Strategic Proposal Development

The Proposal Development Office (PDO) supports Ohio State's research community in the early-stage identification, analysis, planning and development of strategic, multidisciplinary funding opportunities.

Our Process for Planning and Development: Positioning for Success

Planning steps for proposal development

We provide three main phases of support: positioning, capture planning and proposal preparation.

Pre-solicitation positioning and capture planning services include:

  • Sponsor profiling
  • Opportunity tracking
  • Competitor assessments
  • Facilitation of proposal strategy development

Proposal Preparation services include:

  • Solicitation analysis and preparation of proposal guidance tools
  • Document development management
  • Writing of non-technical proposal text
  • Ensure proposal compliance and responsiveness
  • Collaboration coordination with other institutions and partners
  • Identification of resources around the Ohio State campus

We also plan, organize and facilitate pink and red team proposal reviews that include both internal and external reviewers.

Contact the PDO as soon as you begin thinking about pursuing your next strategic initiative.

The PDO launched in 2015, drawing on successful industry models to establish an onsite capability dedicated to facilitating the preparation of large, collaborative, team-focused awards. University proposal support typically occurs after the release of a solicitation, whereas industry conducts strategic activities before solicitation release to broaden the development process. By implementing the industry approach at Ohio State, sponsor engagement is encouraged, strategic decision-making about opportunities can take place, and positioning and planning can occur before proposal writing begins.

The PDO drives the process by focusing on strategic, well-positioned opportunities. Our role is to complement, not duplicate, the functions performed by sponsored program officers or grant administrators.

Ruth Ann Hendrickson
Associate Vice President and Director
33 W. 11th Avenue, Room 309A, Columbus, OH 43201

Ruth Ann leads the PDO in the development of large, collaborative, team-focused proposals to increase the university’s research funding portfolio. She works closely with the university’s business development professionals, the Industry Liaison Office, the Office of Sponsored Programs and college deans to target opportunities and develop strategic proposals that effectively address federal agency and industry-specific needs. Before coming to Ohio State, Ruth Ann worked at Battelle for nearly 24 years.

She holds a PhD in English from the Ohio State University and a BA and MA from Marshall University. She joined Ohio State in May 2015.

Nadeane HowardNadeane Howard
Proposal Manager and Assistant Director

Area of Focus: Engineering
33 W. 11th Avenue, Room 311F, Columbus, OH 43201

Nadeane leads capture planning and strategy development, prepares guidance documents and leads proposal preparation primarily for the College of Engineering. She also conducts review teams to support principal investigators in pursuit of research funding. Before coming to Ohio State in 2013, Nadeane worked in economic development and marketing in both the public and private sectors.

She holds a JD from the University of Toledo and a BS BA from Bowling Green State University. She joined the PDO in June 2015.

Kate Hayes-OzelloKate Hayes-Ozello
Proposal Development Specialist

Area of Focus: Translational Data Analytics Institute
33 W. 11th Avenue, Room 311E, Columbus, OH 43201

Kate supports strategic proposal development for the Translational Data Analytics Institute, conducts capture planning and strategy development and leads proposal preparation activities. She previously served as a research scientist and grants and contracts administrator for the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Global One Health Initiatives Office. She managed a research laboratory from 1993-2010. She is a senior editor for Bioscience Writers.

Kate earned her BA in microbiology from Miami University and MS and PhD in viral pathogenesis from The Ohio State University. She joined the PDO in May 2017.

Katherine Renick Kathy Renick
Proposal Development Specialist

Area of Focus: Infectious Diseases
33 W. 11th Avenue, Room 311C, Columbus, OH 43201

Kathy supports strategic capture planning and proposal development for the Infectious Diseases Institute and the biomedical research community. She works with researchers to position opportunities, develop strategic approaches and prepare proposals. She previously served as the Director of Research Administration for the College of Public Health. She is a certified research administrator.

Kathy holds an MS in public health from The Ohio State University and a BS in biology and chemistry from Virginia Tech. She joined the PDO in October 2016.

Maureen Langlois Maureen Langlois
Proposal Development Specialist

Area of Focus: Sustainability, Resilience, and Energy
33 W. 11th Avenue, Room 311D, Columbus, OH 43201

Maureen supports faculty teams in the sustainability, energy, and resilience space. In partnership with the Sustainable and Resilient Economy Discovery Theme and the Office of Energy and Environment, she works with multidisciplinary teams to identify opportunities, strategies and elements that will enable their proposals to be successful and their research to be impactful. Maureen’s background is in science communications, from the K-12 science classroom to the Science Desk at National Public Radio to the Global Water Institute at Ohio State.

She holds an MS in environmental science from The Ohio State University and a BA in biology and philosophy from Washington University in St. Louis. Maureen joined the PDO in January 2018.

Laurie Neer Laurie Neer
Proposal Development Assistant
33 W. 11th Avenue, Room 309C, Columbus, OH 43201

Laurie manages the day-to-day activities of the PDO. She maintains records and statistics, coordinates proposal review teams, schedules meetings, organizes events, prepares outreach materials and attends meetings to capture key takeaways and next steps. She previously served as advancement coordinator for the College of Engineering and held positions at the Ohio Department of Commerce.

Laurie holds a BA in history and political science and an MA in policy history from Bowling Green State University. She joined the PDO in September 2015.

Kasandra DaltonKasandra Dalton
Program Assistant
33 W. 11th Avenue, Room 311G, Columbus, OH 43201

Kasandra Dalton joined the Proposal Development Office as a Program Assistant in January, 2018. She provides administrative support to the office through strategic research and analysis, tracking proposals, meeting organization, and office management. Prior to this position, she supported the office through a student assistant position.

Kasandra earned her B.S. in International Studies and Political Science from The Ohio State University in December, 2017.

Positioning drives the capture and proposal development process. Ideally, positioning occurs well before a sponsor releases a solicitation.

Positioning phase activities include:

  • Reviewing sponsor strategic plans
  • Developing an understanding of the sponsor’s mission
  • Exploring potential opportunities
  • Building relationships with program officers/sponsor representatives

Following identification of a specific opportunity to pursue during the positioning phase, you can begin to shape your strategy for winning.

Capture planning phase activities include:

  • Understanding the sponsor’s needs, goals and potential budget allocation
  • Assessing how to meet the sponsor’s needs
    • Do we understand what this sponsor wants to accomplish?
    • Do we know their “hot buttons?”
  • Identifying Ohio State’s capabilities to meet the sponsor’s needs
    • What expertise, facilities and equipment are required?
    • Are there any gaps in capability or personnel? Are there potential partners to fill the gaps?
    • What are our strengths? What are our weaknesses?
  • Analyzing potential competitors to determine how we can strengthen our ability to win
    • How does a competitor compare in strengths and weaknesses?
    • Do we need to buy equipment or hire staff?
    • Can a competitor become a partner?

Proposal preparation starts with analysis and planning – the writing comes later. Everyone contributing to the proposal effort should read the solicitation completely to understand the scope of the effort, format requirements, budget restrictions, deadlines and other information essential to preparing a compliant and responsive proposal.

The development process begins with a kick-off meeting, led by the proposal manager, to:

  • Ensure everyone understands the strategy driving the proposal
  • Allow the team to discuss the solicitation and identify concerns
  • Review the development schedule and proposal outline
  • Discuss protocols for any collaboration site that the team will use

Writing begins once the strategy is understood and individual assignments are made.

Brief status meetings (15-minute teleconferences) are held on a regular basis to gauge writing progress and identify roadblocks. During the teleconferences:

  • Updates are provided on the status of each proposal component
  • Issues to be addressed are assigned for follow-up
  • Each identified item is recorded in an ongoing task status matrix that the team shares

Proposal Guidance Tools

Several tools support proposal planning:

  • Outline: Construct an outline to organize the proposal. An outline shows the structure of a proposal – sections, authors, pages, evaluation criteria – and guides the team through the writing process. Follow the solicitation instructions and mirror the solicitation numbering system (such as I.A or A.I, or 1-2-3). A well-constructed outline allows the proposal manager to track individual writing assignments, assess status during meetings, and keep track of files.
  • Compliance matrix: The matrix identifies every item that the proposal should address and gives the proposal manager a tool for validating compliance. The sections show the specific language from the RFP broken into line-by-line requirements that will help the section author prepare a compliant response. The section below addresses a specific deliverable that is required as part of the systems engineering process that the proposer will use.
  • Schedule: To construct an effective schedule, begin at the submission deadline and work backwards to the proposal kick-off meeting (where are you going and how will you get there)? Allocate time for planning and reviews, required institutional activities, problem solving, and regular team status meetings.

Pink Team Proposal Review

The Pink Team Review usually takes place close to the end of capture planning and before solicitation release. The Pink Team reviewers answer the question “Will this strategy result in a compliant and compelling proposal?” The review team comprises technical, management and proposal experts who can validate the strategy and verify that the proposal team is on a path to develop a compliant and responsive proposal. Pink team participants meet with the proposal team during a facilitated meeting to share feedback.

Red Team Proposal Review

The Red Team Review is a critical step in the proposal development process. The Red Team reviewers answer the question “Is this a compelling, effective and compliant proposal?” The review occurs after a team has developed a response to a solicitation but with enough time before submission to respond to feedback. The review team comprises subject matter experts who will assess the proposal from the customer/sponsor perspective, using the solicitation’s evaluation criteria as their guide. Red team participants review a complete, nearly final draft of the proposal, meet as a group to discuss their evaluations and prepare debriefing materials and meet with the proposal team during a facilitated session to share their feedback.

Does the PDO support only high-dollar value proposals?
No. We focus on proposals that align with the university’s research goals and objectives. We support proposals that initially may not be high-dollar efforts but do provide opportunities for innovative collaborations, relationship building, and other strategic activities. These proposals are usually part of a longer-term business development plan that leads to larger efforts.

How do the PDO’s services differ from other proposal support offices on campus?
The PDO usually engages in potential opportunities before solicitation release. Our focus is on early-stage identification, analysis, planning, and development of strategic, multidisciplinary funding opportunities. After solicitation release, we focus on translating capture strategy into compliant and responsive proposals. This can involve proposal writing and editing as needed, but we do not develop budgets or submit documents to sponsors. We complement but do not substitute for college- or department-level support functions.

Can I choose which of your services I want or is it “all or none” ?
Ideally, a research leader engages with the PDO before solicitation release and receives support in the early stage activities. However, we will support proposals even if we have not participated in those pre-solicitation activities, but our services are usually limited to strategy validation and Red Team reviews.

Do you provide editorial services?
The PDO’s editorial capabilities support the proposals we are engaged in developing. We don’t provide ad hoc proposal editing. We recommend that you investigate resources within your department and college first. There are also commercial resources available outside the university.

Does PDO prepare budgets and upload documents?
No, we don’t prepare budgets or upload documents. We work closely with principal investigators, sponsored program officers, and grant administrators in developing budgets and budget justifications, but we do not prepare proposal budgets.

When should I contact the Proposal Development Office?
You can contact the PDO at any time. It’s a good idea to start framing your business development strategy as soon as you and your team begin to identify potential opportunities or target specific sponsors. Starting your planning process well before you respond to a specific solicitation enables you to build your proposal strategy on an understanding of the sponsor, competition, and capabilities across the university.

Why work with the PDO?

Dr. Robert Baker
Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry:

We recently received assistance from the Proposal Development Office during the preparation of an NSF Major Research Instrumentation grant to acquire an ambient pressure x-ray photoelectron spectrometer. This office, lead by Ruth Ann Hendrickson, provided detailed outlines including required components for the specific call, organized a relevant group of faculty to serve as a red team review panel, and provided exceedingly valuable feedback. It is clear that this process greatly facilitated our successful proposal.

Dr. Sara Cole
Associate Director, Campus Microscopy & Imaging Facility:

The Proposal Development Office is an essential resource at OSU. The team was enthusiastic and supportive from our initial planning meeting through to the proposal submission. They helped to organize committees and meetings for two critical review sessions that greatly improved the proposal. In particular, Kathy Renick was instrumental in coordinating the entire process and keeping us on task. She is also an outstanding editor and provided excellent suggestions for improvement. It was both a necessity and a pleasure to work with the PDO.

Dr. Faith Kline 
Administrative Director, Center for Clinical and Translational Science:

The Proposal Development office was instrumental in the successful submission of our CTSA grant. From setting up a proposal development schedule, to facilitation of a Red Team review, to last minute editing, and collection of letters of support, the PDO provided expert guidance and assistance during the entire grant preparation process.

Dr. Meyer (Mike) Benzakein
Assistant Vice President for Aerospace and Aviation Research:

Nadeane Howard, with the Proposal Development Office, has been outstanding in more ways than one … proposal presentation, organization, execution. She was essential in helping us write the proposal for the NASA University Led Initiative, an OSU-led collaboration with 5 other universities that resulted in a $10M award over 5 years. With Nadeane’s support, we have submitted 4 top-notch proposals to the Ohio Federal Research Network, all of which were awarded, and now we are currently working on 3 more. She provides excellent insight and enables us to present cohesive, well-written proposals. It is a pleasure to have her on the team.

Dr. Gerald (Jerry) Frankel
Professor and DNV Chair, Materials Science Engineering:

The Proposal Development Office was absolutely critical to my winning a $10M Energy Frontier Research Center. The staff worked with me to hone the concept, develop details of the center structure, flesh out the budget, and keep the proposal on schedule. They actually developed the schedule by working backwards from the due date. They organized the red team review, which was crucial. Finally, they helped assure that all the parts of the proposal were in place at the end. I am certain that I would not have been successful without their help.

Dr. William (Bill) Marras
Executive Director & Scientific Director of the Spine Research Institute, Executive Director of the Center for Occupational Health in Automotive Manufacturing (COHAM), Executive Director of the Institute for Ergonomics, and Honda Chair Professor in the Department of Integrated Systems Engineering:

As scientists and engineers we are typically myopically focused on the technical aspects of a proposal, whereas, the reviewers are often looking for more programmatic and organizational aspects of a proposal. The Proposal Development Office has helped me change the way I think about proposal writing so that I now see the proposal more though the reviewer’s lens. The Proposal Development Office has played a critical role in our proposal design and planning and has impacted our success rate.

Dr. Tyler Grassman 
Assistant Professor, Materials Science Engineering:

The assistance provided by the proposal development office, from helping to set up management schedules to facilitating broader impacts brainstorming sessions to the final Red Team Review, was invaluable. Although implementing their methods and suggestions was not always easy, the ultimately impact was undeniably positive, and helped take our proposal from pretty good to excellent (and most importantly, funded!).

Dr. Elena Irwin
Professor, Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics; Faculty Director, Sustainable and Resilient Economy (SRE) Discovery Theme:

The Proposal Development Office has greatly enhanced the strategic research planning process at Ohio State and the competitiveness of our faculty research teams. The PDO provided outstanding support to SRE’s interdisciplinary team in developing a successful $2.4 million NSF proposal to the Innovations at the Nexus of Food Energy Water Systems (INFEWS) program, which typically funds less that 10% of proposals. In response to this proposal, the NSF program officer commented that Ohio State has really figured out how to do interdisciplinary research and is leading the way. The PDO offers a comprehensive set of tools for strategic proposal development, including pink and red team reviews and dedicated proposal development specialists, that is bending the curve at Ohio State. As evidence of how much we value the PDO, SRE is now partnering with PDO to support a proposal development specialist dedicated to environment and sustainability research.