Office of Sponsored Research

Welcome to the Office of Grants & Sponsored Research (OGSR) at Mercyhurst University. This office helps to secure grants and contracts from foundations, corporations, and government agencies for Mercyhurst University, its administration, departments, and its institutes. We help obtain funding for institutional priorities including capital improvements, research equipment and technology, curricular and faculty development, individual faculty and departmental research projects, academic programs, student development programs, student scholarships, institutional improvement, and community based programs.

This site provides basic information about the grant-seeking process: how to identify funding sources, how to prepare proposals and applications and manage grants and contracts that have been awarded.

OSGR is here to help

We are here to offer assistance and discuss strategies for funding your project and will:

  • Monitor funding sources regularly to let you know of new RFPs as soon as they are announced
  • Provide information on potential sources of grant funds in response to individual requests
  • Help you in your own search for funding using electronic databases and internet technologies
  • Obtain application materials and information for you from funding agencies
  • Maintain a mini-library of resources on project development, proposal writing, previously submitted proposals and past awards.
  • Read and edit proposals and applications
  • Work closely with you and the finance office on project budget development within established college guidelines
  • Process proposals through institutional channels and obtain required institutional signatures
  • Prepare cover sheets and other official forms, duplicate, assemble, and transmit final proposals

We will help an awardee set up financial accounts for funded projects and monitor them through closeout, insuring compliance with award budgets, schedules, billings, scope(s) of work and any policies dictated with the awarding agency

OSGR will help oversee the administration of funded projects, serving as a liaison between you (the Principal Investigator or Project Director), the university’s finance office and the external funding agency.

OGSR is responsible for the university’s federal access including: passwords, log-in and authorization for use of electronic grant submission sites and NSF Fastlane, as well as maintaining certifications and registrations necessary to obtain Federal Grants and Contracts through the System for Award Management (SAM).

Types of Funding

Foundation Grants and Awards

Private foundations and corporations represent a source of funding for the university. Most foundations require that your proposal be written to meet their strategic funding priorities and satisfy their specific proposal process. Unsolicited proposals to private foundations are rarely funded. Generally, a successful proposal requires an ongoing relationship between the University and the foundation or corporation and is accompanied by a letter of support from the President of the University.

All grants and awards sought from private or corporate foundations and private individuals must be submitted by the Office of Institutional Advancement.  Inquiries and individual requests should be made with the Director of External Affairs & Government Relations

There are more than 250,000 private foundations in the United States. There are several ways to identify sources of foundation funding. If you have identified a foundation or corporation as a potential source of funding, please call the Advancement department ext. 2102. Mercyhurst subscribes to a database of active foundations in the United States. We will research the foundation, its history, and its relationship (if any) with Mercyhurst University for you, and help develop a strategy for approaching the organization. The lists below are current foundation that Mercyhurst University has strong relationships with and in many cases active grants.

Please contact OGSR before contacting private or corporate foundations or private individuals.  We will give you background information on the funder, their contact information, and a list of grants they have awarded Mercyhurst in the past. Several local funders prefer “one annual proposal” from Mercyhurst with a menu of different projects they can select to support.  We will help you navigate their personal preferences.

Private Foundations

  • Erie Community Foundation
  • The George I. Alden Trust
  • The Erie Women’s Fund
  • Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation
  • New England Foundation for the Arts
  • Erie Arts & Culture
  • Charles I. Blake Family Foundation
  • The Black Family Foundation
  • The Kern Family Foundation
  • The Albers Foundation
  • Carnahan Jackson Foundation
  • The Statler Foundation
  • The J.W. and Alice S. Marriott Foundation
  • The Hirtzel Foundation
  • A.J. and Sigismunda Palumbo Foundation

Corporate Foundations

  • Hamot Health Foundation
  • Erie Insurance Foundation 
  • Marriott Foundation
  • The Walmart Foundation
  • PNC Bank Foundation
  • Highmark Foundation
  • General Electric Foundation
  • Boeing Corporation
  • UPMC Foundation

Additional Resources

There are various websites and print resources to help you craft a proposal. Please contact our office for help with any or all of the elements your application requires. We will be happy to help you in any way that we can. Here is a brief list of grant writing (both federal and foundation) sites you can peruse for guidance in building a successful application:

Government Grants and Awards

U.S. federal and state governments support a number of agencies that award grants for different purposes. Public agencies generate large numbers of proposals and have a wide variety of guidelines, formats and required institutional information. Policies and proposals can vary widely between agencies. Information about grants available, application guidelines and deadlines can be found at each agency’s website.

We recommend that faculty subscribe to local, state and federal newsletters that announce agency Requests For Proposals (RFP) germane to your field of study. Because the government rarely provides much time between announcement and deadline please share any RFP with OGSR as soon as you become aware of the opportunity.  We will review the entire RFP document for eligibility and other requirements. Once your Dean or Department Chair gives you the go-ahead we will work with you to organize all the materials required for submission.

Ownership of the proposal is with the Principal Investigator or Project Director and while you will be the author of the narrative, we will assist with budgets, boilerplate materials, signatures, letters of support, etc. as required by the RFP.  If research is involved using human subjects we will work with the IRB so your proposal is compliant.

Federal grants must be submitted via the website and the federal government mandates that one person per institution is authorized to submit proposals.  Sheila Coon is Mercyhurst’s authorized representative. Please make an appointment to meet with her regarding your project as early as possible.

Federal grants in most cases are highly competitive and Mercyhurst will submit proposals no later than ONE-WEEK prior to the published deadline. Federal agencies will NOT ACCEPT any proposals submitted after the deadline and if your proposal is not ready we don’t want you to expend untold hours racing to the finish line only to have your project rejected. 

BEFORE you begin writing – planning your project

Begin by reflecting about your research interests as well as the purpose of your project. There are many things to consider in the beginning/planning stage. How might this project further the mission of our university? What agencies will you consider approaching with this project? Will your research involve undergraduate/graduate research and contributions? What are your general budget requirements?

In order to help you organize your research and funding plan, we have developed a Research Request Form for you complete and let our office know what your interests and needs are. We will use this form to research potential funding opportunities that might support your project. Print the form, complete, scan, and return to OGSR by email or inter-campus mail. Please don't hesitate to let us know your research ideas, even at an early stage, so that we may begin to research for funding opportunities as soon as possible. Feel free to call us so to set up an appointment to discuss your research ideas.

We encourage you to discuss your research ideas with us whether they are your individual or departmental projects. We can be the most helpful to you in this process if you include our office at the earliest stages of your project development. It is important to let us know as soon as possible of your plans so that we can build your project needs into our schedule and give it the proper attention it deserves.

Early in the process you will want to discuss your project with your Department Chair and/or the Dean of your school, particularly if there is a commitment of university resources (in-cash and in-kind) that will be required to complete the proposed project (i.e.: time of faculty and staff, matching funds, use of students and facilities).

All proposed grants and contracts typically must go through an approval process. OGSR will coordinate the approval arrangements. This process may require: (depending on the nature of the project and amount of the award) the endorsement of the University President; Chief of Staff; Vice President for Academic Affairs; Dean of the relevant school; Institute Directors and the OGSR.

You should also be aware that you must receive approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) if you are applying for funding any research activity that involves “Human subjects”.  

Most grant applications will require the endorsement and signature of a University official, which we will obtain for you. All legal forms showing the University’s designation as a higher-education institution, as well as reporting our approved financial status and Health and Human Services approved “Indirect rates” are on file in our office and we will gather the necessary documents for your application.

No Grant or award should be accepted by an individual on behalf of the University without prior approval. Nearly all awards are grants to the University and most require the electronic endorsement of the Authorized Organization Representative (AOR) or signature endorsement of a University official.


The more assistance you need, the further in advance we need to know about your project. If you are submitting a proposal to a State or Federal agency, please contact us immediately.  We are here to help with steps such as: verifying Mercyhurst’s eligibility, checking your proposal for guideline compliance, completing the necessary forms, making the necessary copies and gathering signatures (federal and state agencies will not consider applications that do not conform exactly to their guidelines). In addition, many federal agencies require you to follow special electronic submission procedures, oftentimes requiring accounts and log-in information which our office already has obtained, and we will submit these applications for you. However, these electronic submission programs can be overwhelmed at deadline times, so you need to submit your application to us NO LATER THAN ONE WEEK PRIOR TO the deadline to ensure that the submittal is transmitted and accepted on time. 

NOTE: All submissions to go through the OSGR office and must be ready for review and to be submitted no later than one-full week prior to the published deadline.

We have had grant requests not accepted because they were filed 2 minutes too late and many hours of work and research was wasted when the deadline was missed.

Writing your proposal

As you begin to draft a proposal it will be helpful to consider the following questions:

  • What great NEED does my project fulfill?
  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • Why is this important to me and to the university?
  • What will the impact of my work be on the community?
  • What are the qualities or elements that Mercyhurst University has that will make this project unique?

Each funding source will have its own proposal format and instructions, so it is very important to read the application instructions/guidelines before beginning work on a proposal. The instructions and format can vary from agency to agency, and some will be very simple and others will have very specific guidelines.

Most funders request the following proposal components:

  • Abstract/Executive Summary: This brief summary must capture the attention of the reader, explain the essence of your proposed project and state the requested amount targeted for the project.  It is generally written last.
  • Proposal Narrative: This includes an in-depth description of your project, your goals, your methodology, procedures, resources available, resources needed, a timeline, and your evaluation process.
  • Budget and Budget Narrative: The resources needed section of the proposal narrative should provide the basis for your budget. This is where you state what you will achieve, your project goals and why each is important. Often you include what Mercyhurst University is adding to the proposal in equipment or personnel and its in-kind value.
  • Appendices: The supporting documents for your proposal can include a description of Mercyhurst University, a brief history, a financial statement, our IRS status, certifications and assurances the OGSR maintains and registers (SAM), the CV of the principal investigator on the project, and letters of support.
  • Cover Letter: The President, Dean of your School, or the Director of OGSR may be required to submit a letter endorsing your project and providing information beyond the scope of a faculty member or student.
  • Assessment/Evaluation: Agencies and foundations want to know how effective the programs they fund will be and the potential impact they may have on the community. It is in this section that you will discuss how you are going to assess and evaluate the project, and describe what success will look like.

Remember, the program officer from the funding source or agency is often the best source of information about the details each application may require. We strongly recommend telephoning the program officer to ask questions early on, so he/she can provide more details about how to best present your case in the proposal.  Establishing a relationship with your program officer gives him/her an idea about your proposal well before the agency receives it and it is prepared for review.

Preparing the budget

In your proposal narrative, you should have a section detailing the resources needed to implement your project. This will provide you with the basis for your budget. In general, ask for what you need, and explain why you need it. Be specific. Quantify everything you can. You may be required to include a budget narrative that explains how you came up with each line item in your budget.

In this process you may need information that is beyond your frame of reference in regards to salaries, consulting fees, sub-contractor payments, fringes and federally approved indirect rates as dictated by the University and the Grantor Agency. OGSR  will provide templates with these calculations for you and work with you to develop your budget. We are available to help make it easy.

Some grants require matching funds from the university and/or another donor. This requirement is not necessarily an impediment to your research, but you will need to discuss this request with our office and with the other officers at the university before we formulate this part of the budget and you obtain approval for your project.

It is important to note that the budget structure and elements vary between Foundations, Private Contracts and Federal or State Grants. Each budget is drafted according to the specifications in each RFP and is unique to each research project.  The VP for OAA/Chief of Staff and President need to review and approve all university resources - both in-kind and financial match.

Congratulations…you got the grant!

All grants and awards from Private or Corporate Foundations and Private Individuals must be deposited with the Office for Institutional Advancement. We will set up an account for your project with the finance office.  All revenue and expenses will flow in and out of the project account and records will be clear and available for all required reporting.  Once the grant check is processed through Advancement, the Project Account number and the check will be delivered to the Finance Department where it will be deposited in your new account.

IMPORTANT REMINDER:  Mercyhurst University legal documents including grant or contract awards can only be signed by three official signatories:  the President, the VP for Finance and Treasurer, and the Controller.

State and Federal grants typically operate on a “reimbursement” basis.  Mercyhurst begins the project with Mercyhurst money and then submits invoices to the agency for reimbursement.  The same process to establish an account is followed, but you are responsible to submit expenses for the project to the Finance department to pay.  Then on the schedule the grantor determines; Invoices are prepared by OSGR and presented to the agency for an Electronic Fund Transfer – into your account to pay for those expenses.  We will walk you through this process and assist in generating Invoices.

Grant Management - after the grant/contract is awarded

The Office of Grants & Sponsored Research (OGSR) will oversee the technical fulfillment of university grants and contracts. Awards are made to the university or institute, not individuals. OGSR will serve as the liaison between the Principal Investigator, Project Director, Institute Administrator, the University’s Finance Office and the funding agency.

  1. After the award letter and other award documents have been received, OGSR will meet with the Principal Investigator or Project Director, Department Chair, Institute Director, and any other departmental personnel who may be involved - to discuss the implementation of the project and schedule the mandated reports. This meeting will consist of a review of the project, its origins and purpose, as well as any special conditions of the award. Fiscal policies and procedures will be covered in detail. All participants will be able to ask questions and clarify any issues about the project or the grant, as well as to make plans for a well-coordinated grant management.
  2. The University Finance Department will assign a project number (separate account) for the grant project. Monthly printout reports showing expenses will be provided to the OGSR. The PI or Project Director will be required to submit purchase orders and check requests through the Finance Office and is responsible for managing the expenses as presented in the project budget. Variations from the original budget, unless minor, generally must be cleared with the OGSR and/or funding agency. The OGSR, working with the Finance Office, will assist the PI/PD in submitting required billing, invoices and fiscal reports to the funding agency for reimbursement.
  3. All grant and contract recipients should maintain detailed records showing how the grant is administered. Although financial records are maintained centrally by the University’s finance department, you should keep track of any grant related activities and purchases (for example, student research-including senior comprehensive projects, papers presented, time sheets, schedules of work and publications.) You will monitor your project and budget in comparison to the actual progress and expenditures being made to determine if you are on track or schedule with the project’s scope of work. If not, you need to address what is preventing you from achieving your project’s goals and deadlines. All of this information may be required in periodic reports to the funding source.
  4. The primary follow-up responsibilities of the project director or Principal investigator are to insure that funds are appropriate, managed to be within the approved budget, that planned evaluations are carried out, and that the required work and reports are prepared and submitted on time. Being on-budget and on-time are the key elements of a successful grant. When in doubt, the Office of Grants & Sponsored Research will assist you with these responsibilities.
  5. If the award is made directly to you (a fellowship award, or stipend for example): In most cases, you alone are responsible for reporting to the funding agency and the University is not involved. You should remember that you will be responsible for taxes and fringes on the fellowship/awards and stipends.

Mercyhurst University sponsored funding

Mercyhurst University offers mini-grants for faculty and student development in areas related to research and teaching. These grants are available for all full-time faculty and students and are used to support a specific project, continuing education and academic development, or for small supply/equipment funding. In addition, the Office of Academic Affairs (OAA), together with the Faculty Research Committee, administers funds for faculty research and travel. The following is a sample of our internal funding opportunities. For more information about these internal funds, please contact the OAA or the current chair of the Faculty Research Committee.

  • Academic Enrichment Grants (sponsored by Academic Departments)
  • Diversity Grants (sponsored by clubs)
  • Faculty Travel Grants
  • Faculty Research Grants
  • Departmental Funding
  • Public Funding Sources

If you have specific questions or if you would like more information,


Sheila Coon
Egan 211
Phone: (814) 824-2102