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Frequently Asked Questions
Pre-Award Questions
Post-Award Questions
Pre-Award Questions
Who is eligible to submit proposals through ORSP?

Only tenured/tenure-track faculty members and MPP Directors are eligible to submit proposals for extra-mural funding through ORSP.

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 proposal. You must notify ORSP AT LEAST 3 weeks before your deadline, so that we can ensure we will have the staffing resources available to work with you (For all Grants.gov submissions, an additional week is required). Your first step is to complete our on-line PI Checklist, which provides the information we will need to complete your budget. If you have any questions about filling out this form, please contact Jackie White, PreAward Manager (whitej@sfsu.edu or 338-3578).
Are ORSP and SFSU registered with Grants.gov for electronic proposal submissions?
Yes, ORSP and SFSU are fully registered with Grants.gov.
Whom do I contact about my budget?

After you submit the PI Checklist, you will be contacted by the Proposal Preparation Specialist who will complete your budget.

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 agreement is dated November 3, 2005, and is effective through June 30, 2010.

The rates specified in the agreement are as follows:

The rate for on-campus research is 53.0%; for on-campus instruction, 53.6%; for other on-campus sponsored activities, 28.6%.

The rate for off-campus research, instruction, or other sponsored activities is 26.0 percent.

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 Alison Sanders, Director for Research and Sponsored Programs (asanders@sfsu.edu 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 one week 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 editing my proposal?
Barbara Ustanko is the Proposals Editor at ORSP. Her services include providing feedback on proposal drafts and copyediting proposals for clarity and persuasiveness. She may also assist with compiling appropriate background statistics, developing charts and tables, and drafting supplemental materials such as letters of support and memoranda of understanding, depending on your specific needs and the amount of lead time available.
How will I know if my grant is funded?
It is most common for granting agencies to contact the Principal Investigator. The National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation have online systems that notify the P.I. and our office. Some granting agencies do not notify ORSP, so you should contact Alison Ng (alisonng@sfsu.edu or 405-4226) when you receive notification of funding. Many agencies will also send reviewers' comments to you. We would appreciate receiving a copy of those comments for our files. These copies will also help us to assist you if you decide to resubmit an amended proposal.
What happens next when my grant is funded?
You will be connected to a Grants Administrator to work with who will set up an account for you. This person will be your contact for accounting and personnel information. (See post-award staff.)
Post-Award Questions
How do I request a no-cost time extension for my project?
Under Expanded Authorities, most no-cost extension requests on federal awards may be approved by the grantee ("grantee-approved" no-cost extension). Most agencies require that the grantee notify them about no-cost extensions prior to the expiration of the award (anywhere between 90 day to 10 days prior to the end date). Requests for no cost extensions are either submitted via the agency's online system or email, post or fax, depending on the agency's requirements.

NSF Awards - The first no-cost time extension is considered a "notification" and can be approved by the grantee (SFSU). If the PI needs additional time beyond the first extension, a second no-cost time extension is considered a "request" and must be approved by NSF. Both notifications and requests for a no-cost extensions on NSF awards must be submitted by the Principal Investigator (PI) via Fastlane. When submitting the request in Fastlane, the PI should include the information outlined in the bulleted section below.

NIH Awards - If no-cost extensions are allowed on the particular award, a link for "extension" is posted in the "status" area of the NIH Commons 90 days before the end date. Once the link is posted, ORSP can submit the request. To initiate this request, the PI should submit a request to his/her ORSP Grants Administrator (GA) with the information outline in the bulleted section below.

All Other Awards - Requests for a no-cost extension to agencies other than NSF and NIH must be submitted in writing (e-mail or memo) by the PI, to the ORSP Grants Administrator for review/approval. The Grants Administrator will review and then forward to the Post-Award Manager for final review and approval. Once the request is approved by ORSP, it will be forwarded to the agency. Requests for a no-cost extension should include:

  • Justification for extension, including progress to date. The following reasons are acceptable:
    • Additional time beyond the established expiration date is required to complete the project.
    • The extension is necessary to permit an orderly phase out of a project that will not receive continued support.
  • Length of extension requested
  • An estimate of funds expected to remain unobligated on the scheduled expiration date
  • A plan for how the funds will be used during the extension period

Please note: Requesting additional time simply to spend down remaining funds is not considered a reasonable justification for a no-cost time extension. Normally no-cost extensions do not exceed twelve months and only in exceptional cases will more than one extension be approved by the agency.

I expect delays in receiving a grant award or in getting a contract fully executed for my project but need to start doing the work. Can a project be set up so that I can start spending?
Fund Advances, in the past known as Pre-Award Spending accounts, provide Principal Investigators (PIs) with an opportunity to initiate sponsored research projects and begin incurring project expenses prior to institutional acceptance of an award from an external sponsor.

There are two types of Fund Advances:

  1. Pre-Award Spending Account - Used to create an account for the purpose of incurring pre-award costs up to 90 calendar days prior to the award start date. This applies only to federal sponsors that allow pre-award spending. All terms and conditions of the award apply to pre-award expenditures.
  2. Advance Account - Advance Accounts may be used to establish:
    • an account for a new grant for which the award letter has not yet been received
    • an account for the new budget year of a continuing grant
    • an account for a contract which has not yet been finalized

Requests for Fund Advances must be approved by both the college Dean and the Associate Vice President (AVP) for Academic Affairs. In many cases, the Dean and AVP of Academic Affairs will approve a request for a fund advance because of an established relationship with a sponsoring agency and/or because the sponsor has indicated a high degree of confidence that the project will be funded.

Advance Accounts will be established for 120 calendar days. Extensions of advance accounts beyond 120 calendar days must be approved by the Dean and the Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs.

The Fund Advance policy and procedure

The Fund Advance Request Form

The PI should obtain the College Dean's approval on the Fund Advance Request prior to submitting the form to his/her Grants Administrator in ORSP. If available, the PI should attach any supporting documentation that would be helpful to the Dean and ORSP in making a determination to support the request. Supporting documentation may include copies of communication with the sponsor, a list of projects that have been recommended for funding, and/or a short history of the project and the nature of the relationship with the sponsor.

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?
SFSU'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 Grants Administrator 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.
*Purchases made using a procurement card are posted to a default project number which is assigned by the cardholder when they apply 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.
What is the difference between a vendor, sub-recipient (sub-contract or sub-award), independent contractor and special consultant?
OMB Circular A-133 provides the definitions below to distinguish vendors from sub-recipients. The information on independent contractors and special consultants is taken from SFSU's Special Consultant-Independent Contractor Hiring Procedures Practice Directive 156 and can be found at:

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 SFSU
  • is not subject to the compliance requirements of the Federal Program

A special consultant:

  • is an individual hired as an employee of SFSU 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 (SFSU 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
What is the Principal Investigator's (and/or project staff's) role in closing out a project?
The Principal Investigator (PI) should work closely with the Grant Administrator during the last several months of the project to ensure an orderly closeout. The PI will:
  • Inform the Grant Administrator if a request for a no-cost extension will be submitted to the agency.
  • Submit all transactions (invoices, travel claims, reimbursement requests, etc.) no later than 45 days after the end date of the project.
  • Close any open purchase orders (including blanket POs) within 45 days following the end date of the award (unless the sponsor requires a financial report sooner than 90 days).
  • If the project has recurring expenditures (i.e. telecom or rapid copy), the PI needs to provide a new project number for charges beyond the end date of the current project.
  • If the PI or one of the project staff holds a procurement card (p-card) that is being charged to this project, please provide a new project number. If the PI does not have any other funding, ORSP will notify the Procurement Card Office to terminate the card(s).
  • Ensure that all payroll appointments associated with this award do not extend beyond the end date and that all time sheets and absence reports for individuals employed by the project are forwarded to ORSP Personnel by the end date of the project.
  • Send a hard copy or electronic copy of all final technical/programmatic reports to ORSP to ensure compliance with the term and conditions of the award/contact.
  • Confirm that all cost sharing requirements have been met, if applicable.
  • Review and approve the final financial report and/or invoice prepared by Fiscal Affairs.

Absence Reports

  • Principal Investigators should make sure that all employees (salaried and hourly staff) turn in monthly Absence Reports in a timely manner, and that sick and vacation leave is accurately reported.
  • When employees claim sick and/or vacation leave, this is a CREDIT to the grant.
  • If Absence Reports are not turned in to ORSP in a timely manner, or leave time is not accurately reported, this can result in inaccurate financial statements submitted to the funder. When leave is not recorded, the grant is not credited, and the funder may be overcharged for costs.
  • PI's may NOT ask employees to claim sick and vacation leave time in order to secure a credit to the grant. Sick and vacation leave time must be used and reported by grant-funded employees according to the provisions of University policy and the applicable collective bargaining agreement.
What is the process for transferring indirect costs collected on ORSP projects to the colleges and departments?
Once a year, after the fiscal year has closed, fifteen percent (15%) of the total amount of indirect costs charged to, and collected for, ORSP projects is transferred to the colleges and departments.*

The 15% is divided in a 3:1 ratio between the department and the college. Fiscal Affairs determines the total direct cost expenditures on each sponsored project and the amount of indirect costs recovered. Letters are generated and sent to each dean and department chair showing the total amount that will be transferred to the account under their control. Fiscal Affairs then completes the transfer of funds to colleges and departments, usually in September of each year.

* There are some exceptions to this, generally related to the indirect costs generated by projects associated with a Center or Institute. Such exceptions are reviewed and approved in advance by the Director of the Center or Institute, the dean and department chair, as well as the AVP of Research.

How do I find out what the balance of my project is?
PIs and their designated staff can view financial reports for their project by logging in to Fiscal Affairs' online reporting system at: https://ids.sfsu.edu/fmsreport/ . The system is set up so that PIs and staff can log in using their email addresses. Please contact your Grants Administrator if you have trouble logging in and/or would like to grant access to an assistant or staff member to view the financial reports for your project(s).
How long does it take to process a student stipend request?

Accounts Payable issues stipend checks once a month on the 15 th of the month. Requests for student stipends should be submitted to ORSP one month before the issue date to allow time for the necessary review in ORSP and Financial Aid. For example, if you would like to issue a student stipend on September 15 th , please submit the stipend request form to ORSP by August 15th .
Please note: Internal Audit’s review is also required for stipend requests to foreign nationals, which will increase the processing time. Please plan accordingly.
Can a faculty member/PI sign agreements with sponsors for external funding?
No, grants and contracts are awarded to the institution, San Francisco State University, on behalf of a PI or project director, not to the individual. Therefore, agreements and grant awards need to be signed by an authorized official in either ORSP (for grants) or Procurement (contracts/agreements; see memo from VP Leroy Morishta regarding campus contracting authority). Accordingly, all award letters and checks should be forwarded to ORSP when received to ensure proper recording and processing.
I was awarded a grant/contract without submitting a formal proposal through ORSP’s Pre-Award unit – what is the process for getting the project set up in Post Award so that I can start spending?
CSU Executive Order 890 requires that all proposals and budgets must be routed through the ORSP Pre-Award process and approved prior to being submitted to a funding agency.  In the case that the proposal/budget was not routed through pre-award prior to being awarding, it will need to be routed and approved “after-the-fact” before the project can be set up in Post Award.  PIs should submit a PI checklist to initiate the process.  The PI checklist is on ORSP’s homepage at: (http://www.sfsu.edu/~orspwww/_preaward/_submit/pichecklist.html)
What types of changes require prior approval from the agency for Federally-funded projects?

OMB Circular A-110, Section .25 (c) (1-8) requires that the university obtain prior approval for the following program or budget related reasons:

  • Change in the scope or objectives of the project or program (even if there is no associated budget revision requiring prior written approval).
  • Change in a key person specified in the application or award document.
  • The absence for more than three months , or a 25 percent reduction in time devoted to the project, by the approved project director or principal investigator.
  • 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 specific Federal awarding agency.
  • The inclusion, unless waived by the Federal awarding agency, of costs that require prior approval in accordance with OMB Circular A-21 "Cost Principles for Institutions of Higher Education."
  • The transfer of funds allotted for training allowances (direct payment to trainees, i.e. stipends) to other categories of expense.
  • Unless described in the application and funded in the approved awards, the subaward, transfer or subcontracting out of any work under an award. This provision does not apply to the purchase of supplies, material, equipment or general support services.
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