Last modified: Mar 19, 2019

Administrative Award Management & Prior Approvals

After an award is set up, NU-RES encourages pro-active award management to ensure that the project’s programmatic progress, budget and other details on file with the funding agency are consistent with the work actually being performed.

Award terms and conditions vary widely and may have multiple interpretations. For questions on interpretation of award terms, including questions of allowability, please confer with the relevant Grant Officer. If you are not sure, send a note to the mailbox and the request will be triaged within one business day.

Prior approvals:
It is important Northeastern requests prior approval, in a timely fashion, from the funding agency’s authorized official when required by the terms and conditions. NU-RES recommends requesting prior approval at least 30 days prior to the change effective date, if possible.

This minimizes the risk that the PI or college will have to pay for expenses denied by a funding agency because they did not approve a change. It also strengthens Northeastern’s reputation with the funding agency as a strong and effective steward of funding.

Prior approvals are needed when the award made to Northeastern requires changes to key aspects of a project’s budget, personnel or scope of work. Some of the most frequent types of prior approvals are outlined below.

Note: this list is not intended to be exhaustive or complete; the PI and the college should be aware of the award’s specific terms and conditions. The PI and college are responsible for initiating prior approvals based on the award requirements.

  • Carryover: some awards restrict the use of funds across budget periods. Northeastern must make a formal request to bring the funds from a prior budget period into the current period.
  • Change in personnel: many funding agencies require Northeastern to request prior approval to remove key personnel from a project. Typically, key personnel are named on the Notice of Award (NOA). Northeastern should always seek prior approval if the PI for the project will change.
  • Change in scope: funding agencies provide awards based on a specific proposal and expect to see the project they agreed to fund completed as proposed. If the scope of the project needs to change for any reason, including that the science is not working out as planned, the funding agency must approve that change in approach / scope. Keep in mind that some changes in scope may impact the budget.
  • Equipment: If equipment not contemplated in the proposal will be purchased, review the award terms and conditions to verify if equipment may be purchased and if so, what types of equipment require prior approval. Many funding agencies consider the addition of a piece of equipment to indicate a change in scope.
  • Rebudget: Many funding agencies do permit Northeastern to forego prior approval for minor rebudgets (i.e. increasing personnel costs and spending less on supplies), as long as that change is not part of a change in scope. Most funding agencies require prior approval for rebudgets in excess of 25% of the budget. Please review the specific award terms and conditions as many non-federal funding agencies have very varied approaches to rebudgeting.
  • Subawards: may funding agencies require prior approval to add or remove a subrecipient.
  • No Cost Extensions (NCE): allow the last budget period to be extended by a year. This is often done complete some element of the project, including the reporting of results. NCEs may not be requested to spend down a remaining balance.

Submit requests for prior approvals using a Transaction Form to The How-to Guide provides additional information on completing the form.

NU-RES is always available to support the PI and college in their analysis of an award’s requirements. Please contact your Grant Officer for assistance.