The Initiative on the New Civics
Major Grant Preliminary Proposal Detailed Submission Guidelines

The guidelines below are meant to clarify questions about the Spencer Foundation’s online application and provide details about what will be requested. We recommend referencing these guidelines as you complete your Major Grant preliminary proposal  online. The online system is configured for the Principal Investigator (PI) on the project to register and submit the application. If someone other than the PI will be completing the application (e.g., an administrative assistant), the PI should register as described in Step 1 below, and then provide their username and password to the individual who will assist them with the application.

Step 1 - Registration: If you (the PI) have never accessed the Spencer Foundation online system, you must register and create a profile by going to and clicking the “Register Here” button under the Login box.

Organization – required. This is the organization that you are affiliated with. If the proposal will be administered by a different organization than your home institution, you can change it within the application. As you type in this field, your organization should appear in the list that appears – click on it to auto-fill this field. If your organization is not listed, be sure you are typing the full common name of the organization; no abbreviations or “legal names” (e.g. type “University of Illinois at Chicago” rather than UIC or Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois). If your organization does not appear as you type, you will need to register your organization following the directions provided online.
Email/Username– required. This is your primary email address where you will receive correspondence about your proposal.
First Name – required. Please capitalize the first letter.
Middle Name/Initial – optional. If entering your middle initial, please capitalize it and follow it with a period.
Last Name – required. Please capitalize the first letter.

Once registered, the online system will send you a temporary password. This may take as long as 5 minutes; please be patient. If you do not receive your temporary password within 5 minutes, check your Junk and Spam folders in case the automated email has been flagged as such. Once you receive the temporary password, you can log in and change your password.

Password Requirements – your password must be at least 8 characters long and include at least one of each of the following: a letter, a number, and a special character ( ~ ! @ # $ ^ & * ( ) { } [ ] ; : ' " < > ? ).

Step 2 - My Profile: After logging in, complete the information requested on the My Profile page (upper right corner of the screen) and upload your current CV (10 page limit). The My Profile page is your online account with the Spencer Foundation whether you are applying for a grant, reviewing a proposal for the Foundation, etc. If you have interacted with the Spencer Foundation in the past, you will find that some of the fields are already completed within your profile; update as needed. The following information will be requested on the My Profile page:

  1. Contact Details - This section asks for general information, such as name, organization, email address, title, position, education background, mailing address(es), and phone number(s). You are also required to upload a current copy of your CV (10 page limit) in PDF format (see Tip #2 below).
  2. Profile Data - You are asked to check off the appropriate selections in the following categories: disciplinary perspective, topics, methodologies, as well as some demographic information about yourself.

Once you’ve completed and Saved your My Profile information, click Home to return to the Applicant Workbench.

Important: Co-PIs must also register and complete their profile information as described above.

Step 3 - New Proposal: To create a new draft preliminary proposal application, on the Applicant Workbench click the New Proposal tab on the Home Screen and click the Apply button for The New Civics Major Grant Preliminary Proposal Application. Below are two helpful tips for applicants as they work in the online system:

Tip #1: Remember to frequently click the “Save Draft” button at the bottom of the application page. Any changes you make will not be retained until you click the “Save Draft” button; click it often.

Tip #2: You will be required to upload PDF files during this process. If your file name has special characters within it (e.g. period, dash, etc), the file may not upload. Remove all special characters from your file names before attempting to upload them.

The draft  application can be saved and then accessed through the Pending Proposals tab. However, once the Submit button is clicked, the application will no longer be editable.

The New Civics Major Grant Preliminary Proposal Application

The top section of the application page shows the program you are applying to, the PI name, and the Administering Organization. If the Administering Organization is different from your home institution, you may change this field.

View/Print Proposal button – This button creates a view of your draft application which you can export to PDF and download for your files if you like.

Project Personnel - This section reminds you to complete your My Profile page (as in Step 2) and contains the instructions on how to add a Co-PI to the grant application:

  1. Any Co-PI(s) on the project need to first register and fill in their My Profile page in the Spencer online system (as detailed in Steps 1 & 2 above).
  2. Within their My Profile page, they will see a Researcher PIN Number (a long string of numbers and letters, normally ending with a handful of Xs). The Co-PI will need to give this PIN to the PI on the project.
  3. The PI should then log in and open the draft application. In the Project Personnel section, there is an Add Co-PI button that will allow the PI to enter the Researcher PIN and the last name of the Co-PI in order to add them to the application.

Proposal Summary – This section asks for some basic information about the project: 

  • Project Title
  • Requested Amount - auto-populated after the budget form is completed
  • Research Area - auto-populated with The New Civics
  • Start Date – should be at least 10 months after the proposal deadline and start on the first day of the starting month
  • End Date – should fall on the last day of the ending month
  • Number of months of the project – auto-populated based on the start and end date

Proposal Narrative
You are asked to attach a PDF document that contains the preliminary proposal narrative (1800 word limit) and reference/citation list (not counted toward the word limit). The narrative should include the elements listed below:

  • a description of the project and the central research question(s);
  • a brief summary of the relevant literature and the relationship of the proposed research to that literature,
  • a summary of the conceptual framework, research methods, data collection instruments, and modes of analysis that the project will employ;
  • the new knowledge expected to result from the proposed research, and the significance of the project both for contributing to the existing literature and for improving educational or other kinds of outcomes;
  • a clear identification of the principal investigator(s) and a clear definition of the role(s) he/she and any supporting researcher(s) will play.

Formatting guidelines: The narrative text should be double-spaced and in a standard, readable font and font size.

Note: Before clicking the “Edit Budget” button to add your proposed expenses, click the “Save Draft” button at the bottom of the page. This will create a budget form that has the appropriate number of years based on the start and end dates entered in the Proposal Details section.

Project Data
Check off the appropriate selections with regard to your research project in the following categories: topics, methodologies, disciplinary perspective, subjects/informants, and geographic scope.

If you have additional documents that you would like to attach to your preliminary proposal submission, you are able to upload them as PDF files in this section. Examples of accepted Appendices include survey instruments, interview protocols, letters of agreement, etc.

This section lists the project personnel currently associated with the proposal.

Once you have completed all of the required information within the application  click “Submit” at the bottom of the page. The PI will receive an email acknowledgement once the proposal has been accepted for review (normally within 2 business days).

Online Application
Click here for access to the Spencer Foundation’s online application system.