photo credit: Unhindered by Talent
Successfully writing a proposal is all about careful preparation, organization, and matching proposal ideas closely to funder priorities and guidelines. You would be surprised by how many people submit inappropriate or poorly matched proposals to funders when writing a proposal, using a cookie cutter approach and hoping that something sticks. You will increase your odds of success dramatically by taking time to prepare your proposal for each specific funder.
Preparing to Write
First, read thoroughly through all funder criteria for the program to which you are applying. Criteria for writing a proposal can include program objectives, eligibility requirements, and specific application procedures. (For instance, some donors only accept a letter of inquiry before they will review a full proposal). If the organization offers a workshop on the grant program or other materials, be sure to sign up and attend and collect the literature available that describes exactly what they are looking for.
Next, determine if your proposal idea has already been funded by the organization. Get a copy of past grantees and their awards or abstracts of funded projects. If you are applying for federal funds, you can request copies of funded proposals through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Third, if letters of support or memoranda of understanding from partner organizations or companies are required (they usually are, and even if not stated, they wouldn’t hurt), ask for them early on when writing a proposal. Don’t try to get recommendation or support letters at the last minute, as you may not be able to get them in time for the proposal deadline.
The last thing to do before writing a proposal is to identify a group of people who will review your proposal and provide feedback before you submit it to the funder.
Assembling the Pieces of Your Proposal
Before you begin writing a proposal, see if your proposal idea has been funded before by the same funding organization or others. Funders like innovation and originality. By reviewing what has been done before, you demonstrate your awareness of best practices, models for success, and provide justification for adopting your approach. In addition, doing so can reveal opportunities for your proposal to improve upon what has been done before. You do not want to duplicate another proposal, but you want to show why your idea is worthy.
Gather all background documents you will use, such as your organization’s annual reports, brochures, strategic planning documents, mission and vision statements, evaluation reports, internal reports and other marketing materials. These will greatly assist in finding the right language when writing a proposal. At this time, also gather other funded proposals similar to your project idea, as well as evidence from the literature about your proposed approach. Many funders are now requiring documentation of evidence-based approaches to specific social challenges.
You should also collect any background documents you might need based on funder requirements. This might include your organization by-laws, nonprofit articles of incorporation, your tax-exempt certificate, and so forth.
When done collecting background information, use our free project proposal template to run through a checklist of items establishing the feasibility of your proposed project.
Most importantly, contact the funding organization or granting agency and talk to a program officer! Get a decision maker on the phone and pitch your idea and see if it is something the organization would be interested in. This is probably the most important step in terms of writing a proposal that will likely get funded. Just a few minutes of conversation will get you valuable insight in crafting your proposal to meet the funder’s needs. You will be light years ahead of other unsolicited proposals that come in cold.
Finally…Writing a Proposal
Now that you have thoroughly prepared for writing a proposal, it is time to get down to the business of writing it! There are 7 basic sections common to most proposals, irrespective of whether the focus is on education, health, environment, capacity building, or social services.
The sections are as follows :
2. Statement of Needs or Issues
3. Goals and objectives
4. Techniques or Project Design
5. Project Evaluation
6. Future Funding
7. Budget and Budget Narrative
Writing a Proposal, Section by Section
Supply a brief summary of the key components of the proposal, including project objectives, what’s new and different, critical activities to the success of the project, and how you intend to support a local need. In this section of writing a proposal, you also provide information about the organization from all sources. Most proposals need descriptions of the applicant’s organization, key staff members, and board members.
Statement of Needs or Issues
This is a crucial part of writing a proposal. You are building the explanation for your proposed intervention. It includes well-documented facts / stats, shows logical progression, provides comparative info, and is concise.
The needs statement defines the beneficiaries re who they are and how they’ll benefit. It’s a good idea to back up your claims with the results of desires assessment surveys or studies done by a local group. Describe the social and industrial costs to be addressed. Detail the dimensions of the problem and its causes, symptoms, and impacts. Provide historical point of view on how your organisation came to grasp the make up of the problem and the current actions being taken to alleviate the problem. Describe how, after funding ends, alternatives might be addressed to explain sustainability for future success. Review the approaches you will use to provide a solution to the problem, the resources needed and an outline of why and how they’re going to be applied.
Goals and Objectives
Here you will include mission, goals, objectives, activities, action items, or tasksthey are the key components of your project and show the way in which the work will flow and which activities will be used to target success. In this section, answer the following questions:
- What do you propose to do?
- How are you going to achieve the work ( approach, methods, strategies, and strategy )?
- When will it happen ( project time line )?
- Who is responsible for the work?
- How will you measure performance?
- Why is the activity being conducted, and with what anticipated outcomes?
Methods or Project Design
Describe the activities that you anticipate for the project and include the staff, materials, and resources needed to execute the project. (These are your inputs ).
Include your logic model here, a visual outline (diagram or flowchart) of how goal and objectives relate to project activities and expected outcomes.
Identify and highlight the leading edge features of the proposal by demonstrating how distinctive they’re from other proposals under review.
Evaluation requirements differ by kind of project ; however, the standard end results include an outcome evaluation and a process evaluation. The product evaluation is focused on the results that may be attributed to the project. The process evaluation concentrates on the way the project was conducted in terms of the usefulness of various parts of the programme and consistency re the stated project strategies or design plan.
Your evaluation must be tied to data collection you will do as part of project activities. Information collection can be as surveys, interviews, evaluation conferences Alongside project monitoring, stats collected on attendance, usage, conferences, and more.
When writing a proposal, discuss the sustainability of your project. How can you attain items not covered by the grant funds, or after the grant period ends? This needs the identification of other available resources needed to implement the grant. You need to discuss this with allies to determine the way in which the program can be maintained and how future funding would be acquired for the activity to resume. Consider how you would account for other required expenditures related to the project, for example equipment.
Budget and Budget Narrative
Follow the specific funder guiding principles for compiling your budget. Customarily, there’ll be a form. Some basic proposal sections include :
- Wages and Personnel
- Fringe Benefits
- In-kind contributions
- Indirect Costs
- Matching Costs
In the narrative, you will supply a justification for each item you are asking for. You will need to identify specific wages, the basis on which they’re calculated ( monthly, weekly, etc. ) Also, items like air tickets or the expenses of electronic hardware would have to be priced so as to supply a realistic budget. When writing a proposal budget items also should be clearly linked to project activities in the story.
Assemble the Proposal Package
Figure out up front if the proposal is to be submitted electronically or through the mail or will be hand-delivered. Allow sufficient time for whichever option is chosen.
Lastly, after writing a proposal, reviewing and editing the document, assemble all the pieces, appendices (letters, agreements and necessary documents and forms) and turn it in! Celebrate with your team and feel good that by following all the steps in this writing a proposal guide, you have the best possible chance of getting funded! You also now have a great template upon which to tailor future proposal submissions.