Brief Checklist for Reviewing Proposal Solicitations

This is a very brief (not exhaustive) list of things to pay attention to when evaluating a solicitation or when preparing an unsolicited proposal. You should also refer to CDC's Application Process website, which is well thought out and clearly presented.

Submission Requirements

  • Where, when and how must the proposal be delivered to the funder?
  • It's becoming standard for proposals to be submitted via the Internet. Be sure that you understand the mechanics of submission, have all the credentials you need, and are familiar with the receiving website. Don't wait until the due date to begin exploring how to submit your proposal.
  • Understand the format and content requirements, so that you submit a complete application.

Organizational Eligibility
Double-check the eligibility criteria in the solicitation, to be sure that your organization is eligible to apply for this opportunity.

  • Do you have the necessary unique entity identifier (DUNS number)?
  • Are you registered in SAM?
  • Can you self-certify that your policies satisfy the funder's administrative requirements, or will you need to submit a package of your policies along with this proposal?

Cost Sharing (Matching)

  • If there is a cost sharing requirement, can your organization commit to meeting this requirement? There can be severe financial penalties for failing to provide promised cost share. Do your really have it? Will it meet federal allowability requirements? (See About Cost Sharing (Matching).
  • Similarly, since the penalties for failure can be severe, you should avoid offering cost share that is not required or exceeds the requirement stated in the solicitation.
  • Cost share is not supposed to be considered as enhancing your proposal's competitiveness. Don't make the mistake of offering cost share that isn't required.

Program Income — Will your program earn income?

  • How do you want to treat that income? Will you code all costs of earning the income as direct costs to the award budget and recognize the gross amount earned as program income? Or will you instead charge the costs of earning the income to a separate cost objective and recognize the net of costs as program income?
  • Do you have sound policy and practices for accounting for program income? (See About Program Income.)

Subawards — Will you subaward (grant) or contract out (procure) work under the proposed award? If so, you need to consider these issues:

  • Federal agency Partner Vetting — does your funding agency have a formal vetting process that you'll need to follow? Do you need to begin vetting your intended partners now?
  • Your internal partner vetting — Have you followed your own policy in identifying proposed partners, including the following?
    • Subrecipient selection and qualifications — did you use a competitive selection process? If not, how did you select your subrecipients, and how did you determine that they are qualified to receive subawards?
    • If you are subcontracting with a partner (using a procurement contract instead of a subgrant), what is your rationale? Did you use your normal procurement procedures (full competition) to identify the partner? If not, do you have a solid rationale for sole-sourcing this procurement? See Procurement.

General Cost Allowability

  • Will the costs you need to incur be allowable for reimbursement?
  • Will the funder reimburse all your allocable indirect costs?
  • Do you have a NICRA? If not, do you have a cost allocation plan that you can submit in order to request an indirect rate? Or do you need to rely on the mandatory de minimis reimbursement rate (10% of MTDC — see 2 CFR 200.414 Indirect (F&A) costs.)

Specific Cost Allowability — In particular, consider the following:

  • Staff Salaries and Benefits (US, HCNs, TCNs and termination costs at end of program)
    • Are all proposed salaries (including payments to Personal Services Contractors) in accordance with your HR policies and local employment law?
    • Do you have special costs of posting your expat staff, like posting allowances, shipment of household goods, posting of family members, dependent education allowances, hardship post differential, danger pay? If so, have you budgeted in accordance with your policy and federal restrictions?
    • Have you planned for termination costs (severance - especially for HCNs) at the end of the program?
  • Prior approvals — have you identified all items of cost in your budget that require prior approval, and does your proposal specifically request such approval? (This is a good first step toward speeding procurement, in the event that you win the award.)
  • Travel restrictions — Fly America is standard on all federal awards. Are there any other travel restrictions you need to consider?
  • Geographic restrictions on procurement — USAID imposes certain geographic restrictions on the procurement of goods and services. Have you considered those?
  • Construction/Real Property — the purchase of real property and any construction services (including remodelling) are cost items that require special consideration. They must be presented with special care in your budget.
  • Equipment and disposition at end of program — If your budget includes the purchase of any items of equipment, you should also consider your plans for disposing of residual equipment (and unused supplies) at the end of the program. See Property Management.

USAID has special branding and marking requirements. Other agencies have similar (simpler) requirements as well. Does your proposal consider these requirements, even though you may not be required to submit any plans for marking with the initial proposal? (If you win, you'll need to submit your Branding Strategy and Marking Plan immediately. You might as well get ready now.)

Budget Narrative
Have you included a concise (but thorough) budget narrative that explains the basis for all proposed costs? Have you prepared it in accordance with the funding agency's guidelines (if any)? If your funding agency hasn't provided any guidance on budget narratives, search the Web for "budget narrative." You'll find good guidance on this topic.

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