII—Agency Contacts: The NSF encourages you to contact them. Don’t forget to copy your UCSD SPO.
Department of Defense (DOD)
DOD is different from NIH and NSF in that the solicitations do not follow a standard format and vary depending on the funding branch within the DOD. Solicitations can be found online at Grants.gov, but they differ from the two types above in that you must download the PDF of the solicitation. These can also be quite lengthy—anywhere from 20 to 200 pages, but the PDF is usually clickable, so you can jump from the Table of Contents to the key sections.
The best way to find eligibility, formatting, special instructions and contacts on DOD solicitations is to use the search function within the document. You can access this by entering “CTRL” + “F”. Once that window pops up, enter key words such as “eligibility” or “eligible” to determine PI and institutional eligibility. When looking for key dates, try searching for “dates”, “deadlines” or any other synonyms. With DOD solicitations, you will need to be flexible and creative when searching for the key pieces of information on the solicitation.
Sponsor-specific Guidance: Non-Government Solicitations
This category includes nonprofit, industry/for-profit, foreign institutions, institutions of higher learning and UC Programs. These solicitations tend to be more straightforward than government solicitations. Just look for key words related to formatting, eligibility and special instructions.
- UC Programs are not the same as a state program; they are their own category. UC Programs refers to solicitations put forth by the UC Office of the President (UCOP).
- Other University of California (UC) schools are considered institutions of higher learning, not UC Programs.
- Agency contacts are typically listed at the end of every solicitation. This tells you who to contact at the sponsor when you have questions. Make sure to engage your officers early and often throughout proposal development. When contacting them, always copy your OCGA officer in your communications.
- Who’s my UCSD Contracts and Grants officer?
- Verify the solicitation number with PI. If you have any doubts, contact your UCSD SPO for verification.
- Pay attention to the language regarding how much funding they are allowing.
- For example, “at least $500,000 in direct costs” is different from “up to $500,000 in direct costs.”
Up to = ceiling (maximum) At least = floor (minimum)