Budget Preparation Guidance


Useful links

Forms & Templates, Fringe Benefit Rates, F&A Rates, and Person months conversion chart


The project budget should be developed in accordance with sponsor and UNL guidelines. Before the submission or negotiation of any budget, the budget and Facilities and Administrative (F & A; formerly “indirect costs”) cost rates must be reviewed and approved by the Office of Sponsored Programs or, in the case of USDA proposals, appropriate IANR officials. An initial review of the budget should be scheduled early in the proposal-writing process to ensure that an investigator’s plans are in accordance with agency and university requirements.

Steps for budget preparation:

1. Review the sponsor’s guidelines for budgets, including

  • Allowable costs
  • Required cost-sharing
  • Limits on the total amount requested
  • Facilities and Administrative cost restrictions
  • Required budget forms and format

2. Identify the costs associated with conducting the proposed project (e.g., personnel, equipment and supplies). A basic budget form showing categories of costs is available on the Office of Sponsored Programs Web site. Most project budgets will include the basic categories included on the basic budget form. If you are preparing a modular budget for NIH, the basic form can be used to estimate the total direct costs for each year of the project. If the sponsor does not require an itemized budget, the basic budget form must be provided to the Office of Sponsored Programs along with the proposal and routing form before submitting a proposal.

3. Consult with departmental budget support staff or grants managers to identify typical rates for graduate assistants, post-docs and other project personnel (e.g., hourly rates for undergraduate assistants), supplies and equipment. Upon request, the Office of Sponsored Programs will provide initial consultation in developing your budget.

4. Prepare the budget according to sponsor guidelines, incorporating the estimated costs associated with conducting the proposed work. To be credible, the budget must follow the sponsor’s guidelines and must match the work to be conducted in size and scope.

5. Submit the entire proposal application, including the budget, to the Office of Sponsored Programs for a final budget check. The Office of Sponsored Programs will review the budget to ensure that it meets sponsor guidelines (e.g., for scope and format) and university guidelines (e.g., for indirect costs/F & A).

Pre-proposals
Some sponsors require the submission of a formal pre-proposal or letter of intent in advance of a full proposal. Other sponsors prefer more informal initial contact. The investigator should review the sponsor’s application guidelines (or the RFP) to determine whether a pre-proposal is required.

A sponsor may require that a budget be submitted as part of a pre-proposal. As is the case with a full-proposal budget, the Office of Sponsored Programs must review all pre-proposal budgets before submission to a sponsor. Documentation of cost-sharing offered in the pre-proposal must be provided to the Office of Sponsored Programs (submission of the standard routing form is preferred).

The Office of Sponsored Programs will provide an institutional signature for a pre-proposal if one is required.