Agency Forms and Guidelines

Guidelines and form sets for major federal, state, and other sponsors.

Instructions for Submitting to a Federal Agency

When submitting a proposal to a federal sponsor, first review the proposal guidelines thoroughly to determine the deadline, required forms, and any additional information pertinent to the proposal submission. Typically all federal proposals are submitted with full Facilities and Administrative costs (F&A); however, some federal agencies such as USDA may restrict F&A. Be sure to read the guidelines carefully to identify the appropriate rates. To see the FAQ for F&A, click here.

Most federal grants are submitted via Most NSF proposals are submitted via or FastLane, but some NSF Directorates are beginning to accept proposals via

NSF has an excellent guide, titled "Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide" (PAPPG) which addresses many questions of first-time NSF applicants and awardees. 

Federal Forms and Guidelines

Major Federal Sponsors


Department of Defense

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

National Institutes of Health

National Institute of Food and Agriculture

National Science Foundation (NSF)

Representations & Certifications

Often a sponsor will require completion of Representations and Certifications (commonly referred to as Reps & Certs) as part of the proposal submission package. Penn State’s institutional Reps & Certs, which are required in order to do business with the U.S. Government, can be found at the U.S. Government’s System for Award Management  (SAM).  Some sponsors, primarily Federal Agencies, contractors or labs, will not accept the Reps & Certs found in SAM, but instead require completion of their own version.

Please note that sponsor Reps and Certs can change frequently, so if you receive agency-specific forms and you are unsure about how to answer a specific question, please contact the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) for assistance. In addition, any federal acquisition regulations (e.g., FAR, DFARS clauses) that are included in a sponsor’s Reps and Certs must be reviewed by OSP to confirm the University’s compliance. Please forward such Reps and Certs to OSP indicating which section contains the clauses for review.

For Frequently Requested Financial Information, please click Here. This page includes information regarding Penn State's Accounting System, Estimating System, Purchasing System, and Property Management System.

Governor Wolf signed Executive Order 2021-06 (Worker Protection and Investment) on October 21, 2021. Authorized Organizational Representatives (AORs) are authorized to sign this form on behalf of Penn State. Any new versions of this form should be sent to OSP for review.

Instructions for Submitting to Industry

Many industry proposals do not require the use of specific guidelines or form sets. (Obviously, if you are responding to a specific industry Request for Proposals (RFP), you will want to follow the guidelines provided.) However, there are a number of things to know about submitting proposals to industry:

 1. Penn State has developed a number of agreement templates for industry use. By including the appropriate agreement with your industry proposal, you may expedite the processing of the resultant award.

 2. Proposals funded with industry internal research and development (IRAD) funds are subject to an additional 5% F&A. Industry proposals funded with federal flow-through funds are not.

3.  It is advised that Proposals to NEW Industry Sponsors should include a copy of the Fundamental Principals document in the Proposal Package.  For the Fundamental Principals document click HERE. 

Instructions for Utilizing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (COP) Master Agreement

Penn State has negotiated a new 5-year Master Agreement with the Commonwealth Department of General Services (DGS) effective for the period 7/01/21 – 6/30/26.  All COP agencies may issue purchase orders to Penn State via this Master Agreement. (Please note that PennDOT has established a separate master agreement with Penn State for specific research projects).  COP agencies may also issue stand-alone grants, contracts, or purchase orders to Penn State, but note these include their own set of terms and conditions and do not fall under the COP Master Agreement.

Request for Proposal/Proposal Submission Process

For all projects intended to be issued under the COP Master Agreement, the following process will be followed:

The COP agency will issue Attachment 1 (Agency Request–Work Plan) to Penn State. Attachment 1 information will include:

  • Requested project and time frame
  • Copyright ownership selection (determined by whether the funding is Commonwealth or federal pass-through)
  • Method of invoicing (standard invoice only or special invoicing required)
  • Reporting requirements
  • Source of funds (which will determine the applicable F&A rate)

If the COP agency has identified the Penn State Principal Investigator (PI) for the requested project, Attachment 1 will be sent directly to the PI who should then contact their contracts and grants office to prepare the proposal. If the PI is not known/identified, Attachment 1 will be sent to the Office of Sponsored Programs at OSP will then determine where to forward the request.

Penn State will respond to the COP agency utilizing Attachment 2 (University Response – Project Template).  Attachment 2 will include:

  • Statement of work
  • Detailed budget
  • Summary budget (see below for details regarding the budgets to be provided)

Attachment 2 should be marked ‘Original Response’ by checking the appropriate box and submitted to the COP agency unsigned.
Following review by the COP agency (and DGS for proposals >$100K), the COP agency will either:

  • Notify Penn State the proposal is acceptable as submitted, at which point we will sign and return Attachment 2 for COP approval/countersignature; or
  • The COP agency will notify Penn State that revisions are required. In this instance, a revised proposal and Attachment 2 (with ‘Revised Response’ checked) are to be submitted, again unsigned. If the revised proposal is approved, the signature process under 1) above will be followed.

Budget Submissions

  • The first budget is a detailed budget, such as is created in SIMSbudgets. COP agencies use this budget for review and evaluation of the project. If the project has a budget of $100,000 or greater, the COP agency will forward to DGS for further review and approval.  DGS may contact Penn State for additional detail as needed to evaluate the proposed costs or project.
  • The second budget is a summary budget broken into seven major categories (a sample template can be found here) :

    1. Personnel (includes tuition when requested by Penn State and approved by the COP agency or DGS when appropriate)
    2. Operational (includes all other direct costs and expendable equipment not included in one of the other major categories)
    3. Subcontracting
    4. Professional Services (external purchased services and internal services such as materials characterization analysis, for example)
    5. Capital Equipment (cost $5,000 or greater). Submit purchase price and cost to rent the equipment. The COP agency or DGS will then determine which option and advise their selection.
    6. Travel
    7. Administrative Fees (when allowable/applicable). Administrative Fees are also defined as overhead, F&A, indirect costs.

The summary budget is used by the COP agency to issue the purchase order. Under the provisions of the COP Master Agreement, Penn State must obtain prior approval before shifting funds from one major category to another. Budget revision requests should be submitted to the COP agency (with a copy to and if accepted, an amendment to the purchase order will be issued. Although not specified in the Master Agreement, it is highly recommended to submit budget revision requests no later than sixty (60) days prior to the purchase order end date. If you receive a purchase order issued based on the detailed budget, please contact the COP agency to request a revised purchase order based on the summary budget.


Additional COP Master Agreement attachments

  • Attachment 3 (Report of Personal Property).  In Attachment 2, the COP agency designates disposition of Capital and Non-Capital Equipment with the option to either take possession at conclusion of the purchase order period or allow Penn State to retain the equipment for use on other projects funded by the issuing COP agency only.  In those instances where the COP decides to take possession, upon completion or termination of the purchase order, Penn State must submit Attachment 3 within 60 days.  Further details regarding the reporting process can be found in the highlight document at the link below.
  • Attachment 4 (Business Associate Agreement) will be included with the purchase order if Protected Health Information (PHI) will be provided to Penn State as part of a project.  If PHI is provided in a limited data set, the COP agency will include with the purchase order a Data Use Agreement (DUA).
  • Attachment 5 (Lobbying Certification Form) was completed at the time of Master Agreement execution and therefore does not need to be completed for individual purchase orders.  This attachment only applies if the project is federally funded.

For some quick highlights regarding travel, equipment, expendable property, invoicing, and the COP minimum wage provision in the COP Master Agreement, click here.

Guidance on F&A on Commonwealth Proposals

For purchase orders issued under the COP Master Agreement, the COP agency must identify the source of funds per the requirements of Attachment 1 to the master agreement. When submitting proposals to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (COP) that will not be funded under the COP master agreement, it is imperative that you determine the original source of funding prior to preparing a budget. The Commonwealth is required to identify the source of funding; if they do not, refer them to Commonwealth Management Directive 305.21. If the funding is 100% federal flow-through, the budget must be prepared with the appropriate F&A for the applicable federal agency.  If the funding is 100% COP funds, F&A is not collected unless the COP agency has established rules for reimbursing F&A. If the funding is a mix of Federal and COP funds, the budget must be split to show the appropriate F&A on each portion of the project.

If the COP agency cannot identify the source of funding at the time of the proposal, the proposal should be submitted at the appropriate federally negotiated rate. This will prompt the COP agency to reply if the funding is not federal. If the project is later determined to be 100% state funds or a combination of state and federal, the F&A can be recalculated at that time and a revised budget submitted.

Additional guidance on charging F&A to COP grants and contracts can be found here.

Frequently Asked Questions - Commonwealth Master Agreement

Working with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – Master Agreement Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: Are there any special requirements for submitting proposals when using the master agreement?

A: The master agreement has its own set of attachments (1-2) for submitting proposals. Please see the instructions and forms on the ‘Instructions for Utilizing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (COP) Master Agreement’ page click here.

Q2: Are there any special requirements for budgets when submitting a COP master agreement proposal?

A: ‘The COP master agreement requires the submission of both a detailed and summary budget. The detailed budget (SIMS budget) is for the Commonwealth’s review and evaluation of the project. The summary budget (a sample template can be found here) is used by the Commonwealth to create the line items of the purchase order. See ‘Budget Submissions’ in the ‘Instructions for Utilizing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (COP) Master Agreement’ here.’


Q4: What do I do if the Commonwealth agency states the proposal Attachments 1-2 are not required as part of the proposal process?

A: Per the Commonwealth’s Department of General Services, the Attachments 1-2 are required for all master agreement proposals/subsequent purchase orders – there are NO exceptions. Contact the COP agency to advise the attachments are required per DGS.

Q5: What if the Commonwealth does not sign Attachments 1 and/or 2?

A: As the Commonwealth’s signature on Attachment 1 signifies the information provided by the agency is accurate (for example source of funding) and their signature on Attachment 2 acknowledges acceptance of our proposal, the Commonwealth’s signature is required. If the COP signature is missing, please contact the agency and request they provide a copy of the attachment(s) with the appropriate/authorized COP signature.

Q6: What do I do if a purchase order received under the COP master agreement has terms and conditions/requirements inconsistent with the master?

A: Individual agencies are not to include terms that conflict with the master agreement nor are they to incorporate additional terms and conditions.  First, contact the agency and ask for conflicting/additional clauses to be removed. If they are unwilling to do so, contact Tim Stodart or Sarah Kronenwetter in the Office of Sponsored Programs who will contact the Department of General Services to address the situation.

Q7: For purchase orders issued under the master agreement, what date should be used as the start date: Effective Date, Issue Date, or start date if listed in the body of the purchase order?

A: Per the Commonwealth’s Department of General Services, the Effective Date on the purchase order is what we should use – this is the date the funds were approved/encumbered by the Commonwealth (see exception below). The Issue Date may be different that the Effective Date as the Issue Date is strictly the date the purchase order was actually printed.  Exception: If another start date/period of performance is listed in the body of the purchase order, these dates should be utilized. In the event there are still questions regarding the period of performance, contact the negotiator assigned to process the award and ask them to seek clarification from the sponsor.

Q8: What are the rebudgeting requirements for master agreement purchase orders? What do I need to do?

A: As each line item on the purchase order is a ‘ceiling’ amount, any change that will result in a line item ceiling being exceeded will require a formal rebudget request and approval. To keep rebudgeting requests to a minimum, it is important that the purchase order be issued using the summary budget vs. detailed budget.  See ‘Budget Submissions’ in the ‘Instructions for Utilizing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (COP) Master Agreement’ here.’

Q9: My proposal budget includes a request to purchase some computer equipment – is there anything special I need to do?

A: Under prior master agreements we were required to use the Commonwealth’s statewide contract for pricing and procurement of computer equipment. For this new agreement this is no longer a requirement and instead we can utilize our normal budgeting and procurement processes.

Q10: Who owns equipment purchased on a Commonwealth master agreement purchase order?

A: The Commonwealth will determine disposition of capital equipment and expendable property on Attachment 2; therefore, disposition will be determined prior to issuance of a purchase order. Capital equipment are items >$5,000 and expendable property >$500 but <$5,000. Expendable property ‘includes, but is not limited to, such items as global positioning systems (GPS), computers, microscopes, tractors, and all-terrain vehicles (ATV). Expendable property does not include such items as office supplies, safety gear, ATV parts, laboratory supplies, etc.  The Commonwealth has two options: 1) Commonwealth agency will determine up-front if they will retain ownership, therefore a Report of Personal Property form (Attachment 3) is to be submitted at conclusion of purchase order period, or 2) Commonwealth retains ownership but will allow University to keep possession for use on other Commonwealth projects that the University has with that Commonwealth agency. Please see the master agreement highlight document here for a brief summary on purchasing equipment and reporting/disposition instructions.

Q11: What is the Commonwealth’s Enhanced Minimum Wage Provision and does it apply to Penn State?

A: In March 2016, Commonwealth Executive Order 2016-02 ‘Minimum Wage for Employees of the Commonwealth and of Organizations Receiving State Contracts’ ( was enacted. This order was amended effective January 31, 2022: This revised Order increases the state contractor minimum wage to $15/hour effective July 1, 2022.

This executive order is included in the new COP Master Agreement but will be followed by Penn State for all COP awards and agreement types (purchase orders, grants, contracts, etc.). Penn State will also follow these wage requirements whether Commonwealth or federal pass-through funding and for all subagreements where the COP is the prime sponsor.

Further details on the Commonwealth’s Enhanced Minimum Wage Provision can be found here .

Q12: Who do I contact at the Commonwealth if I have a question or need assistance specific to the master agreement?

A: For questions or assistance related to the Commonwealth master agreement, contact Kelly Warnick, Commodity Specialist and ITQ Administrator at the Commonwealth’s Department of General Services. Kelly can be reached at 717-214-3434 or


Instructions for Submitting to a Foundation

Most foundations post proposal guidelines on their websites. Some general information about foundations can be found at the Foundation Center. Most foundations only fund projects within a certain targeted topical and/or geographical area; it generally is not useful to try to convince them to fund projects outside their area of interest. University Development (Foundation Relations) works with several large foundations as well as most of the PA-based foundations. They encourage faculty to contact them to discuss ways of pursuing these funds. Most foundations do not pay full Facilities and Administrative costs (F&A), so it is important to review the guidelines carefully. The University of Wisconsin maintain a fairly comprehensive listing of F&A rates permitted by major U.S. foundations.