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Guidelines for Involving Consultants or Subcontractors

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Guidelines for Grants Involving Consultants or Subcontractors

The following guidelines govern the use of consultants and/or subcontractors for grant programs funded by The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). These guidelines have been derived from the The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s policy.

Where a significant portion of the grant budget will be paid to a third party such as a consultant, vendor, or other service provider in exchange for services described in a proposal, the following guidelines will apply:


  • A selection, or at least tentative selection, of a consultant, vendor, or other service provider should be made prior to the submission of a proposal.
  • All proposals for work with selected service providers should include an explanation of how and why the applicant made that selection. The service provider rationale and budget narrative sections of CLIR’s applications are appropriate places for this information.
  • Applicants should document their service provider selection process by including the selected service provider’s proposed budget and the estimates or budgets of all alternate service providers considered. These documents may be combined and uploaded as an appendix within a proposal.
  • The applicant is responsible for obtaining detailed budget information from a reasonable number and variety of potential consultants or subcontractors who suit the needs of the proposed project given geographic and other constraints. Having three alternate bids is generally considered good due diligence.
  • Prospective and selected service providers’ budgets should include the same level of detail as is expected for the main proposal’s budget. The main proposal’s budget narrative should account for all costs listed in the selected service provider’s budget in addition to all costs listed in the main proposal’s budget.
  • If the selection of a consultant, vendor, or other service provider can only be made tentatively prior to submission due to institutional policies, the proposal should request funding for work with the service provider most likely to be selected, explaining in the budget narrative that the selection is only tentative.
  • In the event a proposal is funded and the applicant is unable to work with a selected or tentatively selected provider, the applicant will be required to submit a grant modification request to CLIR with a revised project plan and budget before proceeding with an alternate provider.
  • In cases where actual costs of a service differ in practice from the proposal’s original estimates, grant recipients will be required to report those differences to CLIR and obtain prior approval for any reallocation of funds, in accordance with CLIR’s grant modification guidelines. In cases where actual costs of a service prove to be significantly lower than original estimates, the grant recipient may be required to return the difference to CLIR.

Terms of Consulting or Subcontracts

  • Wherever large amounts of consultant or subcontractor hours are anticipated, fixed-price contracts are preferable to hourly contracts; if hourly contracts are used, a monetary limit should be expressly set.
  • Vendors should provide clear documentation describing the work to be performed, including detailed budgets for estimated hours and expenses, in all consulting and subcontracting contracts and subsequent invoices.
  • Grant recipients should, wherever possible, pay the subcontractor in stages as work is completed rather than disbursing an “up front” payment of the entire amount budgeted.
  • The principal investigator is responsible for monitoring the work and expenses of all subcontractors and consultants.
  • All consultants and subcontractors should sign confidentiality and work-for-hire agreements (where applicable), and affirm that they have no conflicts of interest with a project, including conflicts that would interfere with a recipient’s ability to comply with grant requirements to dedicate project metadata to the public domain and to introduce no new restrictions upon access to and re-use of digital copies beyond those already required by law or existing agreements.
  • Applicants who wish to employ the services of project advisors from community groups with specialized knowledge of project collections are encouraged to make plans to pay advisors fairly for their time, effort, and expertise.


Consulting expenses should be clearly and separately accounted for in financial and narrative reports to CLIR.

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