Cost sharing

In some circumstances, cost sharing may be necessary on sponsored projects. Cost sharing is the portion of a sponsored project committed to be covered by University funds or other non-federal funds if the project is federally sponsored. Commitments for cost sharing must be reviewed and can only be made with the approval of the appropriate pre-award office. Access GAP 200.140, Cost Sharing on Sponsored Projects for more information.

  • For Campus Schools and the Provost Area, see the Office of Research Support guidance on cost sharing and process for requesting approval for cost sharing.
  • For School of Medicine and School of Nursing, contact your Office of Research Administration representative. 

For DHHS awards, there is a salary cap that limits the amount of salary for one individual that can be charged to an award. Salaries that extend beyond the cap must be cost shared by Duke. Salaries above the cap can be calculated in SPS.

What is cost sharing and why can’t I cost share voluntarily?

Short answer: Cost-sharing is that portion of a project's costs, direct or F&A, not borne by the sponsor. When the sponsor requires cost sharing, these costs may be contributed by the University or by third parties. It is University policy to cost-share only when it is demonstrably in its best interest to do so - cost-sharing only when required by the sponsor and only to the extent necessary to meet the sponsor’s specific requirements.  Because of this policy, the University will not generally commit resources to a project unless required to do so by the sponsor. 

The Details:  Cost-sharing can take a variety of forms: e.g., reduced F&A cost recovery rates, commitments of faculty effort not direct charged in the budget, the use of University funds for additional project support, or contributions from third parties.  

Note: Cost sharing is not the same as an unallowable expense.  An unallowable expense is one for which the sponsor will not reimburse the institution, either because: 

  • the amount the sponsor will reimburse is limited (for example, salary over the DHHS cap) or 

  • there is a policy or regulation that prohibits the expense to be direct charged to the project. 


When considering cost sharing on a proposal, the following criteria should be kept in mind: 

  • For federally-funded activities, voluntary cost sharing is not expected and cannot be used as a factor during merit review – unless cost sharing is specified in the notice of funding opportunity. 

  • Any decision to cost share should reflect the University’s overall priorities within the functions of research and education. 

  • Requests for cost-sharing must be made and the commitments must be documented at the time of proposal submission. 

  • If cost sharing is mandatory, only expenses that are otherwise allowable as a direct charge can be considered cost sharing.  In other words, if the sponsor does not allow tuition to be direct charged, tuition costs can not be included to meet the sponsor’s cost sharing requirement. 

Be aware that sponsors consider any examples of quantifiable commitments of support described anywhere in the application to be proposed cost sharing that (if awarded) must be tracked and reported – including the budget/budget justifications, proposal narrative/research strategy/specific aims, and/or letters of support.   

Cost sharing of all kinds requires prior approval.  Cost sharing requires the prior approval of the Duke organizational unit (or third party) providing the cost share before the submission of the proposal – as well as authorization from the appropriate management center (ORA for Schools of Medicine and Nursing / ORS for Provost Area Schools) to be included in the proposal.  Secure approval for cost sharing well in advance of the sponsor due date to avoid delays and misunderstandings about cost sharing requirements and limitations by working with your grant administrator to make the request to the appropriate management center. 

A detailed discussion of cost-sharing policies and procedures may be found in Duke’s Policy (GAP 200.140) Cost Sharing on Sponsored Projects and in the Uniform Guidance § 200.306 Cost sharing or matching

Four types of cost sharing
  • faculty effort
  • other Duke resources such as non-faculty salaries, equipment, supplies and materials necessary for the project
  • reductions/waivers of indirect costs, considered only when an agency or program has a formal indirect cost rate lower than the University's current rate or disallows indirect cost recovery
  • third party contributions, either in-kind or cash, for example, the donated use of an off-campus meeting space or auditorium for which a fee is usually charged.
Required documentation for commitments


Documentation Required

Form Required

Faculty effort



Other resources*

Letter of commitment


Waiver of F&A

Policy statement from sponsor


3rd Party commitment

Letter of commitment


* Other Duke resources include staff salaries, equipment, copying, etc.

NOTE: The University requires that F&A costs be calculated on faculty effort and other contributed resources, and included in the cost-sharing totals unless this is unallowable by the sponsor. The rationale is as follows: If instead of contributing these resources, Duke had asked the sponsor to provide them, Duke would also have asked the sponsor to pay the associated F&A costs. The F&A costs which the University will not collect are considered part of the cost to Duke of supporting the project.