Proposal Basics

Proposal Systems in a Nutshell (PDF)
Proposal Process Using Phoebe (PDF)
Proposal Process Using Sponsor’s System (PDF)  

Preparing a proposal is a collaborative effort between the Principal Investigator and the Berkeley Law Contracts/Grants Specialist.  While the Principal Investigator is focused on developing the core of the submission – the project narrative or technical section – the Specialist is compiling all of the other required administrative elements of the funding application, especially the proposal budget and budget narrative.   


Faculty are encouraged to contact Berkeley Law’s Contracts/Grants Specialist as early in the proposal process as possible, ideally as soon as a funding opportunity has been identified. If your proposal needs to be submitted to the sponsor via an online application portal, please request access privileges immediately and get this task out of the way well in advance of any submission deadline.   

The Berkeley Law Contracts/Grants Specialist is a law school Principal Investigator’s primary source of support for proposal development. You should allow a minimum of three to five days for development of the administrative elements of your proposal and creation of the Phoebe record. 


Once a proposal has been completed by the Principal Investigator and Specialist, it will need to be approved by the Dean and endorsed by the University.  The speed with which these required consents can be obtained depends on existing workload in each office – allow sufficient time when planning your submission.   

A good rule of thumb is to allow at least 10 business days for approvals, especially if your proposal must be submitted to a sponsor via an electronic system and the Sponsored Projects Office will need to preview the pending online application before issuing an endorsement. This leeway also allows time to make any SPO-required revisions to the proposal before the sponsor’s submission deadline.   


Proposals submitted for approval and endorsement five or fewer business days before the sponsor’s submission deadline will require exceptional approval from the Vice Chancellor for Research before they can be considered by the Dean and SPO - it may not be possible for the campus approval process to be completed in time.  


SPO recommends that you read and thoroughly understand the sponsor’s proposal guidelines and application instructions, and that you prepare your proposal accordingly. Look for attitudes being expressed “between the lines” to determine if the sponsor appears to be for or against what you want to do. Key words and phrases that appear throughout the proposal guidelines or instructions should be your vocabulary when writing the proposal. Proposal success hinges on making the sponsor feel that you understand what is needed.    

Get all the information you can about your prospective sponsor – what do they actually fund? How do they want to be contacted – letter of intent, concept paper, pre-proposal, or complete proposal?   


Proposal writing resources are available on the Sponsored Projects Office website.  

Be positive and state your goals and objectives firmly. Convince the sponsor that your project is an important activity that relates to what the sponsor wants to make happen. Relate your project to what has been done previously by others in the same field or area of interest. Clearly state what you plan to do and when.  Describe the exact procedures and tools you will use – don’t be vague. Provide tables and figures to explain complicated data.   

Make it easy for the proposal reviewer to read the proposal and find the information they need to evaluate it. Since peer reviewers come with all levels of understanding, make sure you explain what you want to do in a way that any competent reader could understand.