Commitment Frequently Asked Questions

Page Updated: Friday, June 18, 2021 11:24:25 AM CDT

Question 1: What is a commitment?
At the proposal stage - it's the amount of effort you propose in a grant proposal budget or other project application budget, regardless if salary support is requested.

At the award stage - it's the amount of effort proposed that the sponsor accepts & awards, regardless of salary support that they provide. (The proposal or commitments listing may be included in the notice of grant award, but not always. It varies by agency. If it's not there - you'll have to refer to the proposal as your commitment guide).

Question 2: Who has commitments?
Anyone who is listed and identified in the Notice of Award as having these roles: PI, Co-PI, Key Personnel.

If the award does not have a key person section (or listing), UW policy states that the only key person is the PI/PD. In these cases, only the PI/PD has trackable commitments.

Question 3: Where do commitments get entered and tracked at UW?
Commitments are entered by campus in WISPER at the award set up stage. Commitments (and any changes) are then are tracked in the Peoplesoft system by RSP. To request a change in commitment, use the Cost Sharing & Commitments Update form.

Question 4: What documents in the award process should govern the commitments?
When determining which documents to use as the guide for the Sponsor expected commitment, review the following documents in the order as listed:

  1. Post-award prior approval request that has been approved by the sponsor
  2. Award
  3. JIT Information including revised budget and justifications
  4. Proposal Budget

Question 5: What should I enter in WISPER as the commitment?
You should enter in all commitments, for all PIs, Co-Is, and key personnel listed in the Notice of Award, as a percentage of the person's total effort. WISPER has start and end dates on commitments and allows for variable (non-constant) commitments to be entered using the start and end dates. ECRT will pull this data, translate it to what the commitment is for the 6 month certification period, and display that amount in ECRT. This information is intended to be used as a guide to ONLY certify for that cert period. ECRT may display all commitments and future commitments in future updates. For now, there is an effort calculator that may help.

Example: If a person works on a project budget period for 6 months (January - May) at 5% and June at 100%, the overall commitment for 6 months = 21%.

January 1st - May 31st = 5%
June 1st - June 30th = 100%

The overall 21% commitment will be used as the baseline for determining changes in accordance with Sponsor policy.

Question 6: Are there any exceptions to the policy? Do I have to enter commitments for everything?
Commitments do not have to be entered into WISPER for the following types of awards in most cases:

  • Non-Federal Clinical Trials
  • Equipment and Instrumentation Grants
  • Doctoral Dissertation Grants
  • Fellowships/Training Grants

Question 7: I'm a department administrator and have a grant where my C basis faculty member is making $140,000/year and wants to be written into the grant to collect $20,000 for 7/1-12/8. How do I go about calculating his/her commitment?
Step 1: Confirm the gross yearly pay and calculate the monthly rate. The equation for the monthly rate is: gross yearly pay divided by months of work. $140,000 a year on a 9 month appointment equates to a monthly pay rate of $15,555 = 140,000/9.

Step 2: Confirm the budget salary request and calculate effort months. The equation for the effort months is: payroll amount divided by monthly rate. $20,000 budgeted on a monthly rate of $15,555 equates to 1.3 effort months = 20,000/15,555.

Step 3: Confirm the project dates and convert to project months. July 1 - Dec 8 equates to 5.26 project months. This is found by taking July 1 to Nov 31 as being 5 full months. Then, figuring out that 8 days in December out of the 31 total days = 0.26 (8/31). Here, we have 5.26 project months.

Step 4: Calculate the commitment. The equation for the commitment is effort months divided by project months. Meaning, take the value in step 2 above and divide by the value in step 3. This example equates to 25% = 1.3/5.26.

Question 8: What happens if the sponsor reduces the initial budget period or if there is a budget reduction?

Unless otherwise notified, sponsors expect PIs (and other key personnel named in the award document) to provide the level of effort outlined in the proposal, even when the amount funded is less than requested or the initial budget period is shortened. To determine the correct baseline effort commitment, the first year’s entry in WISPER will be different than subsequent years. For example, if one committed 2 months effort and the initial budget period is reduced from 12 months to 9 months the new effort commitment percentage is 22% (= 2 months/9 months) vs. 16.7% (= 2 months/12 months). 22.22% should be entered in WISPER for the first budget period and 16.67% for all subsequent periods. This establishes the baseline commitment of 2 person months.

If at time of award, the awarded budget is reduced from the proposed budget, a PI must confirm how the project will be conducted and how funding will be allocated among budget categories, including confirmation of effort commitments and associated salary support. In doing so, PIs should carefully and deliberately manage their own (and their key personnel's) total sponsored and non-sponsored effort commitments and minimize voluntary cost sharing. A budget reduction of 25% or more from what was proposed generally indicates a project scope reduction, and a corresponding reduction in effort commitments is appropriate.

The PI is responsible for determining whether:

  • The effort commitments will be reduced proportionately, and a corresponding request for approval will be sent to the sponsor. Generally, effort commitments should be reduced proportionately when the awarded budget reflects a reduction of 25% or more from the proposed budget; or
  • The original effort commitments and salary support will be retained, and other budget categories can be reduced or eliminated so that voluntary cost sharing, beyond that which may have already been approved, does not occur; or
  • Neither the effort commitments nor other budget categories can be reduced or eliminated. In these instances, the resulting voluntary cost sharing must be explicitly approved in accordance with the college or school’s policies on cost sharing.

For additional information, see the Effort Guidance document, specifically section 1.3.5.

Question 9: Where can I get advice and guidance?
For help on commitments and proposal entering in WISPER, contact wisper@rsp.wisc.edu.

For changes in commitments to existing awards: Cost Sharing & Commitment Update Form.

For help on commitments and effort certification in ECRT, contact effort@rsp.wisc.edu.

For effort policy issues on commitments, contact effort@rsp.wisc.edu.