Documentation of sponsor approval

The Budget Narrative serves as documentation for a sponsor’s prior approval of costs that are ordinarily not allowable as a direct cost.

The salaries of administrative and clerical personnel are normally treated as an indirect cost unless they meet the definition of “unlike purpose and circumstance” and are integral to the award. As stipulated in the Uniform Guidance, direct charging of administrative salaries is allowable when all of the following 4 conditions are met:

  1. Administrative or clerical services are integral to a project or activity;
  2. Individuals involved can be specifically identified with the project or activity;
  3. Such expenses are explicitly included in the budget or have the prior written approval of the federal awarding agency; and
  4. The costs are not also recovered as indirect costs.

NOTE:  if the item is not included in the awarded budget or the proposed budget narrative, OSP approval post award is required.

Sample justifications, which might be included even in modular budgets:

Supplies and consumables

  • Office supplies (binders, copy paper and copier toner) are essential for preparation of the 100 training manuals used in the project’s professional development activities.
  • Office supplies (toner) is essential for printing color copies of maps developed during course of award; routine use is black-and-white only.


  • A pre-paid international cell phone is necessary to communicate with project informants and public officials while conducting research in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Local Phone Charges and Postage costs

  • Cost of shipping samples from the field to SU or between SU and collaborators’ sites essential to perform analyses.
  • Cost of mailing publication drafts for review among authors who do not posses special software to view graphics electronically