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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions 

A core part of MSU’s mission is to advance outreach, engagement, and economic development activities that are innovative, research-driven, and lead to a better quality of life for individuals and communities, at home and around the world. Global IDEAS provides support to MSU faculty, researchers, and academic units interested in engaging in international development activities, seeking to positively impact and improve livelihoods. We work with multi-disciplinary teams of faculty who often partner with other institutions around the world, bringing knowledge and resources to help communities address social, environmental, and economic sustainability issues, such as those included in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The list of Frequently Asked Questions presented below are commonly asked by MSU stakeholders who wish to work in international development.

Finding funding and/or collaborators and working with Global IDEAS

Where can I find funding for my international project?

1) Faculty and staff interested in global development are encouraged to join the MSU Community of Practice on Global Development, which brings together faculty and researchers with development organizations and donors. The aim of the Community of Practice is to better understand and discuss the global development landscape, identify potential interdisciplinary teams, build partnerships, and develop proposals for specific funding opportunities. Visit the Teams group channel of the Community of Practice on Global Development, where you can find meeting notes and presentations, and connect with other MSU faculty researchers involved in global development. 

 2) Subscribe to the Global IDEAS’ International Funding Update which includes new curated opportunities each week organized around MSU’s four global research priorities of Agriculture & Food, Environment, Energy, & Water, Health and Nutrition, and Education and Engagement. Available to MSU employees only.  

3) Global IDEAS’ International Funding Database includes hundreds of open, current opportunities. Access to this database is restricted to MSU employees and verification with an MSU netid is required for use.

4) Visit the International Studies and Programs’ funding page for all funding opportunities for faculty. ISP area and thematic centersaffiliated units and centers, and the Alliance for African Partnership may provide information funding opportunities in specific geographic or thematic areas, and sometimes provides seed funding for individual faculty projects.

5) MSU’s Office of the VP of Research and Innovation has a funding webpage with resources on finding federal, state, and foundation funding opportunities, corporate and business funding, and MSU internal funding opportunities.

6) If you are a faculty member in the colleges of EngineeringBusinessAgriculture and Natural Resources, or International Studies and Programs, your College’s Corporate/Foundation Relations/Advancement team can help orient you to corporate and foundation opportunities. If your college does not have an Advancement representative, contact MSU’s Office of Foundation Relations for assistance with identifying funding opportunities.

Can we meet to discuss the opportunity that I’m interested in? Can your office support me in submitting my concept note/proposal?

Global IDEAS can support the development of proposals/concept notes through coordination (full services) or provide support as one of multiple MSU units involved (partial services). We can assist in implementing the project if it is funded (e.g., project management and delivery of capacity development activities and approaches).

We support large, multi-college teams that are applying for funding opportunities of at least $1 million. The projects that we are involved in are often interdisciplinary and bring together teams of faculty and researchers with international partners. Global IDEAS prioritizes projects that focus on MSU's global research priorities (Agriculture & Food, Environment, Energy, & Water, Health & Nutrition, and Education & Engagement) and have the potential to generate external funding.

Additionally, we can serve as a resource to answer questions and address issues related to smaller international proposals.

Global IDEAS is unable to support faculty members on individual research projects; look for support from your Department or College, MSU’s Research & Innovation office, or other units in ISP that can provide seed funding for individual projects.

Below are a few examples of our services.

Proposal/concept note development:

  • Faculty teams are responsible for writing the technical proposal/concept note, but we can assist in creating a narrative template structure; advise on what the funder expects; review/edit the proposal to ensure that it meets the funding opportunity requirements; ensure that the narrative is clear to the reader/reviewer.
  • We can provide a detailed analysis of a solicitation to help understand the funder’s requirements. This may help determine whether the opportunity is viable for your work.
  • We can assist in developing a gender and inclusion plan for the project, or a capacity development plan.
  • We can assist in finding faculty partners to work with or connect with other ISP units that can assist in finding international partners.

Project implementation:

  • We can provide project management if the program is funded. We can also implement capacity development activities and approaches. For example, USAID strongly emphasizes the importance of capacity development to improve development results.

Help! I just found a USAID opportunity and it is due in six weeks (or less)! Should I/can I apply?

There are several factors to consider before moving forward with an application: if you have a clear idea of the project, you have read USAID’s Country Development Cooperation Strategy for the country in which the project will be based, and you have established partnerships in the country.

If none of the above apply, consider the following:

Is the application a concept note or proposal? If a concept note is requested, it often consists of a five-page narrative and notional budget. Concept notes are used by USAID as part of an Annual Program Statement (APS) to outline the need for a specific kind of program, encouraging the submission of a wide range of concept notes. The request for concept notes then takes the form of an addendum to the APS. For example, in 2019, USAID released the Higher Education for Leadership, Innovation, and Exchange (HELIX) APS. USAID then released multiple addenda (e.g., Mozambique University Career Development Centers RFA and Supporting Holistic and Actionable Research in Education (SHARE) Addendum) requesting concept notes related to specific thematic areas, countries, and regions. USAID plans to release more addenda related to HELIX in the future.

There are instances in which it may be too late to develop a competitive proposal when a USAID solicitation has been released. This is because other organizations (e.g., international development firms) have been planning for the solicitation for months in advance and assembling their team of partners. There also may be an “incumbent,” a situation in which USAID may be interested in providing additional funding to a previous grantee.

Plan for the unexpected and have strong partnerships and ideas in place to mobilize quickly when opportunities arise. Contact our office or an ISP thematic or area center to help you find international partners. Additionally, keep informed about USAID plans, through monitoring USAID communications, such as the Business Forecast, quarterly Business Forecast Conference Calls, and your funder or international partner contacts. However, it is important to note that sometimes opportunities on the Business Forecast are subject to change or even cancelled. Click here for more information on how to win USAID awards.

I’m interested in finding faculty collaborators. How can I find faculty and researchers at MSU who are working in a specific country or a specific technical area?

There are multiple ways to find this information.

1) Global IDEAS convenes the MSU Community of Practice on Global Development, which brings together faculty and researchers with development organizations and donors. The aim of the Community of Practice is to better understand and discuss the global development landscape, identify potential interdisciplinary teams, build partnerships, and develop proposals for specific funding opportunitiesThe Community of Practice on Global Development has a Teams Group, where you can find meeting notes and presentations, and connect with other MSU faculty researchers involved in global development. Global IDEAS also hosts a series of events on Global Development.

2) Global IDEAS maintains a “Faculty Interest Database” of information on technical areas in which faculty conduct research abroad, and the countries in which they work. If you would like to have your name added to this database, please contact our office at globalideas(at)

3) International Studies and Programs’ Area and Thematic Centers maintain lists of affiliated faculty: African Studies Center Core FacultyAsian Studies Center Affiliated FacultyCanadian Studies Center Faculty AffiliatesCenter for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies Core FacultyCenter for Latin America and Caribbean Studies Faculty Directory; and Muslim Studies Program Affiliated Faculty.

How can I find information on projects that MSU faculty and researchers are undertaking in a particular country?

Visit International Studies and Programs’ International Data Portal for information on:

1) the number of externally funded projects, by country, and by time period.
2) MOUs that MSU has with international institutions, by country.

Additionally, the International Data Portal includes information on international student enrollment and MSU international education abroad.

What firms are bidding on a particular opportunity and can we get on their team? Please contact Global IDEAS. We will be able to provide more information to you directly.

Important aspects to keep in mind when working with USAID and on development projects.

Research projects vs. development projects. The goal of development projects is to achieve a specific result that the funder has outlined. For example, USAID funds development projects to find solutions to global challenges in various sectors and technical areas, such as global health, women’s empowerment, and education. USAID “depend[s] heavily on higher education for deep regional and technical expertise, well-resourced laboratories, rigorous research and fresh perspectives to both deliver assistance and improve our policies and practice.“ Click here for more information on USAID’s increased engagement with higher education institutions. 

When developing a proposal, focus on results/outcomes/impacts, not just activities. 
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation Logic Model Development Guide, a leading resource, defines outcomes as “specific, measurable statements that let you know when you have reached your goals. Outcome statements describe specific changes in your knowledge, attitudes, skills, and behaviors you expect to occur as a result of your actions. Good outcome statements are specific, measurable, and realistic.”  Remember: outcomes are the results of your project’s activities. A proposal will not be competitive if it focuses only on activities and not outcomes.

Know the difference between outputs, outcomes, results, and impacts, and indicators. Funders use some of these terms differently, so at times it can be confusing. It is always important to read the solicitation closely and familiarize yourself with the donor’s language and how they use these terms. Below are the most common usages, as defined by USAID and the Kellogg Foundation.

USAID’s definitions of these terms:
Input: Resources that are provided for program implementation, such as staff time, facilities, equipment.
Output: The products, goods, or services that result from an intervention.
Outcome:  The results, or the effect, that is caused by, or attributed to, the project. Outcome is often used to refer to more immediate effects of a project. (Related terms to outcomes are results and impacts.)
Indicator: Quantitative or qualitative variable, which provides a reliable way to measure a particular attribute.

Another excellent source of definitions, and of logic models (also known as logframes) is the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Logic Model Development Guide.

Effective collaboration with in-country partners is important; learn how to approach collaboration so that it can be productive and effective. According to the National Science Foundation, the percentage of science and engineering articles produced with international collaboration (authors from universities and research institutions in at least two countries) reached a level of 23% in 2018, an increase of over 5% over a 10-year period. This indicates the expanding research capabilities around the world. Researchers collaborate for multiple reasons, such as seeking a strong collaborator, access to costly or shared equipment, or conditions attached to research funding that requires international collaboration. Additionally, international collaborations have been shown to increase the impact of research, as measured by the number of citations.

Are you looking for international partners and do not know where to start? Contact Global IDEAS or the multiple area studies centers and affiliated centers and units in International Studies and Programs that can help. We can connect you to other faculty on campus working in these areas, and many of the area studies center and affiliated center and units have knowledge about MSU’s international partner universities and organizations and can connect you with potential international collaborators.

There are also multiple issues to consider when collaborating internationally, including ethics of international partnerships. MSU’s African Studies Center developed guidelines for ethical partnerships and the Alliance for African Partnership also adheres to principles of co-creation and equitable partnerships that is embedded in its mission and strategic plan.

It is important to respond to the specific requests of the solicitation. Read the RFP carefully and follow the instructions, providing the information that is requested in the format that is outlined in the RFA/RFP/solicitation. Your proposed project MUST align with what is being asked. Use the language and vocabulary that the funder uses, which also shows that you understand what the funder is asking for and that you will meet their goals. Think about how your project matches the funder's goals/mission and needs.

Follow advice that focuses on the importance of adhering to the solicitation. Global IDEAS staff are knowledgeable about crafting a successful proposal for international development projects. We may be able to help you shape your concept note/proposal narrative or help you to achieve clarity in certain aspects of your narrative. Though our staff may not have expertise in specific disciplines, someone with general knowledge should be able to read your proposal and understand what your goals are, see that your objectives and activities are stated clearly, and discern the outcomes of your project. This is also important because often, not all reviewers of your proposal may be in your discipline.

Try not to make things too complicated. A common reason for declined proposals is a project that is too complicated or overly ambitious. Reviewers may view your project as too risky to receive funding and may question whether you will be able to reach your goal and achieve proposed outcomes. When designing a project, there should be no more than five objectives; often three objectives are plenty.

Allow sufficient time to plan as a team. Ensure that you provide yourself sufficient time to finish the proposal, review it for completeness, and edit it. Sometimes, when rushing to finish a proposal by the deadline, the quality of the proposal may suffer. Often, reviewers can easily pick up on the fact that a proposal been rushed, incomplete, or not thought through.

Build on and learn from past programs instead of reinventing new programming. Funders sometimes look for applicants to build upon past programs that the donor has supported that were successful. For example, in an RFA, USAID will often point to past programs that applicants must model or collaborate with in their proposed new project.

Think about and integrate gender, inclusion, and M&E early in the process; these are important to funders.
Gender and Inclusion. Many government and foundation funders view the consideration of gender and inclusion issues as critically important to a project’s design, implementation, and evaluation. It is important to integrate these considerations early on; if they are missing, funders may not view your project favorably.

The Center for Gender in Global Context (GenCen) is MSU’s hub for research, teaching, and engagement related to gender with a global perspective. GenCen’s team has expertise and knowledge of gender-responsive research related to research design and methodology, analysis, dissemination, engagement. Reach out to them early in the process and ask for their advice or be connected with a GenCen affiliated faculty member.

Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E). M&E (also known to USAID and other funders as Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL)) tracks the implementation and outputs of your project in a systematic way to measure the overall effectiveness and quality of your project. It helps determine when a project is on track and when adjustment or changes may be needed.

Funders are looking for project outcomes when assessing a project. Monitoring and evaluation can be used to demonstrate that project efforts have had a measurable impact on expected outcomes and have been implemented effectively. It is essential in helping managers, planners, implementers, policy makers and donors acquire the information and understanding they need to make informed decisions about projects.

I need someone to implement Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) for my project. What do I 
do? Reach out to MSU's Evaluator Network, M&E experts on campus. Additionally, if your project is awarded funding, M&E services can be outsourced using project funding.

How do I manage expectations related to the budget for my development project? Funding received for development projects may seem like a large sum but may be less in reality when working on a multi-year project with international partner institutions. For example, if you receive a $1m grant for five years, funding per year would be $200K split among partners, taking into consideration indirect costs (e.g., F&A rates). It is important to manage your own expectations for the grant to cover project costs with available funds. It is also important to keep transparency in mind. Have conversations early in project planning with all project partners around funding expectations.

FAQs related to developing a concept note or proposal narrative.

Do you have a capacity statement I can use? Capacity statements, also known as capability statements, provide an overview of the technical capacity to engage in a particular project, handle major grants, and meet donor requirements. These statements can include the expertise of MSU overall, a particular college or department within MSU, or projects undertaken by faculty in a specific research area. Capacity statements highlight the technical capacity of faculty related to engagement, research, and scholarship. If Global IDEAS is supporting or coordinating your concept note or proposal, we can assist in tailoring a capacity statement.

Please note: Some funders do not distinguish between experience, capability, and past performance. For USAID, experience and capability is the demonstration of the ability to perform the work, by describing past experience and current capacities. Past performance demonstrates previous work that was completed successfully and that complied with donor terms and conditions. For more information, please see the “Technical Response” section of the USAID e-learning module “Effectively Responding to USAID Solicitations.”

Do you have an example USAID proposal I can see? (e.g., for program design, language, structure, etc.) Often, faculty consider concept notes/proposals to be their intellectual property or are otherwise uncomfortable with sharing them. So, we cannot share without their permission. Additionally, USAID proposals are highly specific and vary widely depending on the RFA, so reviewing a past proposal may not be helpful.

FAQs about MSU processes

I found a funding opportunity that I would like to apply for, and it is institutionally limited. Do you know of anyone else on campus who is also pursuing this opportunity? And how do I ensure no one else is pursuing it? Unless faculty tell Global IDEAS that they are applying for a particular opportunity for international funding, there is no way to know. An institutionally limited submission is defined as a program/funding announcement where the sponsor restricts the number of applications or proposals that can be submitted from an institution. The guidelines for these funding opportunities place a responsibility of selection on the institution (MSU). If you read a solicitation and it is institutionally limited, you will need to contact the Office for Research and Innovation as soon as possible, because the office makes that decision. More information on the limited submission approval process can be found here.

*Please note that if the due date is in less than eight weeks, an email must be sent to limited(at) with the MSU limited submission internal competition form.

Do I need a PI exception waiver, and if so, how do I get one? Regular faculty members and research or fixed-term faculty with a rank of assistant professor and higher may be identified as the sole or co-PI on proposals seeking support for a sponsored research, education, or service project.

Individuals holding other appointment titles, such as research associates, specialists, postdoctoral fellows, or visiting, adjunct, and clinical faculty, normally may submit proposals only as co-investigators/key personnel with a regular MSU faculty member. Upon approval by the appropriate department chairperson, such as the college-level research associate dean, and the Office of Research & Innovation, these non-regular faculty may serve as principal investigators or co-principal investigators.

Click on this link to find information on the steps to request exception approval.

Does my submission need to go through the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP)?

Concept Notes
Most often, if the submission is a concept note/letter of intent/inquiry, it does not need to be routed to OSP. (There are a few exceptions.) This is because a concept note is the first step in a grants process, and not a commitment. If the concept note is received favorably or approved by the funder, the next step in the process is an invitation by the funder to submit a full proposal.

All proposals must be routed through OSP, because proposals, once submitted to the funder, are considered a commitment. Additionally, electronic proposal submission can be complicated and complex; OSP must ensure that all proposals conform not only to MSU and college guidelines, but also to the sponsor guidelines. Complete proposals must be submitted no later than three full business days prior to the sponsor deadline. For example, if the proposal is due on Friday, the complete proposal must be submitted to OSP by Monday 5PM.

If a proposal is not received three days prior, it will be considered an “at-risk” proposal. OSP will make reasonable efforts to review and sign-off on late proposals but cannot ensure the same service levels for proposals that are submitted to OSP on time. So, if your proposal is deemed “at-risk” this may jeopardize receipt by the sponsor.
Click here for more information on proposal submission deadlines and policies.

How does Facilities and Administrative (F&A) costs work, and why do I need to include it in my budget? Facilities and Administrative (F&A) costs, also known as indirect costs, are necessary to support research and other sponsored projects, and are the related costs of using the University's facilities and administrative support that cannot be claimed as direct costs. The federal government has established what may be charged as indirect costs. MSU’s F&A rate is periodically negotiated between Contracts and Grants Administration and MSU’s cognizant federal agency, the US Department of Health and Human Services.

There are three F&A rates: 1) Research, 2) Other Sponsored Activities (e.g., community service projects, travel grants, conferences, seminars, and workshops) and 3) Off-campus. To determine whether the on- or off-campus rate applies, review the budget; if more than 50% of a project’s expenses occur off-campus, the off-campus rate will apply to the entire project. Additionally, there are some MSU locations that cause confusion in knowing whether to consider them on or off campus. Click here for more information on current F&A rates, other recognized rates, determining the rate, and rate waivers.