Frequently Asked Questions

Searching for Funding

How can ORSP help me find funding for my project?

ORSP offers a variety of resources for identifying sponsorship for your projects. Please follow the Find Funding link.


What funding databases are available for me to search?

  • Pivot - is a comprehensive subscription database of public and private funding opportunities. All faculty and staff are eligible to sign up for a Pivot account.
  • - This resource is a clearinghouse for funding information from federal sources.

Go to our Databases page


How can I sign up for automatic email alerts of funding opportunities related to my project(s)?

When you sign up for a Pivot account you can activate this feature.

I'm not sure whether the funding source I identified in my search is really the right one for my project — what should I do?

Every funding program has a "Program Officer" or "Program Contact" identified in its program guidelines and in its Pivot program description. We strongly recommend that you always email or telephone this individual prior to spending your time writing a grant proposal. The Program Officer's role is to answer your questions, and to assess whether your project is an appropriate fit for the funding program in question. If the Program Officer encourages you to submit a grant proposal, he or she can suggest how to make your proposal its most competitive. If the Program Officer does not encourage you to submit, he or she might have ideas about other funding programs within the agency that would be a better fit.

Applying for a Grant

Who is eligible to submit grant proposals?

Tenured/tenure-track faculty members and MPP Directors are eligible to submit proposals for extra-mural funding through ORSP, and serve as Project Investigators. If you are interested in applying for a grant but are not a tenured/tenure-track faculty member or MPP Director, you may apply for Project Investigator eligibility status.

How far in advance of the proposal deadline should I contact ORSP?

Please contact ORSP as soon as you know you are going to submit a grant proposal. We continue to recommend that PI Checklist be submitted 5 weeks prior to the agency deadline. Effective October 1, 2020, PI Checklists submitted within 4 weeks or fewer of a funding agency deadline will need to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis to assess staff capacity and we will no longer be able to guarantee that the proposal will be submitted with short notice. Your first step should be to complete our online PI Checklist. A grant administrator will contact you to discuss your proposal. Identifying your proposal needs early on will avoid many problems down the road. Your final budget, budget justification, and draft project narrative are due 7 business days prior to the proposal deadline/submission date.

Are ORSP and SFSU registered with for electronic proposal submissions?

Yes, ORSP and SFSU are fully registered with

Whom do I contact about my proposal budget?

After you submit your PI Checklist, you will be contacted by a specialist who will help you with your budget and all agency forms.


What are Facilities & Administrative or Indirect Costs?

As a recipient of federal funds, San Francisco State University (SF State) is required to adopt costing policies that conform to Federal rules and regulations. Per Uniform Guidance (2 CFR §200), the total cost of a sponsored agreement is the sum of the allowable direct costs incident to its performance, plus the allocable portion of the allowable Facilities & Administrative (F&A) costs to the institution.

Costs that support sponsored research indirectly (F&A / indirect costs) are defined as those incurred for common or joint objectives which cannot be identified readily and specifically with a particular sponsored project, instructional activity, or any other institutional activity. Some examples of indirect costs include:

  • Utilities
  • Salaries, wages, and fringe benefits for clerical and administrative staff
  • Laptop computers and other highly desirable personal electronic devices (e.g. iPads)
  • Office supplies (basic supplies)
  • Subscriptions
  • Library books
  • Periodicals
  • Memberships
  • Office and general equipment (e.g. office furniture)
  • Photocopying
  • Postage
  • Repair and maintenance (e.g. equipment)
  • Telephone and internet (e.g. monthly bills)
  • Proposal development costs

SF State's cost accounting practices are defined in the required filing of its Disclosure Statement (DS-2) to the audit agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The DS-2 defines costs that can be directly charged to sponsored programs as being allowable, allocable, reasonable, and consistently applied. Some examples of direct costs include:

  • Salaries and benefits of faculty, research associates, graduate students and technical personnel
  • Approved Independent Contractors / Special Consultants / Subcontracts
  • Participant Support (e.g. stipends) and Tuition
  • Laboratory supplies (e.g. chemicals)
  • Animals and animal care costs
  • Travel required for the project

Refer to SF State's  Charging Direct and Indirect Costs Policy for additional details.


What is SFSU's multi-year Facilities and Administrative (indirect cost) rate agreement?

San Francisco State University has a multi-year Facilities and Administrative (indirect cost) rate agreement with the federal government. This agreement specifies the F&A cost rates to be applied to awards from federal and non-federal sponsors.

The rates specified in the agreement are as follows:

Current Rates (effective 7/1/2020 until 6/30/2025):

  • On-campus research: 55.0%
  • On-campus instruction: 50.0%
  • Other on-campus sponsored activities: 42.5%
  • Off-campus research, instruction, or other sponsored activities: 26.0%

Exceptions to these rates occur when a funding agency places a cap on the F&A rate. In this case, ORSP must have written guidelines from the funding agency stating that there is a limit on F&A costs.

If you would like to discuss any variance from the above rates, you must speak directly with Michael Scott, AVP for Research ( or 415-405-3943).

Read SFSU Indirect Cost Agreement (pdf format)

Do I need to contact the Dean or Chair of my department?

We strongly advise that you contact both. If there is any costsharing or costmatching required in your grant, you will need approval from the Dean. In addition, release time must also be approved by your Dean.

When does my budget have to be completed?

Budgets should be completed seven business days before the submission deadline. At this time, we should also have all supporting documents, such as biosketches, C.V.s, resources, etc.

When does the narrative of my proposal have to be completed?

The narrative should be submitted in final form to the Proposal Preparation Specialist no later than two days before the submission deadline.

Can I receive help writing and editing my proposal?

Grant writers and editors are available to help you with your grant proposal. In addition, we maintain a library of text about San Francisco State University that you can adopt or rewrite as needed for your grant proposal.

Do I need to submit a cover letter with my NIH proposal?

The Center for Scientific Review at NIH strongly encourages PIs to include cover letters recommending a study section with their NIH proposals. This is a complex process that will require the PI to become very familiar with various aspects of both the funding opportunity and their own proposal.

If the PI is unsure which study section to recommend for their proposal, they should contact the AVP for Research; the AVP will work with them on study section assignment. Faculty in the College of Science and Engineering should contact the Assistant Dean of Research to identify a study section.

A cover letter identifying a study section must be completed at the seven business day proposal routing stage. Contact your GA to discuss; click here for instructions and an NIH Cover Letter template.

Refer to the Center for Scientific Review's website for lists of Study Sections:

Please see instructions regarding the Cover Letter Component in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide - 21. Cover Letter Attachment



Why did I receive a time and effort report?

You should receive a time and effort report from ORSP if you fall into the following categories:

  • You are a PI and supervised salaried staff who were paid from a grant during the specific time and effort reporting time period
  • You submitted a request for and charged Reimbursed Release Time to your grant for the specific effort reporting time period
  • You submitted a request for and received Additional Pay during Winter Intersession, Spring Break, or Summer
  • You received any part of your salary from a sponsored project (i.e. overload, calendar year appointments)

Is time and effort the same as time base?

Sometimes, but not necessarily- see example above. If a staff member was appointed to one grant for a time and effort reporting time period and was hired 100% time, then yes time and effort base will be 100%.


What types of activities can I charge to my project?

These types of activities can be charged to a sponsored project:

  • Directing or participating in any aspect of the research related to the specific project
  • Writing a progress report for the project, sometimes called a continuation proposal
  • Holding a meeting with lab staff to discuss the specific research project
  • Activities contributing and intimately related to work under the agreement, including:
    - Participating in appropriate seminars
    - Consulting with colleagues about specific aspects of the project
    - Delivering special lectures about specific aspects of the ongoing activity
    - Attending a conference held by an outside professional society to present  results
    - Reading scientific journals to keep up to date with the latest developments in one's field
    - Mentoring graduate students on the specific research project
  • Making an invention disclosure, and some other activities related to pursuing intellectual property


What activities cannot be allocated to my project?

The following cannot be charged to a sponsored project:

  • Proposal-writing, except for non-competing continuations (progress reports); this includes:
    – Developing necessary data to support a proposal
    – Writing, editing, and submitting a proposal
  • Administration, including service as a department chair or dean
  • Instruction, office hours, counseling for students, and mentoring graduate students on something other than the specific funded research project
  • Service on an IRB, IACUC, selection committee, or other similar group
  • Course or curriculum development
  • Writing textbook chapters
  • Fundraising
  • Lobbying
  • Work that falls outside of regular University business activities, such as:
    -€“ Service as the primary editor of a journal
    -€“ Peer review of manuscripts, regardless of whether compensation is received
    - Advisory activities for sponsors, including service on an NIH study section or NSF review panel, regardless of whether compensation is received

My staff member was only hired at 50% time base — why does it say that 100% of her salary came from the grant?

Total time and effort should always equal 100%. If your employee was paid from a project at a 50% time base and this was her only appointment, then 100% of her salary and time and effort would have been on that project.

I received RRT for this past semester but I don't see the project on the time and effort report — what should I do?

If your time and effort report is not accurate, you should make the appropriate corrections, sign it, and return it to ORSP.

What do I do if my staff member was paid off the wrong project?

If the project number is incorrect, correct the time and effort report, sign it and return to ORSP. However, since all PI's receive detailed financial reports each month, this should not occur. If more than one month of salary needs to be moved from one grant to another, an acceptable justification must be provided.

I requested an RRT — why didn't I receive an effort report?

This means that the RRT that was requested was not processed. If ORSP does not receive a signed RRT agreement by the deadline for the specific time period, the RRT will not be processed.

Why did I receive a time and effort report when I don't remember asking for RRT?

If you received a time and effort report, a request was submitted, an agreement was emailed to you, and a signed copy was returned to ORSP before a financial transaction was initiated. If you still feel that this was sent in error, please contact the Compliance Officer in ORSP.

What should I do about a time and effort report for a staff member who no longer works at SFSU?

Verify that the information is correct, sign as the supervisor, and note on the time and effort report that this person is no longer employed by SFSU.

I am on sabbatical and out of the country, can someone else sign my time and effort report?

In cases when faculty are either on sabbatical, or some other form of leave from the University, the Department Chair, or the Dean of the College can sign and certify the time and effort reports for the faculty member.

What will happen of I don't turn these back to ORSP?

Since these are federal regulations and SFSU is required to comply with them, if a PI does not return certified time and effort reports to ORSP, or does not contact the Compliance Officer about the time and effort reports, ORSP will have no choice but to suspend activity on that PIs' grants until the issue is resolved.


Will the new NIH & PHS regulations impact me as an Investigator?

If you are a PI or Co-PI who receives grant money from a Public Health Service (PHS) agency, which includes the NIH, the new regulations will impact you in the following ways:

  • You are required to report any Significant Financial Interest that exceeds $5000
  • You are required to report any reimbursed travel related to your Institutional responsibilities, not including travel reimbursed or sponsored by a federal, state, or local government agency, an institution of higher education, academic teaching hospital, medical center, or research institute affiliated with an Institution of higher education.
  • You must participate in Conflict of Interest training

The new regulations, and required certification, also extend to all aspects of work on PHS-funded projects so that they apply to Subcontractors/Subrecipients, Consultants, & others with Significant Responsibilities.


What are the most significant changes to the new NIH & PHS regulations?

The most significant changes include the following, as pertains to PHS-funded projects:

  • Definition of Significant Financial Interest
    —The de minimis disclosure threshold for a Significant Financial Interest on PHS funded projects is $5,000, which generally applies to payments for services and equity interests, including any equity interest in non-publicly traded entities
  • Extent of Investigators' disclosure of information to Institutions regarding their Significant Financial Interests
  • Institutional management of identified Financial Conflicts of Interest (refer to SFSU Financial Conflict of Interest Policy for details)
  • Information reported to the PHS funding component
  • Information made accessible to the public (i.e., Institutional FCOI policy and FCOIs of senior/key personnel)
  • Conflict of Interest Training for Investigator
  • Disclosure of reimbursed or sponsored travel related to a PI's Institutional responsibilities, not including travel reimbursed or sponsored by a federal, state, or local government agency, an institution of higher education, academic teaching hospital, medical center, or research institute affiliated with an Institution of higher education

View table from the NIH summarizing the significant changes between the prior 1995 regulation and the new 2011 regulation


How, exactly, does this apply to “travel” in the new NIH & PHS regulations?

Investigators must disclose the occurrence of any reimbursed or sponsored travel (i.e., that which is paid on behalf of the Investigator and not reimbursed to the Investigator so that the exact monetary value may not be readily available), related to the Investigator's institutional responsibilities. However, the disclosure requirement does not apply to travel that is reimbursed or sponsored by the following:

  • A federal, state, or local government agency (e.g. travel paid for on various other types of ORSP projects)
  • An Institution of higher education as defined at 20 U.S.C. 1001(a) (such as SF State)
  • An academic teaching hospital
  • A medical center
  • A research institute affiliated with an Institution of higher education

Per SF State's FCOI policy, if you are required to disclose the occurrence of such trips, you will specify the related details on the Disclosure of Financial Interests Certification Form including the following:

  • Purpose of the trip
  • Identity of the sponsor/organizer
  • Destination
  • Duration

Managing & Spending Grant Funds


Who is my Grant Administrator?

In an effort to provide uninterrupted customer support throughout the lifecycle of an award, ORSP assigns PIs to a "Pod" or "Cluster" of staff according to their home College. Each Pod is staffed with staff that can assist the PI in submitting a proposal, setting up an award, processing Personnel transactions, and spending and otherwise administering their project(s). If you are unsure who the Grant Administrator, Grant Support Coordinator, Proposal Specialist , and Personnel Specialist are for your project, please refer to this list of ORSP Staff by College.


What types of changes require prior approval from the agency for Federally-funded projects?

Uniform Guidance (2 CFR §200) requires that Universities obtain prior approval for the following program- or budget-related reasons:

  • Change in project / program scope or objectives (even if there is no budget revision requiring prior written approval)
  • Change in a key person specified in the application or award document
  • An absence exceeding three months, or a 25% (or more) reduction in time devoted to the project, by the agency-approved Project Director or PI
  • The need for additional Federal funding
  • The transfer of amounts budgeted for facilities and administrative (F&A) costs to absorb increases in direct costs, or vice versa, if approval is required by the awarding agency
  • Inclusion of costs that require prior approval in accordance with Uniform Guidance (2 CFR §200) unless waived by the awarding agency
  • Transfer of funds allotted for training (e.g. stipends) to other categories of expense Subawarding, transferring, or subcontracting out any work under an award unless described in the application and funded in the approved award(s). This provision does not apply to the purchase of supplies, material, equipment or general support services.


What administrative costs are charged to Federal Awards?

All purchases charged to federal grants must conform to allowability requirements, as described in the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Uniform Guidance (2 CFR §200), and must be:

  • Reasonable and necessary
  • Allocable
  • Consistently treated in like circumstances
  • Conform to the requirements of Uniform Guidance (2 CFR §200) and sponsor terms and conditions
Item Appropriate direct charge to grant Inappropriate direct charge to grant (typically covered by F&A Costs)
Administrative/Clerical Salaries The project requires an extensive amount of clerical/administrative support General administrative support not specific to the project
Equipment Specialized equipment used specifically for the project. General purpose equipment such as copiers, printers, printer cartridges, refrigerators
Highly Desirable Personal Electronic Devices Computer used to store and access large databases, laptop to collect data in the field, a specialized computer for data analysis A computer device to process reports, correspondence, publications, conduct teaching duties (laptops, iPads, etc.)
Office Supplies Paper, envelopes, copies, etc. to support a project with a large mailing survey; project with ?above normal? office supply use; workshop materials, if funded as part of the project. General office supplies used for project support, such as pens, tape, paper, copying costs, binders, notebooks, etc.
Membership dues If required as part of the agreement, required as a part of registration for a conference, or authorized for a trainee/fellow on the grant Renewal or new membership for general professional development
Postage For special or unique needs only (e.g. shipping samples for analysis); must be significantly greater than routine usage General postage costs, mailing documents
Telephone (cell and landlines) Dedicated landlines or cell phones for surveys. Telephone hotline. General use cell phone, phone charges in SF State office

Can I pay for local meals and meals with no associated travel on my federal award?

The cost of meals or food within the local area (less than 25 miles from campus) is typically not allowed as a direct charge to a federal grant because the employee or trainee is not "traveling" and the cost is therefore considered a personal expense. In general, meals without associated travel are difficult to justify as a direct cost to a federal award of any type.

When a food or beverage cost meets the following three criteria, and the PI provides written justification of the business purpose of the expenditures and how they relate to the specific research project (including purpose of the meeting, list of attendees, beginning and end times), such costs may be allowable on a sponsored project:

  • The cost must be allowable under both the provisions of Uniform Guidance (2 CFR §200) AND the terms of a specific award
  • The cost must be allocable, that is, the project which pays the expense must benefit from it. More specifically, the food and beverage must be integral to a project-related event.
  • The cost must be reasonable, by reflecting what a "prudent person" would pay in a similar circumstance

Example of an allowable food charge:

  • Lunch and refreshments provided for an all-day meeting of collaborators on a project (with formal agenda and participants from different locations)


Examples of unallowable food charges:

  • Lab personnel meeting weekly to discuss progress on the grant
  • PI has lunch/dinner with a colleague and discusses research


What is a "Chartfield"? How do I know which Account Code to use for my request?

A Chartfield is a set of numbers that lets Accounts Payable know where to post charges. It consists of Account Code, Fund Code (the first five digits of the ORSP project number), Department ID (3080 for ORSP projects; 3138 for Head Start projects), and the Project Number for your award. There are also some situations (usually involving Hospitality) in which you would include a Program Number as well.

This list includes the most commonly used Account Codes for ORSP projects:

Description FMS Account Code
Travel - In State 606001
Travel - Out of State 606002
Participants Travel 606800
Contractual Services 613001
Contractual Services - Waived 613800
Independent Contractors 613801
Equipment 619001
Supplies, Service, and Hospitality 660003
Staff Training 660009
Stipends 660804
Overhead - Admin (Indirect Costs) 660815
Honorarium 660816
Participant Supplies & Services 660819
SFSU Foundation Work Order 660821
Tuition & Fees 660822

I have a Procurement Card for my ORSP project(s). I would like to change my default* project number and/or add/delete a project number to the GE P-Card online system. How do I do this?

SF State's procurement card office requires that all requests to change the default project number and to add or delete project numbers from the GE systems be approved by the ORSP Grants Administrator for the project. Please send all requests for changes in the GE system to the GA assigned to your project. Once the GA has reviewed and approved the request, s/he will forward the request to SFSU's p-card office in Fiscal Affairs. These types of requests generally take 3-5 business days to process.

*A default project number is assigned to the P-Card when the PI applies for the card. To assign charges to an alternate project, the cardholder must login to the GE online system to code the purchase to the intended project.


Can I buy a laptop, iPad, or GPS device and charge it to my ORSP project?

The Federal government has consistently informed the research community that it does not consider personal computers and electronic devices to be an appropriate direct cost to sponsored projects because general purpose computing and electronic support is considered to be an administrative cost covered by the F&A reimbursement.

Since computers and electronic devices (cell phones, iPads, GPS, laptops, etc.) are generally used for many different activities (instruction, research, administration, email, personal use, etc.), they are not usually considered direct costs to a federally funded project. 

To be considered as a direct cost, computers and/or electronic devices must be:

  • Fully described and justified in the proposed budget narrative and itemized in the proposal budget
  • Necessary to fulfill the project's scope of work
  • Approved by the sponsor
  • Specifically identified with and used exclusively on the project

Please Note: In cases where a computer/electronic device was not included in the original proposal budget and budget justification, yet the need for such an item develops during the course of the project, the PI must provide documentation of the need for the equipment to their GA for review and approval prior to purchasing the computer/electronic device.

Unallowable expenditures on computer or electronic devices will be removed from the project and will be charged to the faculty member/PIs department.

Hiring Staff & Students


What is the difference between a vendor, sub-recipient (sub-contract or sub-award), independent contractor and special consultant?

Uniform Guidance (2 CFR §200) provides the following definitions to distinguish vendors from sub-recipients. The information on independent contractors and special consultants is taken from SF State's Special Consultant-Independent Contractor Hiring Procedures Practice Directive 156.

A vendor:

  • Provides goods and services within their normal business operations
  • Provides similar goods and services to many different purchasers
  • Operates in a competitive environment
  • Provides goods and services that are ancillary to the Federal Program

A sub-recipient:

  • Has its performance measured against whether the objectives of the federal program are met
  • Has responsibility for programmatic decision-making
  • Has responsibility for adherence to applicable federal program compliance requirements
  • Uses the Federal funds to carry out a program of the organization, as compared to providing goods and services for a program of the pass-through entity
  • Determines who is eligible to receive what Federal financial assistance within the program

An independent contractor:

  • Is not a current CSU or State employee
  • Is engaged in a distinct occupation, profession, business, or trade not regularly a part of University business
  • Agrees to do a specific piece of work for an agreed upon fee
  • Provides services to non-University clients
  • Supplies his/her own tools, materials and work space
  • Is not hired as an employee of SF State
  • Is not subject to the compliance requirements of the Federal Program

A special consultant:

  • Is an individual hired as an employee of SF State to work under general direction to complete a professional assignment which requires the consultant's particular knowledge, ability or expertise
  • Is paid based on a daily rate (SF State minimum $88 per day; maximum $1,042 per day. Refer to the CSU Salary Schedule, Class Code 4660)
  • Is appointed when no other appropriate CSU classification is available

Do I have to post a position for my project?

Not necessarily. Because there are requirements vary by classification and what was submitted to the funding agency in your grant proposal, please check with your Personnel Specialist to determine whether you will need to follow posting procedures.

  • Note that the formal recruitment process for a posted position takes a minimum of 6-8 weeks to complete. Note that salaried staff positions shall be posted a minimum of 14 calendar days; PIs may extend posting on a week-to-week basis by contacting their Personnel Specialist by noon of the Thursday prior to the closing date.
  • For special recruiting, a flyer may be placed in the SF State Careers system for unique positions.Fill vacancies from among qualified SFSU employee applicants, if possible.