We get a lot of questions about how to write an unsolicited proposal for government agencies, like the Department of Energy (DOE) or US Agency for International Development (USAID).Because there are no deadlines or specific guidelines, it can be confusing to figure out how to approach an agency when you are the one with the great idea, product or service.
Just What Exactly Is An Unsolicited Proposal?
If you are wondering what is meant by unsolicited, check out our article explaining its meaning and the difference with solicited project proposals. When it comes to writing a proposal for a contract or letter for a grant or cooperative agreement that is not in response to a request for bids or proposals, it can be confusing figuring out what should or should not be included. Well, we’ve got you covered.
We walk through a template of everything that should be included in any document headed to an agency that accepts unsolicited submissions. At the end, we have a downloadable sample proposal you can edit and re-use!
The examples here come straight from government guidelines. Specifically, U.S. Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Section 15.609 specifies the policies and procedures for agencies regarding the submission, receipt, evaluation, and acceptance or rejection of new, innovative ideas or services that do not fall under existing programs or calls for proposals.
What unsolicited proposals should represent
An innovative and unique is your service or product that is independently originated and developed without government agency supervision, endorsement or direct Government involvement. A letter should contain enough detail to allow for a determination that the government’s support is warranted and the proposed work could benefit an agency’s research and development or other mission responsibilities. The proposal should not be something that could be funded through a competitive procurement process or address a previously published agency requirement. However, proposals can respond to general statement of agency needs.
What should not be included in an unsolicited letter or application
Do not include publicity or advertising materials, brochures, commercial offers or suggestions of concepts or ideas for the government to carry out. General discussion or correspondence with someone who works in a government agency is not considered a proposal.
Always be sure to reach out to the agency personnel first before writing a detailed proposed outline of activities or research. Getting clarification on the rules and norms of the agency you are cultivating will save you lots of valuable time.
What is the Difference Between Solicited and Unsolicited Proposals?
Remember, unsolicited proposals are initiated by you. Your organization proposes something to the government, not in response to a formal agency solicitation. Formal solicitations come in many forms and include announcements with the following acronyms:
- RFA: request for applications (grant)
- RFP: request for proposals (contract, typically)
- RFQ: request for quotation (contract)
- PA: program announcement (grant)
- BAA: broad agency announcement (contract or grant)
You might submit a proposal, application, or quotation in response to any of the above.
Preliminary Project Proposals
Your first point of contact should be a telephone call to a representative, to find out what their guidelines are for unsolicited proposals. Sometimes you will be asked to submit your ideas to a government official in the form of a letter of inquiry or a summary document for further evaluation, before you prepare a full, detailed submission. A preliminary proposal is less than four pages and contains the following project information:
1. Type of Work Proposed. Provide a short synopsis of the project.
2. Technical Approach. Describe the scope of the work including methodology as well as personnel requirements.
3. Unique and innovative nature of the work. Explain the uniqueness of the project or the innovative approach to be undertaken.
4. Relation to agency goals. Identify which goals the proposal supports and the proposal’s relation to these goals.
5. Budget. Submit the budget amount proposed and relate the amount to the Technical Approach described in number 2 above.
6. Performance. State the period of performance and expected outcomes.
Writing Letter Proposals
A variation of the preliminary proposal to government agencies is a letter of inquiry, which can be as short as two pages. It is usually directed to corporations and foundations.
The following is adapted from Proposal Planning and Writing, 5th Edition: Fifth Edition.
A letter proposal is a short grant proposal, usually not more than 2-4 pages long. It is usually written to private sponsors (corporations or foundations) and may also be called a letter of inquiry or concept paper. Occasionally, if you’re writing an unsolicited proposal to a federal agency, the program director will also request a letter of inquiry/concept paper to determine if the agency is interested in your project.
Most private sponsors and some federal agencies use letter proposals as a screening device and will request an expanded proposal if your proposed project matches their funding mission and captures their interest. Some funders have specific content requirements for their letter proposals. If your funder does not, you may wish to use these guidelines.
A letter proposal is usually made up of seven components:
2. Sponsor Appeal
The Summary captures your full project proposal in a couple of sentences. It has the following sections, according to Minder:
- Organizational uniqueness
- Sponsor expectation
- Budget request
- Project benefit
West Coast service-based firm [identification], as California’s oldest independent service business [uniqueness], requests your investment [expectation] in a $325,000 project [request] that builds the long-term transformation of local businesses into the engine of the world’s premier knowledge economy [benefit].
More resources on letter proposals:
The Foundation Center’s FAQ on letters of inquiry & examples of letters of inquiry:
Unsolicited Proposal Template
There are three basic sections you must include: Company Information, Technical Information, and Supporting Information. We will go into detail below.
Part 1. Company information
Type of organization; e.g., profit, nonprofit, educational, small business
Key Technical and Administrative Personnel
Name, address, and telephone number of principal investigator
Name, address, and telephone number of technical personnel
Name, address, and telephone number of negotiator
Name, address, and telephone number of individual authorized to bind the offeror
Name, address, and telephone number of accounting contact
Name, address, and telephone number of administrative contact
Names of other Federal, State, or local agencies or parties receiving the proposal or funding the proposed effort.
Names and telephone numbers of ONDCP personnel previously contacted concerning the proposed project
If the proposal contains proprietary data to be used only for evaluation purposes, you must include the following on the title page:
Use and Disclosure of Data
This proposal includes data that shall not be disclosed outside the Government and shall not be duplicated, used, or disclosed—in whole or in part—for any purpose other than to evaluate this proposal. However, if a contract is awarded to this offeror as a result of—or in connection with—the submission of these data, the Government shall have the right to duplicate, use, or disclose the data to the extent provided in the resulting contract. This restriction does not limit the Government’s right to use information contained in these data if they are obtained from another source without restriction. The data subject to this restriction are contained in Sheets [insert numbers or other identification of sheets].
In addition to the above notice, each sheet of the proposal that contains the data, must contain the statement:
“Use or disclosure of data contained on this sheet is subject to the restriction on the title page of this proposal.”
Names of other Federal, State, or local agencies or parties receiving the proposal or funding the proposed effort
Date of submission and Signature of authorized company representative.
Part 2. Technical information
Title of project proposal
Abstract (200 words)
Human Resources Loading Chart
Statement of how work supports agency mission
Key personnel: Names and biographical information
Non-monetary support needed:
Part 3. Supporting information
Detailed Price/Cost Estimate
Labor and Benefits
a. Key personnel
b. Other personnel
Total Direct Costs
a. Special equipment
b. Rented equipment
c. Material and supplies
e. Other direct costs
Duration of Proposal Terms (a 6-month minimum is suggested)
Type of contract preferred
Organization capabilities (e.g. describe your organization, previous experience, past performance, and facilities).
1. Brief description of the organization
2. Type of organization
3. Attach an organization chart
4. Past Performance
5. Facilities to be used
6. Number of full-time employees
7. Number of part-time employees
8. Names and biographical information for all key personnel and alternates who will be involved in the proposed project
9. Does your organization have a written policy and procedure for the following?
c. property control
10. Are records maintained daily for each employee’s time and activity distribution?
1. Does your accounting system account for cost by project?
2. Is your accounting system automated?
3. Does your accounting system track receipt and disbursement of funds by funding source?
4. Are the following books of account maintained?
a. General Ledger
b. Cash Receipts Journal
c. Payroll Journal
d. Income Journal
e. Purchase Journal
f. General Journal
5. How frequently do you post to your general ledger?
6. Does your accounting system provide for the recording of actual expenditures for each award by project and budget cost categories reflected in an approved budget?
Here include other statements, if applicable, about organizational conflicts of interest, security clearances, and environmental impacts
Include the names and telephone numbers of agency technical or other agency points of contact already contacted regarding the proposal.
We will be adding a sample unsolicited proposal you can download soon.