Effort is defined as the amount of time spent on a particular activity.  It includes the time spent working on a sponsored project in which salary is directly charged or contributed (cost-shared).

Effort is expressed in the proposed budget and budget justification as a percentage of the individual’s total University appointment devoted to the project.  Effort should be represented in the format requested by the sponsor but should also be shown in the budget justification in person months as well.  For example for faculty with 9 month Academic Year appointments, if 25% effort is expected during the Academic year and 25% as well for Summer, it would be represented in person months as 2.25 Academic months and 0.75 Summer months.  For faculty and staff on Calendar year appointments, 12 months is used as the base upon which percentages are applied; e.g. 25% of a Calendar appointment amounts to 3.0 Calendar months.

For faculty on 9 month academic year appointments, effort can be budgeted as Summer or Academic depending on when the effort is expended.  Summer salary paid directly from federal and state grants is capped at 2.5 months; for more details, see Summer Additional Compensation Guidance. The amount of Academic year effort available for research is negotiated with the Department Chair but generally may add up to approximately 3.5 Academic months.

For more details, see “Proposal Preparation Guide – Personnel Costs

For federally funded projects, a minimum amount of effort must be budgeted by the PI and all other key personnel.  For more details, see the Minimum Effort on Sponsored Projects policy

Budgeted effort should always reflect the anticipated time commitments to the project.

Effort charged to sponsored projects must be allocable, allowable, reasonable, and consistently reported and tracked in the UMass effort reporting system (ECRT)

A reasonable amount of precision should be exercised to insure that the following align with each other:

  1. Key person effort as proposed and budgeted (or cost shared) in the original proposal submitted to the sponsor
  2. Key person effort devoted and charged to the sponsored agreement (grant, contract, cooperative agreement, etc.)
  3. Key person effort reported in the University’s effort reporting system (ECRT)

The effort maxim to keep in mind: effort budgeted in the proposal = effort charged to the grant = effort reported.

If the committed effort is reduced by 25% or more, the PI must contact OPAM for direction on how to appropriately notify the sponsor and receive permission for the reduction of effort. The University cannot directly commit quantifiable effort to any given project unless salaried effort is budgeted or cost shared to meet mandatory sponsor cost share requirements. That does not mean that faculty cannot perform research activities at no cost (no salaried effort) to the sponsor during the academic year.  Indeed, how the effort commitment is worded in the proposal and budget justification will determine its allowability.

Auditors review the accuracy of the University’s payroll charges by verifying that the percentage of the employee's salary charged to a sponsored project reasonably approximates the actual proportion of the employee's FTE effort devoted to that project. The Effort Reporting System is called upon to provide this verification to audits.

In terms of cost-sharing effort, the University normally only cost shares effort when mandated in the sponsor’s written guidelines.  If cost-sharing is not mandatory, it is the University’s policy to abstain from cost-sharing. See Cost Sharing Guidance for more details and how to request voluntary cost-sharing of effort.

Recently through the advent of OMB’s Uniform Guidance, the federal government provided greater clarification on its approach to the provision of voluntary committed cost sharing. If cost-sharing is not mandated in the sponsor guidelines, voluntary cost-shared commitments of effort cannot be used as a factor during the sponsor’s merit review of applications or proposals. For more details, see the Uniform Guidance, section §200.306; Cost sharing or matching. Keeping this in mind, it is extremely difficult to justify including voluntary committed cost shared effort in any federally funded projects.

Policies and Resources Affecting the Budgeting and Reporting of Effort