Pre-Award Administration

Funding Opportunity

Finding an opportunity of funding is the first place to start. Faculty can search UNC Charlotte Funding Sources Database, sponsor website, join research and funding related listservs, PIVOT, check our Special Program Glossary, or talk to the W.S. Lee College of Engineering Contracts and Grants Office to find the opportunities of funding resources.

Once you have a funding opportunity you would like to apply to, pay attention to the submission deadlines. Try to give yourself a couple of month lead-time, and allow additional time for collaborative, international, or complex proposal.

Funded Proposal Abstracts

Open Grants is a great resource of sample grants.

UNC Charlotte is subscribed to the Grants Resource Center. (Please email Joanne Zhang at for the login information.)

Once logged in, go to Funding Resources and choose Funded Proposal Library on the drop-down menu. The abstracts are organized by the funding agency. 

DOE Early Career Program Information

Abstracts of Active NSF Funded Proposals for the William States Lee College of Engineering.

Talk to Program Officer and Department Chair

Talk to the program officer when possible. Many sponsors encourage or allow prospective applicants to contact a program officer before applying. Program officers can usually advise as to whether a project idea is a potential fit for their program or whether there are other programs they are aware of that may be a better fit. Some may even give feedback on draft narratives or project abstracts.

Talk to your chair when you have identified a funding opportunity you would like to pursue, especially if it may involve course release time, commitments of University resources (space, equipment, staff) beyond those provided for in the funding request presented to the sponsor, or if cost sharing or matching is required.

Contact W.S. Lee College of Engineering Contracts and Grants Office

Once you have talked with the program officer and your department chair, you also need to contact the W.S. Lee College of Engineering Contracts and Grants Office to let them know which project you are interested in. They will give you some suggestions and help you go through the application.

Develop the Proposal

Read the funding opportunity guidelines (e.g., Call for Applications) closely and follow all sponsor requirements. While not required, sponsors may suggest the use of a particular form or format. Generally, it is the best to follow their suggestions as well as their requirements.

Proposal Submission Requirements also have detailed information for the preparation of proposals.                                                                                                

Useful Links for Preparing the Proposals:

NSF-Approved Formats for Biographical Sketch and the  Template for NSF Biosketch.

NSF-Approved Formats for Current and Pending Support and the Template for NSF Current and Pending Support

NSF-Frequently Asked Questions on Current and Pending Support-PAPPG (NSF 20-1)

Develop the Budget

Pay close attention to the sponsor’s budget guidelines, such as what can or cannot be included, specific budget line items, and limitations. The budget should be developed concurrently with the proposal narrative and other application components since what you include in the budget will be affected by the project plans and vice versa.

We strongly encourage faculty to work with W.S. Lee College of Engineering Contracts and Grants Office staff to develop the budget and budget justification documents to facilitate and expedite the process. 

Allow extra time for budgets that involve subcontracts (even more time if foreign), consultants, or cost share/matching funds.

Most collaborations between institutions outside of the University are handled via subcontracts or consulting agreements. These subcontracts or agreements need to be reviewed and approved both by Office of Research & Economic Development and by the collaborating institution before your proposal can be submitted.

Initiate the Proposal in Niner Research

NINER RESEARCH is a new integrated electronic research administration (eRA) system that will help manage UNC Charlotte’s research and research compliance activities. This system is replacing NORM. The Niner Research system provides a range of new features and tighter integration of the diverse aspects of our research enterprise, including proposal and contract administration, conflict of interest management, the use of laboratory animals, biosafety, and human subject research. 

For an overview of the launch of the Niner Research Grants Modules, please view this memo.

Online, instructor-led training sessions begin March 8 and will continue for the next 12 weeks. Training in the navigation, features, and use of the Grants modules in Niner Research is divided into four 1-hour sessions, which should be taken in sequence. Space is limited and registration through Percipio is required. Please use the links below to register for one or more of the sessions. 

Session 1: Introduction to Niner Research Grants Modules

Session 2: Proposal Development Basics

Note: Sessions three and four are not required for reviewers, approvers or faculty investigators.

Session 3: Complex Budgets and Tracking Proposals and Awards

Session 4: Awards Tracking and Agreements

Routing in Niner Research

Once a proposal is submitted in Niner Research by the college research office, it is automatically routed for approvals by the Department Chairs, Center Directors, and the Associate Dean for Research. The Niner Research approval process also involves the PI(s) certifying the proposal as entered accurately and completing a proposal-specific conflict of interest disclosure. For pre-proposals, letters of intent and proposals with limited submissions (e.g. only one or two applications allowed from each university), or proposals with unusual guidelines, please contact COEN Contracts and Grants Office for guidance on how to proceed.

The Notification from Sponsor

The notifications from sponsors vary. It is common with federal funds, such as the NSF and NIH, that it takes six to nine months to receive the notification after the application deadline. The sponsor’s guidelines may provide additional information regarding notification timeline.

If you receive a notice declining an award for your proposal, check to see if they sent reviewers’ comments and if not, request them. Based on reviewers’ comments, revise your proposal and start planning to resubmit for the next application cycle. It is very common for a proposal not to get funded the first time around, and with the benefit of reviewer input, your chances of being funded often increase for a resubmission.

If you receive an award notice, feel free to celebrate, and then contact W.S. Lee College of Engineering Contracts and Grants Office to determine the next steps. In some cases, a revised budget or other additional documents may be required before the award can be processed by the University. It normally takes 1-2 weeks from the time an award announcement is received for the funds to be fully available to start spending.

In the event that you need to start spending more quickly or if you receive notice of an incoming award but the official award notification will take some time to arrive and you need to get started, please contact the W.S. Lee College of Engineering Contracts and Grants Office and ask if Assumption of Risk (AOR) may be possible or appropriate.

Three Main Types of Awards – Gifts, Grants and Contracts

1. Gifts

  • A donation for tax purposes (no strings attached)
  • May have basic reporting requirements
  • Can also be referred to as a “grant”
  • Funding is non-governmental
  • Often managed through our organization’s Foundation Office
Gifts Sponsored Projects (Grants)
The donor may provide support for a particular activity, program area or purpose. These can include professorships, endowed chairs, scholarships, non-federal building projects, fellowships, research and instructional programs.
Sponsor requires specific deliverables (e.g. final technical report, evaluation).
The donor may require or request a brief summary of the results from the participant.
The sponsor requires performance of specific duties such as research, budget report, and progress report.
Unused Fund
Donor does not require return of unspent funds at end of gift period.
The sponsor requires return of  unexpended funds or written approval to spend beyond the
project period of re-budget funds  between line items.
Intellectual PropertyThe donor makes no claims on the patents, copyrights and other intellectual property rights that may result from activities associated with the gift.The sponsor may impose restrictions on intellectual property rights, such as prior review of publications or on use of results.
University Process
Managed through NIU Foundation or NIU Research Foundation.
Managed through  university GCA office and the COE Contracts and Grants Office, and department admins who manage grants.

2. Grants (also includes cooperative agreements)

  • Federal or non-federal sponsors
  • Solicited and unsolicited
  • Usually unilateral
  • Office of Grants and Contracts Administration Oversight

3. Contracts

  • Federal or non-federal sources
  • An agreement between two or more parties that creates an obligation to perform
  • Always bilateral (a two way transaction) requiring binding signatures from both parties
  • Office of Grants & Contracts Administration oversight
Cost Reimbursement vs. Fixed Price

Cost Reimbursement: Costs are incurred and then invoiced to the sponsor for reimbursement.
Fixed Price: Costs are based on deliverables. Payment is made on a schedule.