Grants Office

How to Propose and Administer External Grants and Contracts

Using the Grant Routing Form

Below are guidelines for funds received from various government agencies (NIH, NSF, etc.) and from private foundations for purposes specified in a grant or contract.

Obviously, the faculty member named in an award as the Principal Investigator is responsible for all academic matters under the grant or contract. But there are other people at the College who help ensure the success of the award. For example, the Controller is responsible for ensuring compliance with the sponsor's fiscal and administrative regulations.

Below is a breakdown of the various steps and roles in the process of seeking grants and administering them after they are won. The grant routing form helps to track many of these steps.

Applying for the Grant or Contract

Principal Investigator: The Principal Investigator is responsible for the preparation of the proposal to the granting agency. The format of the proposal is frequently specified by the agency. Typically, it will require a statement of the research objective and approach, the faculty and physical resources available, and the budget required.

Office of Foundation & Corporate Relations (FCR): The FCR office has links to comprehensive funding opportunity databases on its website. It also lists the most commonly sought funding agencies and grant competitions, and offers guidance on proposal writing. FCR staff can edit and comment on draft grant proposals and can offer advice on putting together your project budget. Note that the staff can do their best work when you bring them drafts or early ideas for grant proposals well in advance of a submission deadlines.

Controller's Office:The Controller's office is a resource for questions about indirect cost, fringe benefit rates and cost-sharing information. The office keeps reference manuals on the regulations for most federal granting agencies. When the Principal Investigator is ready to submit a proposal, the Controller must sign off on the proposal's financial information and assurances before it is sent. Where matching College funds are required, the availability and source of such funds must be cleared with the Dean of the Faculty.

Department Head: The grantseeker's Department Head approves decisions regarding personnel and equipment, as well as the physical space requirements of the grant proposal.

Dean of the Faculty: The Dean of the Faculty will review all proposals in terms of the general academic policy of the College and will consider the allocation with regards to agency or foundation requirements for the College as a whole. Please allow at least 48 hours for this review

The Principal Investigator submits the final proposal to the sponsoring agency and forwards a full copy of the proposal to the Controller, using the grant routing form to expedite the process.

The Principle Investigator should notfy the Controller If the granting agency requests a revised budget.


The Grant or Contract Award

When a grant or contract award is received, the Controller will assign an account number to the project, The Principal Investigator may then begin expending funds under the project.


All expenditures must be within the terms of the award and the budgetary policies of the College and Sponsoring Agency. The Principal Investigator should authorize all expenditures by grant number, the cost category (equipment, supplies, etc.) and sign each invoice.

Direct Costs, Personnel: As with most granting agencies, College policy requires that all salaries paid from a grant or contract be consistent with the salaries and wages paid from College funds to other staff members with similar qualifications and experience. Payments to professional and nonprofessional personnel may be made only in proportion to the time and effort spent directly on the project. Salaries of individuals working on more than one project may be prorated according to the percentage of time and effort devoted to each. However, this total amount cannot exceed the person's base salary. Records concerning time spent on the grant or contract should be maintained by the Principal Investigator for each individual receiving salary.

College policy does not permit charge of salaries of full-time faculty members to grants and contracts during the academic year. However, a faculty member is eligible to receive summer compensation for a maximum of two months for work done under grants and contracts. This monthly compensation for summer work may not exceed 1/9th of his/her base salary. Members of the faculty on sabbatical leave or leave of absence may charge salaries to grants and contracts during the academic year, provided that their total salary payments for the academic year does not exceed their stated base salaries.

Materials, Equipment and Services: Materials, equipment, and services, whether obtained from within or outside of the College, should be procured using the Colleges' formal procurement policy. The policy is provided to each principal investigator upon receipt of a new award. The policy can also be requested from the Controller's Office or may be found on the Controllers' Office web page. Each expense must be approved by the principal investigator. Generally, all materials, equipment and services must be ordered after the starting date and prior to the termination date of a grant or contract. Special attention should be given to the regulations of the sponsoring agencies as to dates within which commitments may be made.

Invoices and interdepartmental charges are sent directly to the Principal Investigator, who must approve them, by, noting the grant number, cost, and category (e.g., equipment, supplies) of each charge. After signature, they are sent to the Comptroller's Office for payment.

Travel: Expenses in connection with the grant or contract will be reimbursed according to the terms of the award and the travel reimbursement policy of the College.

Indirect Costs

The indirect cost charged to grants and contracts represents reimbursement to the College for such overhead items as general administration and plant operation (e.g, heat, light, use of space, maintenance).

The indirect cost is computed by the Controller's Office in accordance with government audited and approved calculations. The overhead rate is applied to total salaries, wages, fringe benefits, and is computed monthly.


It is the responsibility of the principal investigator to prepare and submit all nonfinancial reports in accordance with the grant or contract provision. The Controller's Office will prepare the follow-up financial reports.

Monthly Expense Reports: Monthly expense reports will be available online to the principal investigator. These reports will show the budget, the total expended during the previous fiscal years, and the total expended under the current fiscal year, with detail for the current month. This report should be reviewed monthly and any discrepancies reported promptly to the Controller's Office.

Quarterly Reports: Quarterly reports on all government grants and contracts will be forwarded directly to the sponsoring agency.

Final Reports: Final financial reports will be submitted at the end of each project and submitted to the sponsoring agency. When necessary, such reports will be signed by the principal investigator prior to submission to the sponsoring agency.

Final Project Reports: The principal investigator will submit to the sponsoring agency the required final project report. A copy should be forwarded to the Controller's Office for the grant file.

Interim Reports: Interim financial reports will prepared if required by the awarding agency.

The disposition of unexpended funds of a terminated grant or contract is determined by the policy of the sponsoring agency. Generally, such funds are returned to the sponsoring agency.

Financial Disclosures

In accordance with federal regulations any faculty member or other employees applying for support from NSF, NIH, and several other federal sources must disclose all "significant financial interests of the investigator (including those of his or her spouse and dependent children) (i) that would reasonably appear to be affected by the research or educational activities funded or proposed for funding; or (ii) in entities whose financial interests would reasonably appear to be affected by such activities." The policy applies to principal investigator, co-principal investigators, senior project staff and any other persons who are responsible for the design, conduct or reporting of the funded or proposed research or educational activity.

A copy of the policy and disclosure form will be attached to every routing sheet. It may also be obtained from the Controller's Office and the Dean of the Faculty's Office. You may also view the policy on the Controller's Office web page.

This disclosure must be updated annually and whenever new reportable, significant financial interests are acquired. The Controller's Office will send out the annual form.

Grants Inventions Agreement

The Board of Trustees approved the Amherst College patent policy on May 20, 2000. That policy may be reviewed in the Faculty Handbook on pages 151-154. You may also obtain a copy from the Comptroller's Office or view the policy on the Controller's Office web page.

A Grants Inventions Agreement must be completed for each grant that is applied for. This form must be attached to the grant routing form in order to receive a final signature from the Controller's Office.