Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


What is the Proposal Preparation and Grant Management Guide (PPGMG)?

A:    The PPGMG is our guide to proposals and grant administration. It contains varied and detailed information for your use and can be found on the Grant Lifecycle page.

I was just notified that my proposal was funded.  What should I do with the award documentation?

A:    Send all award related documents to Grant, Foundation and Corporate Relations. They will work with Grants Accounting to set up the grant and meet with you.

How will the financial accounting work for my grant?

A:   Once you have submitted your award notification to Grant, Foundation and Corporate Relations, the grant will be set up and a meeting will be arranged with you, Grant, Foundation and Corporate Relations, and Grants Accounting to review the administration of the grant. Grants Accounting will work with you throughout the project to manage the financial administration of the grant.

Do I have to wait for Macalester to receive the money in order to incur expenses on my grant?

A:    If circumstances require you to expend funds either before an award letter is received (your proposal was recommended for funding) or before the authorized project start date, contact Grant, Foundation and Corporate Relations.

What part of the funds do I have access to if my grant is funded over the life of the grant instead of at the beginning?

A:   Generally, you have access to the amount awarded by the funder, but this varies by funder. Contact the Grants Accountant for your specific grant.

What is my grant’s FOAPAL and where can I find it?

A:    Each grant is assigned a unique FOAPAL. This FOAPAL is on the Grant Data Form that is provided via email and at the new grant meeting.

What is the Grant Data Form?

A:    The Grant Data Form provides information to help you administer your grant including the FOAPAL, project dates, report dates, and approvals. The form is sent to the PI/PD, grant administrator and others on campus.  If an extension is granted, additional funding provided or other changes occur, the form is updated and the Revised Grant Data Form is sent to the same people. 


What kind of documentation is required for grant expenses?

A:    A description of the expenses, including justification for the project, and original detailed receipts are required.

How do I know what expenses can be charged to my grant?

A:    Generally, expenses in the approved budget are allowable and may be charged to the grant, but keep in mind that the expenses must be integral and necessary to the project. General expenses such as office supplies and ink cartridges should not be charged to grants. These are considered overhead and are covered under our indirect cost rate. For all federal grants, you must follow the guidelines detailed in OMB Circular A-21 (Cost Principles). The Allowable and Unallowable Charges to Federal Grants document also provides guidance. The Check Request form can be found here and may be helpful.  

I would like to take my research students out to lunch, can I charge the cost to my federal grant?

A. Probably not. The federal government does not allow the cost of local meals to be charged to a grant, unless it is part of a workshop or other activity that is included in the approved budget.

What are direct costs?

A. Direct costs are those costs that can be identified specifically with your particular sponsored project. This includes, but is not limited to: grant salary and fringe benefits, materials and supplies, travel, consulting services, equipment, and publication charges.

What are Activity Codes and must I use them?

A:    An Activity Code is a 4-digit code appended to the end of the FOAPAL to track specific types of expenses. Generally, use of Activiity Codes, while optional is encouraged. However, grants with participant support costs require the use of Activity Codes.  Contact the Grants Accountant for more information.

What are participant support costs?

A:    Some federal training grants categorize the costs of training the participants (trainees) in a category called "participant support". This category may include stipends, travel, and other costs. The government requires us to keep these costs separate in Banner which we do by using Activity Codes.

How do I request summer salary from my grant?

A:    To receive summer salary you must complete the Faculty Status Form. As you complete the form, keep in mind summer salary is calculated on a monthly basis. A faculty member may request summer salary in the months of June, July and August equal to 1/9 of their academic year salary for each month.  Summer salary is paid in the months worked on the grant. Contact the Assistant Provost to complete the Faculty Status Form.

How do I hire a student to work on my grant?

A:    Contact Academic Advising to hire a student for the summer.  During the academic year, contact Employment Services.

Who is authorized to approve expenses on my grant?

A:    Generally, the PI/PD can approve expenses up to $2,000. However, reimbursement to one's self, requires authorization of the Line Officer regardless of the amount. The Line Officer can approve amounts up to $10,000. Purchases between $10,000-$100,000 require approval of the VP for Finance and Admin. Amounts greater than $100,000 require authorization by the President. Approvals for your grant are listed on your Grant Data Form.

How do I pay expenses from the grant?

A:    Expenses are paid using a variety of methods including:

  • Use the Standard Engagement Contract to pay non-employees
  • Check Request to seek reimbursement for yourself, a student or other Macalester employee
  • Macalester Pcard, when possible, if appropriate approvals are obtained
  • Travel Expense Report to seek reimbursement for travel expenses; submit vendor invoices to Payables for payment processing. 

All documents must have the correct FOAPAL, appropriate supporting documentation, justification for the project, and proper approvals. Reimbursement to one's self requires authorization of the Line Officer regardless of the amount. .

Can I use my Pcard for grant expenses?

A:    Yes, if the Pcard default FOAPAL is the grant or appropriate approvals are obtained. Expenses must have the correct approvals.

When are Pcard charges reflected in Banner?

A:    Pcard charges are typically posted to Banner by the 20th of the following month. "Why does this take so long?" Here is the timeline for the required processes for each month's cycle:

1st – 6th of the month: Cardholder reconciliation
7th – 10th of the month: Approvals
11th – 15th of the month: Pcard Administrator reviews data
15th - 20th of the month: Data into Banner

I need to contract for services on my grant.  Who do I contact?

A:    Macalester has a contract template that may be used. Contact Purchasing and AP Manager or the Grants Accountant for assistance.

My grant includes a subaward.  Who issues the contract to my collaborator?

A:    The Grants Accountant will issue a subaward agreement to the collaborating institution as well as amendments to the contract as needed. You will receive a copy of the contract and any amendments. If you are a subawardee on a grant, the prime recipient institution will issue a subaward agreement to Macalester.

My collaborator’s institution sent an invoice.  What should I do with it?

A:    Review the invoice and approve it for payment only if the work performed is satisfactory and expenses are accurate. Once approved send the invoice to the Grants Accountant for review before payment processing. If you do not agree with the invoice, contact the Grants Accountant who will work with you to contact your collaborator's institution.

Do I need approval from the College to buy equipment for my project?

A:    Yes.  If the equipment is included in the approved budget, you will need to complete a Purchase Order via Banner and obtain the appropriate approvals. Otherwise, purchasing equipment may require a budget revision. Fill out a Grant Revision Request Form to request the budget changes and send it to Grant, Foundation and Corporate Relations for review.

How do I book grant-funded travel?

A:    Follow College policies and procedures for work-related travel. Remember that in most cases, federally funded projects require you to use US flag carriers for air travel. Macalester requires you to use coach or economy class when traveling. Foreign travel must be approved by the funder. Contact the Grants Accountant for assistance.

What are indirect costs and how do they affect my grant?

A:    Often funders allow us to charge indirect costs as an expense to the grant. Usually calculated as a percentage of wages or total direct costs, indirect costs represent an estimate of Macalester's overhead on grants, e.g. facilities costs, utilities, internet access and general network services, etc. Please note that items such as office supplies, postage, local telephone costs, memberships and administrative support are not to be included as direct costs on your grants. These are items covered under our indirect cost rate. If certain criteria are met, Macalester shares a portion of the indirects received with PI/PD’s and deposits that portion into an indirect fund for use by the PI/PD.

What is the difference between direct and indirect costs?

A. Direct costs are specifically identifiable to your project, whereas, indirect costs cannot be identified readily as related to your project. Examples of direct costs include your grant salary and benefits, travel, and the cost of materials and supplies used to implement the project. Examples of indirect costs include the cost of utilities for the building where you conduct your project activities, general office supplies, and the salaries and benefits of administrative staff who support grants.

Direct costs are charged directly to the grant when incurred. The indirect costs charged to your grant are usually calculated as a percentage of wages or total direct costs. They represent an estimate of Macalester’s overhead on grants.

When are indirects charged to my grant and when is the PI/PD portion added to my indirect fund?

A:    Indirects are charged to grants when financial reports are prepared.  This may be quarterly, semi-annually or annually depending upon the funder's reporting requirements.  The PI/PD portion is added to their indirect fund at the time the indirect expense is charged to the grant.

What should I do if I charged a grant expense to the wrong place?

A:    Moving funds from one budget FOAPAL to another is considered a Cost Transfer. A Journal Entry must be completed and a Cost Transfer Form may be required. Please see the Cost Transfer Policy for more information. Contact the Grants Accountant for assistance.


How should I monitor the budget for my grant?

A:    Grants Accounting recommends that you review your budget and all expenses in Banner / Argos at least once a month in order to avoid cost overruns and identify any misallocations.  Contact the Grants Accountant if you need assistance or have questions. Grants Accounting will review the grant on a quarterly basis and provide financial updates or prepare estimates as needed. 

Can I run a report to see the transaction detail of my grant expenses?

A:    Yes, the Grant Transactions report is available via the Argos Financial Reporting System under the Business Services Reports folder.  For more inforamation about Argos, visit the Business Services Training Site or contact the Financial System Specialist for training or the Grants Accountant for assistance on the Grant Transactions report.

How do I gain access to a grant in the financial system?

A:    Contact the Grants Accountant who will initiate the process.  

When a grant is set up, the PI decides who should have access to the financial information.   If, after the grant has been setup, the need arises for someone else to have access, the PI can authorize this, and the Grants Accountant will complete the form.     

What should I do if I do not see an expense in my grant that should be there?

A:    The expense may not have posted to Banner or the expense may have posted to the wrong FOAPAL. Contact the Grants Accountant for assistance.


Who prepares the grant financial reports?

A:    Grants Accounting prepares all financial reports with assistance from PI/PD’s and grant administrators.

Who will submit the narrative and financial reports?

A:    It depends on the funder. All NSF narrative reports are submitted by the PI. PI's submit narrative reports to a few other funders, Grant, Foundation and Corporate Relations (CFR) submits narrative and financial reports to foundations and other funders. The Grants Accountant submits financial reports to government funders.

What is a Time & Effort Report?

A:    A Time & Effort Report is the tool used to confirm that salaries and wages charged to the grant are reasonable in relation to the work performed as part of the funded project. The Federal government requires recipients of grants to maintain time and effort reports that reflect effort levels by employees on grants.  The Grants Accountant provides effort reports to PI/PD's three times per year (at the close of each academic semester and the end of the summer) which must be certified by the employee and returned to the Grants Accountant.

What is a quarterly review?

A:    Grants Accounting looks at the grant balance, transaction detail, wages and benefits, and cumulative costs of each grant on a quarterly basis. This information is shared with the PI/PD and grant administrator, providing an opportunity to review various aspects of the grant together. While Grants Accounting reviews grants on a quarterly basis, we recommend that you review expenses in Banner / Argos on a monthly basis.   

How long should I keep my project records and the documents supporting Time & Effort Reports?

A:    Macalester requires you to keep your records for a period of seven years from the date of submission of the final financial report. Generally, narrative and financial reports are due 30 - 90 days after the project end date.


What is a no-cost extension and how do I request one?

A:    Funders may provide additional time to complete the project, usually one year, if work remains to be done and there are sufficient funds left to complete the work. Complete a Grant Revision Request Form and send it to Grant, Foundation and Corporate Relations to start the process. 

I need to make a change to my budget or purchase something that wasn’t listed in the approved budget.  What should I do?

A:    Check with the Grants Accountant. If your grant terms allow Macalester to authorize the change, fill out a Grant Revision Request Form to request the budget changes and send it to Grant, Foundation and Corporate Relations for review.


I would like to do some financial planning on my grant.  Who do I contact?

A:    The Grants Accountant will assist you by providing financial estimates based on your needs and assumptions. Budget revisions, extensions and other changes require you to complete the Grant Revision Request Form.  

What is my unspent grant balance?

A:    Contact the Grants Accountant for this information. Banner does not provide the grant balance for most awards.

What is my indirect fund balance?

A:    Contact Accounting and or the Grants Accountant . If you would like to learn how to view this information yourself, please contact the Financial Systems Specialist.


How do I contact Corporate and Foundation Relations and what is their role in the grant lifecycle?

A:    Contact Grant, Foundation and Corporate Relations. They assist with proposals, preparation and submission of narrative reports, grant revisions, conflict of interest and other grant work.

Who do I contact if I want to submit a grant proposal?

A:    Contact Grant, Foundation and Corporate Relations who may assist you with your proposal.