How to Apply

Applying for an External Grant: Proposal Submission

This is a brief "starter" overview for those not fluent in the grant submission process. More-detailed information can be found at the Office of Research Administratrion/Sponsored Research website and in the Research Policy Handbook.

External funders to which you apply for grants typically have specific guidelines about the proposal submission process. In addition, Stanford has its own guidelines.

Office of Sponsored Research (OSR)
OSR must review and sign off on all grant proposals before they are submitted to the funder, whether a government entity or a private foundation. At a minimum, you will need to submit your narrative proposal (a.k.a. statement of work), budget, and a Proposal Development & Routing Form (PDRF) to OSR.

The principal investigator (PI) must have PI status at Stanford, which is limited to Academic Council members and Medical Center Line faculty. In some instances, a waiver may be requested and an exception may be granted. For more information, see PI eligibility.

You must submit your complete, final application with a signed PDRF form to OSR at least five days in advance of the funder's deadline to allow time for review. OSR may request revisions if there are problems with your application, especially regarding the budget. Please allow time to respond to OSR's inquiries and make revisions as required.

Prior to submission to OSR, you may also need to allow extra time for review by your department, school, or the Dean of Research office, depending on your reporting structure.

Your unit's OSR contact can be found here, or you may check with your department administrator. Your department administrator may also be able to help you with the PDRF.

Private Foundation Grants
To coordinate multiple funding requests and follow stipulations of certain foundations, application to some private foundations is restricted and must be approved via a clearance process.

For foundations that are not on the restricted list, you are not required to obtain clearance. University Foundation Relations would nonetheless welcome hearing from you about proposals you will be submitting to private foundations, regardless of restricted status.

All foundation grant proposals must be submitted to Stanford's Office of Sponsored Research (OSR) for review before being submitted to the foundation. Allow at least five days for OSR review.

If you would like assistance with proposals to private foundations, please contact Kathy Veit in the Office of University Foundation Relations. This office can advise about and review drafts of your letter of inquiry, your narrative proposal, or other elements of the application, and can provide other support materials that are sometimes required. University Foundation Relations may also be able to provide information about specific foundations.

Government Grants
To submit grant applications to government funders, you will need to work directly with the Office of Sponsored Research (OSR) rather than with the Foundation Relations office.

OSR requires five days to review your final proposal. However, in some cases with federal grants, you will need to work closely with OSR on various elements of the submission process (e.g., using required online application systems such as For this you should contact OSR earlier in the process, several weeks in advance of the funder deadline.

It will clarify thinking about the work and scope of your project if you start with the budget . The  budget determines the project work, and therefore shapes  the direction of the narrative proposal. It is also often the first thing a foundation program officer or board reviews.

A common mistake is to put off the budget until after you’re well into preparing the proposal. Budget requirements often present unanticipated problems that will take time to resolve before final submission.  Budget questions may also arise during OSR review.

For assistance in budget preparation, contact your department administrator or financial analyst. Martha Langill in the H&S Dean’s Office may also be of help in reviewing budgets for H&S faculty.

Highlighted below are two budget elements you will need to take into consideration: IDC and ISC.  
[More about budgets from the Office of Research Administration]

  • Indirect Costs (IDC):

Your budget should include indirect costs at Stanford’s full Facilities and Administration (F&A) rate unless you have an exemption or an approved waiver. Also known as the indirect cost rate or IDC, this rate is calculated on the total direct costs in your budget.

Federal government grant proposal budgets (with some exceptions, e.g. fellowships) should include IDC at the current federally-negotiated Stanford rates: 60.5% for research, 57.5% for instruction, 61.6% for other activity.

Private foundations’ policies typically do not allow IDC at the full federal rate. If the foundation does not allow any IDC, or does not allow IDC at the full federal rate, its policy may be on Stanford’s indirect cost waiver list, which permits you to submit your budget to OSR with IDC at the rate allowed by the foundation.

If the private foundation is not on Stanford’s waiver list, you should inquire with the foundation about their IDC policy. A foundation’s official written policy (or statement in the RFP) regarding IDC is normally acceptable to Stanford, and should be submitted along with your proposal and other materials to OSR. If the foundation’s policy is not published, you will need to contact the Assistant Dean of Research to satisfy requirements for the foundation’s IDC rate. A waiver of indirect costs does not waive Stanford’s infrastructure charge.

If the private foundation to which you are applying does not allow IDC, you will need to find internal funds to cover Stanford’s 8% infrastructure charge (see below).   If the foundation pays any percentage of IDC, you do not need to cover the infrastructure charge. 

IDC is calculated not on your total budget, but on your modified total direct costs (MTDC). Some budget items (e.g. tuition, equipment) are excluded from modified total direct costs and therefore are exempt from IDC. 

IDC must be included in (not added on top of) the maximum total grant amount allowed by the funder. To determine how much project money you will have after IDC is deducted, take the total grant amount and divide by 1.X, where X = IDC rate. (E.g.,  a $100,000 grant proposal with a 60% IDC rate yields not $40,000 in direct costs but $62,500 in direct costs [100,000/1.6 = 62,500] for your project.) 

[More about IDC from the Office of Research Administration]
[More about IDC from the Research Policy Handbook]
[More about IDC waivers from the Research Policy Handbook]

  • Infrastructure Charge (ISC):

If the grant you are applying for does not pay indirect costs (see above), your budget must include an 8% infrastructure charge, calculated on the budget total. This fee covers infrastructure and administrative costs incurred by Stanford from externally sponsored activity. If the funder to which you are applying pays indirect costs (at any rate), you do not need to include ISC on your budget. 

If the funder does not cover indirect costs, ISC must be paid by the PI, department, center, school, or some combination thereof. You should contact deans, chairs, or other relevant administrators early on in your proposal preparation to determine who will cover this fee. The PI’s individual research fund may also cover the fee. Funds from other sponsored activities may not be used for ISC.

[More about ISC from the Office of Research Administration]

[More about ISC from the Administrative Guide]

Limited Grant Opportunities

Some funding opportunities are restricted to a limited number of applicants from a given university. In this case, an internal Stanford competition is conducted through the Office of University Foundation Relations or through the Office of the Dean of Research. These opportunities are announced to faculty, who may then respond to the RFP through the designated channels.