Contracts, Grants & Cooperative Agreements
A proposal may be funded by several different means: a contract, grant, purchase order for services, or cooperative agreement, and are issued in one of two budget/payment methods: (a) cost reimbursable or (b) fixed price (rate or unit) performance. The type of funding instrument used is determined by the source of the idea for the project, the level of involvement between the sponsor and the recipient, the degree of flexibility in carrying out the project, and the practice of the funding agency. Both grants and cooperative agreements tend to fund investigator-initiated projects, but the latter anticipates substantial involvement of the sponsor while the former does not. Unlike contracts, grants and cooperative agreements typically have short, standardized award documents.
Contracts can be thought of as a negotiated procurement. They generally originate from specific goals of a sponsoring agency as identified in a formal announcement. In the case of federal government agencies, the issuance of a formal contract may be preceded by the advertisement of a Request for Proposals (RFP), Request for Applications (RFA), or Request for Quotations (RFQ). Federal government agencies are required to make all announcements of funding opportunities via the official web site, Grants.gov. RAE will assist faculty in registering for this service and facilitates investigator's registration in the Community of Science PIVOT (COS-PIVOT) database so that announcements will be directed specifically to a potential investigator as an e-mail notification.
The following are major components of a proposal:
- application instructions and forms
- statement of required work
- desired performance schedule
- available government property
- applicable contract provisions (clauses)
- evaluation criteria
Agencies will require various representations, certifications, and acknowledgments, generally to be submitted at the application stage. These assurances apply to the institution, not the PI. RAE Grants Specialists will assist faculty with the preparation of these materials.
If a project has been funded on a cost reimbursement basis, the actual expenditures incurred are received via electronic fund transfer (draw downs) or payment for an invoice. Funds not expended under the authorized budget are not received by the university and unexpended budget authority expires at the end of the performance period. Federally-funded projects are almost always allocated on a cost-reimbursable basis and unexpended funds are required to be deobligated or returned to the agency upon close-out.
Fixed price (rate or unit) contracts, grants, or cooperative agreements are based on payments for performance or deliverables. Budgets reflecting actual anticipated costs to complete work required provide the basis for the quotation or bid to the potential sponsor. In these agreements, the university is not reimbursed for costs incurred but on the completion of the deliverables for the amounts specified in the agreement. Funds are to be used to perform the work required up to the authorized not-to-exceed approved funding amount. This budget method should result in most of the funds quoted for the work being expended by the completion of the performance period. If the costs to complete the deliverables exceed this original estimate, the university and investigator are obligated to complete the deliverables for the same amount of compensation unless additional funding is negotiated with the sponsor.
The criteria for agencies entering into fixed price agreements may be summarized as follows:
- Performance-based deliverables with thresholds for satisfactory performance for reimbursement and/or criteria for withholding payment or mediating performance if not satisfactory and accepted for payment.
- Payments are scheduled for periodic distributions (monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, etc.) with scheduled payment amounts identified. These may be prorated amounts of the total contract amount with a final payment withheld until all deliverables agreed upon during the period of performance had been met.
- Payment for any particular period is approved only upon satisfactory performance described as performance deliverables and standards which are “measurable, objective, and quantifiable.”
- Contracts generally have a provision for periodic post-award contract monitoring by the agency staff/contract manager which will allow for identification of deficiencies, remediation requirements, and evaluation of outcomes.
Given these criteria, the university will accept such contracts that include measures of performance and deliverables provided a cost estimate has been prepared that appears to represent reasonable costs for the completion of the work. Should unexpended funds remain or should a deficit expenditure occur, then the project will be reconciled as outlined in When Your Grant is Ending/Closeout Procedures.
Purchase orders or acknowledgement of acceptance of proposed scope of work and terms are a different version of a contract. Projects funded via this method are also short, standardized award documents. These types of projects are of a limited duration (less than one fiscal year) and of a limited amount of funds (less than $25,000). Exceptions to these limitations require approval of the University Office of General Counsel and must be sought in advance of acceptance of the documentation.
Proposals to Private Funding Sources, Associations, Societies & Councils
Most voluntary organizations have pre-printed application forms or require an online submission. RAE Grants Specialists may direct faculty to non-federal funding sources and provide application instructions, names of contact personnel, mailing addresses, etc. Most applications are short and their style should not be as technical as a federal application. While federal projects are reviewed entirely by a panel of experts in the field, non-federal groups often use a heterogeneous group of civic leaders, professional experts, and organization staff for their reviews.
Corporations & Companies
Since most industry support is related to product development and testing, investigators will concentrate on technical specifications and the proposed budget. RAE has developed standard form contract templates which may be used as a basis for developing a funding document. Purchase orders or letter of authorization agreements may also be accepted for some projects provided they meet certain conditions and include required terms and conditions. For assistance in developing a potential funding agreement or reviewing a funding document received from a potential sponsor, contact the RAE Grants Specialist.
If a company is to be approached in any branch other than its research division, faculty should consult with the Vice President for Development, Foundations, and Alumni Relations at the UWF Foundation, Inc., 850-474-2758 prior to making contact with the sponsor.
Most foundations have specific funding priorities and limit their funding to specific geographical locations. PIs should contact Foundation personnel to discuss their project prior to submitting their proposal. It is helpful to develop a short executive summary or abstract of your proposed project for review with Foundation personnel. Links to various foundation resources are provided at Private & Foundation Funding.