Deadlines for Submitting Proposals for External Funding

Policy Approval Authority President
Responsible Division Division of Research and Innovation Partnerships
Responsible University Office Sponsored Programs Administration
Responsible Officer(s) Assistant Vice President
Contact Person Dara Little,
Primary Audience Faculty
Status Active
Effective Adoption Date 12-05-2008
Last Review Date 01-01-2017
Policy Category/Categories Sponsored Funding/Grants and Contracts


To outline the institutional approval and submission process for requesting external funding at Northern Illinois University.

Reason for Policy

When an investigator (referred to as Principal Investigator or PI) submits a proposal for external funding, a legal agreement is initiated between NIU and the sponsor. If the sponsor accepts the proposal, NIU as the grantee must conduct the proposed project for the amount specified within that proposal. As such, the NIU Board of Trustees requires that grants and contracts for all research, instruction, service, artistry and other academic-related activities acquired from external sponsors undergo an institutional review to ensure that the activities are consistent with the university’s mission and financial capabilities.
The institutional review process through Sponsored Programs Administration (SPA) is the mechanism for ensuring that proposed activities are consistent with NIU’s mission and financial capabilities. The review process involves routing at least a draft of the proposal, final budget, and System Tracking and External Project (STEP) form to the PI and any Co-PIs, their Chair(s), and Dean(s). The STEP form includes information about the proposed project and SPA uses the form to track and report proposal and award information as well as capture compliance elements related to the project. An individual’s approval of the STEP form and routing package signifies his/her approval for any resources required to carry out the project and captures certifications (e.g. key personnel conflict of interest) that are necessary as part of the proposal submission process.

Intended Audience

  • Deans
  • Senior Administration – Vice Provosts, Associate Deans
  • Directors, Department Heads, Division Heads
  • Faculty and Staff
  • Departmental/Divisional Business Administrators
  • Sponsored Programs Administration Personnel
  • Research Compliance Personnel


All proposals for external funding must undergo institutional review and receive approval by Sponsored Programs Administration (SPA) prior to submission to the sponsor. All proposals includes those where NIU is the lead institution submitting to the sponsor and those where NIU is a collaborator (e.g. subcontractor or subrecipient) on another organization’s proposal.
Principal Investigators who anticipate submitting a proposal must notify SPA at least fifteen business days before the published sponsor deadline or as soon as a funding opportunity becomes known. Notification within this time frame is necessary so that the institutional review process can begin at least five business days before the published sponsor deadline. This time frame provides institutional reviewers with adequate time to address any questions they may have about the project or budget.
SPA cannot guarantee submission of a proposal for PIs who do not meet these deadlines.


Principal Investigators (PI) must contact their appropriate SPA Research Development Specialist (RDS) at least fifteen business days prior to the sponsor deadline or as soon as a funding opportunity becomes known.

  • PI’s who contact their RDS fifteen business days or more before the deadline can expect assistance with developing the project budget, completing proposals forms, and reviewing proposal elements to ensure compliance with the funding solicitation and sponsor and institutional requirements.
  • SPA cannot guarantee this level of support for PIs who contact their RDS less than fifteen business days before the deadline. To avoid disruption in the preparation and review of other proposals already in SPA, the level of support for proposals received during this time frame will depend primarily on the RDS’s current proposal development volume; other to avoid technical glitches. Factors can include staff availability and complexity of the proposal.

At least five business days before to the sponsor deadline, the RDS will work with the PI to complete the System Tracking and External Project (STEP) form and initiate institutional review. At minimum, the following will be routed to the PI and any Co-PIs, their Chair(s), and Dean(s):

  • Project budget
  • Budget justification
  • Project narrative
  • Sponsor guidelines (as applicable)
  • Agency forms requiring institutional signature (as applicable)

When all institutional reviewers have approved the proposal (via his/her signature on the STEP form), SPA will either submit the proposal or communicate with the PI that they may proceed with submission.

SPA will provide a copy of the fully signed STEP form to the PI, Co-PI(s), and their departments.
Special Considerations SPA reserves the right to deny submission of a proposal when deadlines are not met. Considerations for refusing to submit a proposal include (but are not limited to) non-compliance with sponsor and/or institutional requirements and existing volume in SPA.

In cases when SPA agrees to submit a proposal when deadlines are not met, SPA reserves the right to withdraw the proposal from sponsor consideration or require the PI to make changes to the project or budget if, during the post submission review, it is found that the proposal does not meet sponsor or institutional requirements.
In cases of university closure due to inclement weather or other catastrophic events, SPA will make reasonable efforts to submit proposals and/or assist PIs to contact sponsors regarding deadline extensions as soon as practicable when submission is not possible.

For proposals that require electronic submission (e.g., NSF FastLane, e-Grants), SPA strongly urges PIs to have these proposals institutionally reviewed and ready for submission at least two business days prior to the published sponsor deadline as these systems can become overloaded during heavy deadlines. Sponsors are generally unwilling to grant exceptions to the proposal deadline when technical issues prevent timely submission.

Proposals will be submitted during standard SPA business hours (8:00 AM – 4:30 PM Central Standard Time Monday through Friday excluding holidays), and SPA will  not guarantee submission of proposals outside of such hours, regardless of stated sponsor deadline time.

Depending on the level of detail requested from a sponsor for a letter of intent, institutional review may be necessary. Contact your RDS for guidance.

Back to top of page