Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Writing a Proposal

Structure, attention to specifications, concise persuasive writing, and a reasonable budget are the critical elements of the writing stage. There are many ways to organize proposals. Read the guidelines for specifications about required information and how it should be arranged. Standard proposal components are: the narrative, budget, appendix of support material, and authorized signature. Sometimes proposal applications require abstracts or summaries, an explanation of budget items, and certifications.
  1. Narratives

    Statement of need

    Purpose, goals, measurable objectives, and a compelling, logical reason why the proposal should be supported. Background provides perspective and is often a welcome component.


    Method and process of accomplishing goals and objectives, description of intended scope of work with expected outcomes, outline of activities, description of personnel functions with names of key staff and consultants, if possible.

    Method of evaluation

    Some require very technical measurements of results. Inquire about expectations.

    Project timeline

    Paints a picture of project flow that includes start and end dates, schedule of activities, and projected outcomes. Should be detailed enough to include staff selection and start dates.


    Information about the applicant that certifies ability to successfully undertake the proposed effort. Typically includes institutional or individual track record and resumes.

    Tips on Writing the Narrative:

    Narratives typically must satisfy the following questions:

    What do we want?
    What concern will be addressed and why it is important?
    Who will benefit and how?
    What specific objectives can be accomplished and how?
    How will results be measured?
    How does this funding request relate to the funders purpose, objectives, and priorities?
    Who are we (organization, independent producer) and how do we qualify to meet this need?

    The HOOK:

    There are many ways to represent the same idea. However, the HOOK tailors the description of the idea to the interest of a particular funder.The HOOK aligns the project with the purpose, and goals of the funding source. This is a critical aspect of any proposal narrative because it determines how compelling reviewers will perceive your proposal to be.

  2. Budget

    Budgets are cost projections. They are also a window into how projects will be implemented and managed. Well-planned budgets reflect carefully thought out projects. Be sure to only include those things the funder is willing to support.

    Funders use these factors to assess budgets:

    Can the job be accomplished with this budget?
    Are costs reasonable for the market - or too high or low?
    Is the budget consistent with proposed activities?
    Is there sufficient budget detail and explanation?
    Many funders provide mandatory budget forms that must be submitted with the proposal.
    Don't forget to list in-kind and matching revenue, where appropriate. Be flexible about your budget in case the funder chooses to negotiate costs.

  3. Supporting materials

    Supporting materials are often arranged in an appendix. These materials may endorse the project and the applicant, provide certifications, add information about project personnel and consultants, exhibit tables and charts, etc. For projects that include collaborations or partnerships, include endorsements from the partnering agencies.

    Policies about the inclusion of supporting materials differ widely among funders. Whether to allow them usually depends upon how materials contribute to a proposal's evaluation. Restrictions are often based on excess volume, the element of bias, and relevance.

    Find out if supporting materials are desired or even allowed. Be prepared to invest the time to collect resources, produce a tape, document capability, update a resume, collect letters, include reference reports or whatever is needed.

  4. Authorized Signatures

    Authorized signatures are required. Proposals may be rejected for lack of an authorized signature. Be sure to allow the time to acquire a needed signature.

  5. Specifications

    Tailor proposal writing to specifications found in the guidelines. Include only the number of pages allowed. Observe the format. Is there a form to complete? Must the proposal be typed, double spaced, on 8-1/2 x 11 inch pages? Are cover pages allowed or desired? Caution! — the beautifully bound proposal is not always appreciated or allowed. Be concise. Elaborations should add depth and scope, not page fillers. Be prepared to write one or more drafts.

  6. Submission checklist

    The complete proposal must be submitted on time in the requested format with the requested number of copies and original authorized signatures.

Address the proposal as directed in the guidelines.

Be sure to include required documentation.

Source :

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