The search for external funding involves a number of components and steps, beginning with the effort to identify potential funding sources and extending to the proposal preparation, approval, and submission processes. Our Quick Guide to the External Funding Process is designed to clarify the process, providing an overview of these various components and steps with related tips and guidelines.

Questions about the external funding process may be directed at any time to the Division of Sponsored Programs at or 319-335-2123.

Quick Guide

The department is responsible for initiating as well as “shepherding” the routing form through the approval
process to ensure it reaches the Division of Sponsored Programs (DSP) (required for all sponsored research –proposals, contracts, subawards, awards, non-monetary agreements, etc.). The fully approved routing form arrives in DSP and is the signal that there is a proposal/agreement to review or award (review will not begin unless there is also a completed proposal or a contract/award in addition to the routing form).

The overall responsibility for proposal development rests with the PI. The PI works in conjunction with their Departmental Pre-Award Research Administrator to develop the budget and all necessary sections of the proposal, including all required proposal forms. This requires a close review of the general agency guidelines and solicitation-specific requirements by the PI and Departmental Administrator. They may also involve working in an electronic submission system such as Cayuse, which the UI uses for proposal submission. (DSP requires an approved routing form AND completed proposal to begin its review.)

DSP will review the application and contract/award documents. This may entail DSP staff communicating back and forth with the PI/department and/or sponsor. DSP will authorize the application/contract by providing the institutional approval on behalf of the Vice President for Research – through signature, electronic approval, or as required by the sponsor (PI’s should NOT sign contracts on behalf of the University of Iowa).

DSP in conjunction with the GAO will process the award and set up the master file key (MFK#/grant account) for the PI/department. The PI/dept. will receive an email with the award and grant account information. Generally, the sponsor sends the award to DSP. However, if the sponsor sends the award notice to the PI/department, then it is the PI/departmental administrator’s responsibility to send the award to DSP.

  • Work with your department early in the submission process and plan to complete your application at
    least 7 days in advance of the sponsor’s submission deadline.
  • READ and follow the sponsor guidelines exactly.
  • Make sure budgets are correctly calculated and meet the sponsor guidelines for allowable costs and
    limits, are an adequate and accurate reflection of the proposed project needs, and include the appropriate
    F&A costs. Attach an internal budget (Excel spreadsheet) to the routing form.
  • Confirm the final application is fully completed and includes all required forms and
    signatures/electronic approvals. Review the information contained in attachments to ensure it complies
    with the sponsor guidelines.
  • Leave enough time for the routing process and possible concerns and corrections along the way,
    allowing the Division of Sponsored Programs at least five business days to review, finalize, and, if
    applicable, submit your application.

DSP Training: Request a session with DSP on various topics such as Working with DSP, Routing Forms, Budget Preparation, or sponsor-specific requirements.
DSP Research Tracker: (tool for managing all departmental research from routing form stage through award):
UI Routing Form:
DSP website:
Frequently Needed Information:
Find Funding/Grant Bulletin:
NCURA YouTube videos:
NIH Grants & Funding:

Interactive Listing of Pre-Award Research Administrator (PARA):