How to Write Proposals

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How does one take the guesswork out of proposal development? Are you feeling frustrated or confused by the process of writing a proposal? Are you responding to an invitation to bid, an RFP or grant solicitation with an upcoming deadline? We have the resources here at Proposal Hacks to help you achieve success. Depending on what you are hoping to accomplish–acquire a new customer, a new government contract, obtain grant funds for programs or research, or find a sponsor, you will need to craft a specific type of proposal for the purpose.

Whether you are writing a business proposal, research proposal, grant proposal, sponsorship request, marketing proposal or any other type, there are some essential elements common to each. These elements revolve around what the main goal is in writing a proposal. In this article, we examine the main goal and essential proposal elements, the use of sample proposals and templates, proposal writing software, and tips for making proposals that win every time.

Essential Proposal Elements

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What are the elements common to successful proposals, no matter the proposal type? Despite having different specific sections (say between a research proposal and a business proposal), every proposal needs to incorporate the following details:

  • It’s all about trust and risk management. Since the client or funder does not know you, they need to see that others trust you. Draw attention to your trustworthiness and qualifications by describing your history, credentials, network memberships or strategic alliances, capabilities, achievements, and awards. Who knows you in the industry? Who have you worked with before? How do they know you are committed to the kind of work you propose to carry out? This includes recommendations and testimonials from satisfied clients and past sponsors. You can also alleviate risk concerns by providing free trial, discount, guarantees and warranties for work completed, or tying payment to your outputs.
  • Trust is also about conveying technical know-how. You may need to use diagrams, charts, illustrations, or examples to demonstrate your expertise in the project.
  • What advantage does the client or donor get from funding your proposal? Frame it in terms of the benefits to your client and their bottom line (or to the funder/sponsor and their mission).
  • Be clear on exactly what you will do with the funds. This is the scope of your work, or goals, objectives and activities. Moreover, you need to demonstrate the feasibility of your scope of work. Will the work actually get done in the budget and timeframe you’ve requested? This means including a calendar or impelementation plan, staff, facilities, supplies that you will use to complete the work (All of this should ultimately tie into your budget and budget justification).
  • Build in an accountability framework into your proposal. This will impress your clients or prospective donors as many proposals leave this out, or give lip service to it. This means having, for example, a logic model framework, a detailed monitoring and evaluation plan, an advisory board made up of constituents, and so forth.
  • Last but not least, make sure you dot your i’s and cross those t’s by fulfilling all of the specific requirements asked in the request for proposal (RFP) or invitation to bid. That includes required sections, as well as any additional documents, forms, letters of support, etc. Don’t be ruled out by a technicality!

Proposal Examples and Templates

Do you just need to see an example of a successful proposal to give your grant writing a kick start? Well look no further, we have collections of links to actual funded proposals, including federal grant applications, and budgets. We also feature grant writing resources, including budget examples, brainstorming worksheets for finding funders, improving your ideas, and reviewing the quality of your proposals. Search through our site to find the best books for proposal writing, program evaluation, sample inquiry letter, and much more.

Proposal Writing Software

Should you purchase proposal writing software? There are a variety of companies out there offering various collections of templates and semi-automated processes to help you write proposals. There are two main considerations, price and volume. Some of the software can be quite costly, with no guarantee your proposal is funded. On the other hand, if you are a fundraising shop or professional grantwriter or responsible for proposal writing in your company, the right software can be an invaluable tool to help increase your productivity. The best packages will feature both full samples of successful proposals and templates, with pre-filled sections you can modify. Having access to stored proposals in the cloud is a plus so that you can access your in progress proposals from any internet connected device. Top of the line software will feature options for you to collaborate on project proposals as a team.

If you are writing a single proposal, we suggest you use the numerous outlines, examples and templates available on our site. Beyond the basic components, there are so many sections specific to the type of proposal (e.g. business proposal) you are writing. If you do purchase templates, make sure you do not purchase generic templates that do not show you what clients or funders actually support or how a proposal that gets customers or donors excited is crafted.

Now, you no longer have to guess. Explore our site and get your hands on templates, tricks and tips and learn exactly what it takes to write and put together a winning proposal package! We also feature information on finding local grant writing training resources in your area. Check back often!

Custom Proposal Example Search

Looking for a specific type of proposal you don’t see on our site or elsewhere? Want to see an example of an actual successful proposal? Contact us for a custom proposal search. We will use our own professional network and advanced researchers to find you a model proposal that you can use to modify for your own needs. Just give us the proposal type (e.g. business, research, grant, sponsor, technical, marketing, etc.) and industry or sector. If you have a dollar amount (in terms of project size) in mind let us know. Custom searches start at $25 per sample proposal.

photos by: alexkerhead & AJC1