Approvals and budgeting
- Accepting grant award money under the auspices of the university renders the university liable and responsible for anything you do. Your department head needs to approve the project as well as your dean or top administrator. In some cases, such as projects involving an academic appointment, you'll need approval from the Provost's office.
- There is no fundraising without determining your legitimate costs. It's an ethics thing.
As you develop the scope of work for your project certain considerations arise that require approval and permission. That sounds pretty institutional and bureaucratic, but in real terms here's an example of why it's important:
You're awarded a small foundation grant to bring in more research assistants to tackle a particular problem. Great! Your department and the university are glad to have more funds to support graduate students. As you go through the RA selection process someone asks where the new RAs will sit. There is a little unused cubicle area big enough for one person, but no computer, no lights, no phone line, not even a decent chair. It's going to cost about $5,000 to bring the cubicle area up to working standard, and you still don't know how to address where the other RA will sit. Congratulations, you have just cost your department at least $5,000 out of its budget for the year. The RA stipends you brought in won't offset the charges to departmental accounts in any way. There will be no more Friday morning coffee and donuts. Suddenly you are not very popular, but hey, you have research support. In hindsight, the $5,000+ could have been added to the grant request by consulting on the budget with the right people.
Consider the approval and budgeting processes as a good neighbor move. The process puts you in touch with the people who will support you in the long run, and gives them some voice in the process: department secretary, fiscal administrator, the guy from physical plant who assigns work crews. This kind of collaborative effort will help you build a better budget and justify an increased grant request. In addition, if your project will involve human subjects, animals, or special facilities, better to iron it out up front and include any charges in your grant request.
Why go through this? Because you and your department want the official credit that comes with pulling in money. You want to be seen as moneymakers. Plus it builds your personal knowledge and skill-base for larger management tasks in the future.
Most people guesstimate their way through budgets. Your department fiscal administrator can help you assess real costs. Also, the Office of Grants and Contracts Administration (OGCA) posts helpful guidelines and current rates for personnel charges on its Web site.
The Provost's Office approves the addition of new faculty, centers or institutes; oversees campus instructional technology; handles adjunct or guest lecturer appointments and more.