How to Get Started

The grant proposal process generally begins when the Principal Investigator (PI) or Project Director (PD) has developed their own research or programmatic effort and is seeking funding to support the project. The following comprise the key steps in the life cycle of a grant or project. For more information or to request a consultation, please contact us online at We can answer any specific questions you may have, as well as offer general guidance throughout the grant and project development process.

Use the Resources for Building Grant Capacity document to identify which department to contact for each step of the process.

Step 1: Idea Development

Key to a successful proposal is a good idea. A well-defined idea is the first step in the proposal development process. An idea that has been analyzed, vetted and studied in research or program literature, determined to be feasible and expected to contribute to advances in care, scholarly achievements and program offerings provides a strong foundation for matching with a sponsor.

Step 2: Identify a Source of Funding

Search for funding opportunities within the sources of funding, other resources such as, your specific industry, medical or professional society, or a simple Google search. GAO offers weekly funding announcements of interest to Ascension Seton associates.

After identifying a source of funding, closely review the instructions for eligibility, guidelines and deadlines and note the agency proposal deadlines as well as GAO’s internal deadline (five business days before the funding agency).

Step 3: Review the Instructions

We recommend that the PI/PD (Program Investigator/Program Director) review the sponsor’s instructions thoroughly to assess the technical eligibility concerns regarding educational degrees. Typically the PI/PD is better equipped to recognize and assess submission restrictions. GAO encourages the PI/PD to contact the appropriate funding agency program officer to begin a conversation that will help guide the proposal process. GAO provides template letters and assistance for initiating this process and preparing for the discussion.

In cases where a sponsor limits the number of applications, Ascension Seton may require an internal coordination review process (i.e., to eliminate unnecessary duplication of requests). In those cases, GAO will work with investigators and/or program leaders to coordinate the internal review and selection process.

GAO provides template letters and assistance with drafting your Letter of Intent (LOI). If the sponsor requires a LOI, please note the following:

  1. If the Sponsor does not require an Institutional signature, detailed budget or commitment of resources and conditions for the LOI, the PI/PD may submit the LOI directly to sponsor.
  2. If the Sponsor does require an Institutional signature, detailed budget or commitment of resources and conditions for the LOI, GAO will obtain the signature and submit LOI to sponsor. 

GAO will also assist Ascension Seton investigators with securing necessary documentation and Institutional Authorization for subawards.

Step 4: Download the Proposal Software Package

Most grant proposal submissions are electronic and require the PI/PD to register with the agency or grantmaking entity. This information must be included on the Intent to Submit form.

For National Institute of Health (NIH)-funded research opportunities the PI must be registered with eRA Commons and should request a new eRA user ID or a Ascension Seton affiliation of an existing account.

Step 5: Prepare Your Submission

Grant writing and project development require an enormous team effort, so be sure you have enough time and the appropriate resources to manage the process. GAO provides guidance for preparing many standard components of grants and will also advise on coordinating your grant submission.

Read our guide on grant preparation and strategy to become familiar with grant structure and grant writing practices. Contact Research Support Services to request help with research design, data and analytics, budget development and early feasibility determination.

Step 6: Inform GAO of Your Intent to Submit

Once you begin to develop your proposal, notify GAO using the Intent to Submit form. Notifying GAO early in the process places your submission in queue and alerts us to register with the specific funding agency, if necessary.

GAO will collaborate with the PI/PD and his/her department and sponsors so that PIs may be successful in their research grants. The PI/PD must also complete and submit the Proposal Routing Form with their completed proposal.

Step 7: Consider Commercialization Opportunities

If you are thinking about commercialization opportunities of your project, consider contacting the Innovation program to explore patenting inventions and licensing opportunities.

Is There Anything Else?

Yes! For research proposals that involve human subjects for which Institutional Review Board (IRB) review is required, be sure your CITI training and other required documents are current.