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1. Elements of a Grant Proposal
2. Proposal Writing- A Practical Guide for Writing
3. A Basic Guide Writing Guide for Proposal Development
Guide Resource for not-for-profit, charitable and educational organizations.
1. Elements of a Grant Proposal
A proposal must convince the prospective donor of two things:
1. that a problem need of significant magnitude exists, and
2. that the applicant agency has the means and the imagination to solve
the problem or meet the need
When no specific format or guidance is given by the funding source, it is
safe to generally assume that the proposal should be no more than 15 pages
in length (single-spaced) and should include the following sections:
1. Qualifications of the Organization
2. Problem Statement or Needs Assessment
3.Program Goals and Objectives
6. Future Funding
Letter of Inquiry/Intent
Some foundations/corporations prefer a letter of inquiry to determine whether
the applicant falls within the foundation's guidelines. In this case, an
inquiry letter used instead of a cover letter and proposal. It is very succinct,
and attachments are not included. If the funder determines the organization
and project fit within it's scope, the organization will be directed to
submit a complete proposal. If not, a decline letter is usually issued at
that time. A letter of inquiry should meet the following criteria:
1. Includes funder's name, title, and address
2. Is directed at the individual responsible for the funding program
3. Provides a brief overview of the organization and its purpose
4. includes the reason for the funding request
5.Includes the amount requested (if required by funder)
6.Describes the need the project intends to meet (including target population,
7. Provides a brief description of the project
8.Lists other prospective funders for the project
9. Includes thank you and next step to be taken
10. Does not exceed two pages (one page is recommended)
11. Includes name and phone number of contact at the organization
12. Is signed by the person who can speak with authority on behalf of the
The cover letter serves as the organization's introduction and should always
accompany a proposal. A cover letter should meet the following criteria:
1. Includes funder's name, title, and address
2. Is directed at the individual responsible for the funding program (is
not addressed "To Whom It May Concern", "Dear Sirs",
3. Provides a brief overview of the organization and its purpose
4. Includes the reason for the funding request
5. Includes the amount requested (if required by funder)
6. Does not exceed two pages (one page is recommended)
7. Includes name and phone number of contact at the organization
8. Is signed by the person who can speak with authority on behalf of the
Summary (1/2 page)
This section clearly and concisely summarizes the request. It should provide
the reader with a framework that will help him/her visualize the project.
The remainder of the proposal will then serve to deepen and amplify the
"vision" presented in the summary section at the beginning. A
summary should meet the following criteria:
1. Appears at the beginning of the proposal
2. Identifies the grant applicant
3. Includes at least one sentence on credibility
4. Includes at least one sentence on problem
5. Includes at least one sentence on objectives
6. Includes at least one sentence on methods
7. Includes total cost, funds already obtained and amount requested in this
8. Is brief (limited to several paragraphs, half a page at most)
9. Is clear
10. Is interesting
Qualifications of the Organization (1-2 pages)
This section describes the applicant agency and its qualifications for funding
and establishes its credibility. The programs and accomplishments of the
organization will be examined in light of how they address current demographics,
social issues, specific constituencies, etc. In addition to convincing the
funder of the extent of the need for the proposed project, the agency must
also demonstrate that theirs is the appropriate agency to conduct the project.
In this section, the organization should demonstrate that it has the means
and the imagination to solve the particular problem or meet the need.
A proposal will often sink or swim based on the need for the project and
the project methodology, not on the accomplishments of the overall organization.
Therefore, an agency should not make the mistake of devoting half of its
proposal to the history or programs of the agency.
The proposal should address the projects and programs the organization intends
to undertake over the next twelve to fifteen months. If growth is projected
in the program, anticipated goals should be stated, as should any new projects
to be undertaken. If a detailed program description or annual report exists,
it should be included as the first item in the proposal appendices. The
qualifications of the organization section should meet the following criteria:
1. Clearly establishes who is applying for funds
2. Briefly addresses the rationale for the founding of the organization
3. Describes applicant agency's purposes and long-range goals
4. Describes applicant's current programs and activities
5. Describes applicant's clients or constituents
6. Provides evidence of the applicant's accomplishments
7. Offers statistical support of accomplishments
8. Offers quotes/endorsements in support of accomplishments
9. Supports qualifications in area of activity in which funds are sought
(e.g. research, training)
10. Describes qualifications of key staff members
11. Provides other evidence of administrative competence
12. Leads logically to the problem statement
13. Is as brief as possible
14. Is interesting
Problem Statement or Needs Assessment (3-4 Pages)
When seeking funds, a specific problem area or need should be addressed.
This is a critically important section of the proposal. Information based
on objective research, not subjective impressions, should be provided to
justify the need or problem. This data, however, should not be voluminous,
but sufficient to demonstrate that a problem or need exists. A problem statement
or needs assessment should meet the following criteria:
1. Describes the target population to be served
2. Defines the community problem to be addressed and the need in the geographical
area where the organization operates
3. Is related to the purposes and goals of the applicant agency
4. Is of reasonable dimensions - not trying to solve all the problems of
5. Is supported by relevant statistical evidence
6. Is supported by relevant anecdotal evidence
7. Is supported by statements from authorities
8. Is stated in terms of clients' needs and problems - not the applicant's
9. Is developed with input from clients and beneficiaries
10. Is not the "lack of a program", unless the program always
11. Makes no unsupported assumptions
12. Is as brief as possible
13. Is interesting to read
14. Is free of jargon
15. Makes a compelling case
Program Goals and Objectives (1 - 2 pages)
This section of the proposal describes the outcomes of the grant in measurable
terms. It is a succinct description of what the organization hopes to accomplish.
Program goals and objectives should meet the following criteria:
1. At least one objective for each problem or need committed to in the problem
2. Objectives are outcomes
3. Objectives are not methods
4. Describes the population that will benefit from the program
5. States the time by which objectives will be accomplished
6. Objectives are measurable and quantifiable (if at all possible)
TYPES OF OBJECTIVES
There are at least four types of objectives:
Behavioral - A human action is anticipated.
Example: Fifty of the seventy children participating will learn to swim.
Performance - A specific time frame within which a behavior will occur,
at an expected proficiency level, is expected.
Example: Fifty of the seventy children will learn to swim within six months
and will pass a basic swimming proficiency test administered by a Red Cross-certified
Process - The manner in which something occurs is an end in itself.
Example: We will document the teaching methods utilized, identifying those
with the greatest success.
Product -- A tangible item results.
Example: A manual will be created to be used in teaching swimming to this
age and proficiency group in the future.
Methodology (4 + Pages)
This section describes the activities to be conducted to achieve the desired
objectives. It also includes the rationale for choosing a particular approach.
Generally, a straightforward, chronological description of the operations
of the proposed project works most effectively. The methodology section
should meet the following criteria:
1. Flows naturally from problems and objectives
2. Clearly describes program activities
3. States reasons for the selection of activities
4. Describes sequence of activities
5. Describes staffing of program
6. Describes clients and client selection
7. Presents a reasonable scope of activities that can be accomplished within
the time and resources of the program
8. Provides a time line of activities (if possible)
Evaluation (1 - 2 Pages)
Proposals must include a plan for determining the degree to which objectives
are met and methods are followed. This section is extremely important as
funders pay particular attention to evaluation methods since they need help
determining whether a proposed project represents an intelligent investment
for them. The evaluation section should meet the following criteria:
1. Presents a plan for evaluating accomplishment of objectives
2. Presents a plan for evaluating and modifying methods over course the
3. Tells who will be doing the evaluation and how they were chosen
4. Clearly states evaluation criteria
5. Describes how data will be gathered
6. Explains any test instruments or questionnaires to be used
7. Describes the process of data analysis
8. Shows how evaluation will be used for program improvements
9. Describes any evaluation reports to be produced
Future Funding (1/ 2 page)
This section describes a plan for continuation beyond the grant and/or the
availability of other resources necessary to implement the grant. In equipment/capital
requests, many funders require organizations to demonstrate how the on-going
cost of operations and equipment maintenance will be met. A statement about
future funding sources is also advisable for the maintenance equipment.
The section on future funding should meet the following criteria:
1. Presents a specific plan to obtain funding if program is to be continued.
2. Describes how maintenance and future program costs will be covered (if
3. Describes how other funds will be obtained, if necessary to implement
the grant (include individual solicitation efforts specifically aimed at
4. Includes list of other funders approached on behalf of project (name
of funder, date of proposal submission, amount requested, current status)
5. Has minimal reliance on future grant support Is accompanied by letters
of commitment (if necessary)
6. Does not indicate that the agency will approach the funder for additional
All proposals should include a budget which clearly delineates costs to
be met by the funding source and those provided by other parties and outlines
both administrative and program costs. If a proposal is for a specific project,
separate budgets for the general operating budget and the special project
budget should be included. Budgets should show income as well as expenses
and should be structured in columnar form, listing the expense on the left
and the dollar amount in the right column, according to general accounting/bookkeeping
principles. Budgets should not be submitted in narrative form.
Budget expense information should delineate personnel costs such as salary
and benefit information, and non-personnel expenses such as facility costs
(rent/mortgage, utilities, maintenance, taxes), fund raising expenses, travel,
postage, equipment costs, supplies, and insurance. These should be reflected
in both the expense and income columns.
Sources of income should be listed separately as part of budget information.
Sources should be actual funders, not merely prospects. However, pending
proposals may be listed separately, if desired. Sources for funding may
include fees for service, government funds, corporate/private grants, individual
donations, etc. A budget should meet the following criteria:
1. Tells the same story as the proposal narrative
2. Is detailed in all aspects
3. Includes project costs that will be incurred at the time of the program's
4. Contains no unexplained amounts for miscellaneous or contingency
5. Includes all items asked of the funding source
6. Includes all items paid for by other sources
7. Includes all volunteers
8. Includes all consultants
9. Details fringe benefits, separate from salaries
10. Separately details all non-personnel costs
11. Includes separate columns for listing all donated services
12. Includes indirect costs where appropriate
13. Is sufficient to perform the tasks described in the narrative.
Some attachments are recommended in all proposals, while others may be included
at the author's discretion. If a recent article or endorsement has been
written about your organization, and if it is germane, it may be included
as an attachment to the proposal. Generally funders will look at only one
or two articles/endorsements. Therefore, your organization must carefully
select the best recent article/endorsement to submit. Additional attachments
can be included at the author's discretion. Appendices may include:
1. Verification of tax-exempt status (generally the IRS determination letter)
2. Names and affiliation of officers and Board of Directors members
3. Financial statements for last completed fiscal year (audited, if available)
4. Current general operating budget and special project budget (if applicable)
5. List of clients served (if appropriate)
6. List of other current funding sources
7. Biographies of key personnel (only if requested)
8. Articles/endorsements (no more than two)
9. Diagrams for equipment or building requests
10. Organization's by-laws
Format and Appearance
There are different forms and formats for proposals. Sometimes these style
aspects are at the author's discretion. However, the author should research
the prospective funding source to know the funder's usual requirements.
Funders often have specific requirements for the format of the proposal
they will consider. It is the responsibility of the organization to submit
the proposal in the required form, if there is one. Some funders issue specific
grant applications which organizations must submit as the proposal. These
are typically discussed in the funder's published guidelines or in research
directories. A proposal should always be concise, no more than 15 pages
single-spaced. (Consider the page length indicated after each section the
recommended maximum length.)
In addition to the contents of the proposal, its appearance is important.
Foremost, a proposal should be presented neatly. The cover letter should
be typed on the nonprofit organization's letterhead, followed by the proposal
and attachments, respectively. Since proposals are not voluminous, it is
not necessary to include an index or table of contents.
Proposals should not be submitted with binding (like a book), as funders
often dismantle the proposal and make copies of it when referring it to
a review committee for consideration. To assemble a proposal, an organization
should consider using staples or a folder to contain the proposal and attachments.
Funders do not judge a proposal on its weight, but on its contents and presentation.
Thus, it is important to assemble the proposal in an organized, concise,
and attractive manner.
In summary, a proposal should reflect planning, research and vision. The
importance of research cannot be overemphasized, both in terms of the funders
solicited and the types of funds requested. The appropriate format should
be used, and the required attachments should be included.
The most successful proposals are those which clearly and concisely state
the community's and organization's needs and are targeted to donors which
fund that field, a reflection of careful planning and research.
In writing and/or evaluating a proposal, the following conclusions drawn
from a University of Pennsylvania study may be useful. A study team investigated
the criteria foundations and government agencies consider most important
when reviewing proposals for community-based projects. They concluded that
there are five factors all funders consider "highly important":
1. project purpose
3. community need for the project
4. applicant accountability
Other factors also considered important include:
1. project logic
2. probable impact
4. money needed
5. community support
Although there is some disagreement about the factors which are considered
unimportant, funders generally agreed that the least important factors in
assessing a proposal are:
1. working relationships
3. minority status
4. social acceptability
5. prior funding
6. influence of acquaintances
2. Proposal Writing
A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR WRITING PROPOSALS
The general purpose of any proposal is to persuade the readers to do something,
whether it is to persuade a potential customer to purchase goods and/or
services, or to persuade your employer to fund a project or to implement
a program that you would like to launch.
Any proposal offers a plan to fill a need, and your reader will evaluate
your plan according to how well your written presentation answers questions
about WHAT you are proposing, HOW you plan to do it, WHEN you plan to do
it, and HOW MUCH it is going to cost. To do this you must ascertain the
level of knowledge that your audience possesses and take the positions of
all your readers into account. You must also discern whether your readers
will be members of your technical community, of your technical discourse
community, or of both, and then use the appropriate materials and language
to appeal to both. You might provide, for those outside of your specific
area of expertise, an executive summary written in non-technical language,
might include a glossary of terms that explains technical language use in
the body of the proposal and/ or attach appendices that explain technical
information in generally understood language.
The most basic composition of a proposal, as with any other written document,
is simple; it needs a beginning (the Introduction), a middle (the Body of
material to be presented) and an end (the Conclusion/Recommendation).
1. The INTRODUCTION presents and summarizes the problem you intend to solve
and your solution to that problem, including the benefits the reader/group
will receive from the solution and the cost of that solution.
2. The BODY of the proposal should explain the complete details of the solution:
how the job will be done, broken into separate tasks; what method will be
used to do it, including the equipment, material, and personnel that would
be required; when the work will begin; and, when the job will be completed.
It should also present a detailed cost breakdown for the entire job.
3. The CONCLUSION should emphasize the benefits that the reader will realize
from your solution to the problem and should urge the reader to action.
It should be encouraging, confident and assertive in tone.
Proposals are informative and persuasive writing because they attempt to
educate the reader and to convince that reader to do something. The goal
of the writer is not only to persuade the reader to do what is being requested,
but also to make the reader believe that the solution is practical and appropriate.
In persuasive proposal writing, the case is built by the demonstration of
logic in the approach taken in the solution. Facts must lead logically and
inevitably tot the conclusion and solution presented. Evidence should be
given in descending order of importance, beginning with the most important
evidence leading and the least important at the end. Any questions that
the reader might pose should be anticipated and answered in a way that reflects
the position of your proposal. It is important that the writer, also, considers
all sides of the argument---providing other alternative solutions to the
problem, but showing how the one chosen is superior to the others.
There are several formats to a proposal, but one that has the greatest flexibility
and has achieved the widest acceptance is as follows:
1. Letter of transmittal
2. Title Page
3. Project Summary (approximately. 200 word abstract)
2. Project Proposal: (Includes Statement of the Problem, Proposed
3. Solution(s), Program of Implementation, Conclusions/Recommendations)
Bibliography and/or Works Cited
Qualifications (of writer(s) and/or project implementers)
(Itemization of expenses in the implementation and operation of the proposed
plan, and detail of materials, facilities, equipment and personnel)
PLANNING SHEET FOR A PROPOSAL
Analysis of the Situation Requiring a Proposal:
1. What is the subject of the proposal? (This should be based on the thesis
of your research.)
2. For whom is this proposal intended?
3. How do you intend the proposal to be used?
4. What is the deadline date for the proposal and for tentative implementation
of the proposed solution?
Purpose of the Proposal:
Statement of the Problem:
1. Proposed Solution(s) or Plan(s), Including the Methods or Procedures:
Additional Information to be used in Explication of the Proposed Solutions:
(This includes: Costs, Personnel and their qualifications, Training, etc.)
Types and Subject Matter of Appendices to be Included in the Proposal:
Works Cited/References used in the Text of the Proposal:
Bibliography of Related Source Information:
FORMAT FOR THE PRESENTATION OF THE PROPOSAL
Abstract or Summary of the Proposal
(This is a condensed version of the longer work, and it summarizes and highlights
the major points of the report. It included: the subject, scope. purpose,
methods, and obtained results of the study, as well as any recommendations
and conclusions made.)
(Gives the background and states the purpose of the proposal)
1. Statement of the Problem
2. Proposed Solutions
(i.e. Expense Statements, Cost Savings, Profit and Loss Projections, Equipment,
Materials and Personnel Needs, Completion Schedules, Efficiency Studies,
Writer's Qualifications, etc.)
(Presentation of charts, graphs, illustrations, etc.)
1. Works Cited/References
3. A Basic Guide Writing Guide for Proposal Development
The main aim of this guide for proposal development has to do with fundamental
principles and practices useful in preparing successful applications for
external funds. It serves as a guide for helping to develop a competitive
and successful proposal. While the principal investigator has responsibility
for preparing grant and contract proposals, the staff serves to provide
assistance in the overall process of grant seeking. In developing proposals,
no set of guidelines fits all grant seeking opportunities. Thus this document
serves only as a generic guide to developing proposals.
It therefore makes no pretense of addressing details that describe scientific
or any other methodology needed for a particular research project.
Introduction to Grant making
Federal agencies and private foundations clearly understand the value of
using faculty talent to assist them in fulfilling their mission or goals.
From both sources, grants and contracts support a wide variety of projects
that run the gamut from creating and expanding scientific knowledge to addressing
societal needs and to fostering economic development or competitiveness.
But sponsors funding projects in these broad areas have well-defined limitations
and considerably specific guidelines. And each mission agency, like an increasing
number of foundations, wants to support
projects so worthwhile that it will be possible to receive continued funding
from state legislatures or private endowments at the termination of the
grant or contract.
The private sector, foundations and corporations, have greater discretion
and more flexibility in grant making, but they must operate within the boundaries
established by the IRS to maintain their tax-exempt status.
Whether public or private, grant makers fund projects that have the potential
of contributing to the areas for which they have responsibility. Numerous
foundations look for innovative projects, while corporations expect proposals
that fit their interests, economic and others.
Developing Your Idea into a Project
Sponsors fund activities, and not ideas. Thus you must translate your ideas
and intentions into a set of activities. But this process assumes you have
brain stormed with colleagues on and off campus and tested ideas, and how
they can be formulated to do research that seeks to solve problems in creative
and innovative ways. Whether you seek to conduct basic research, provide
an innovative service, or establish a training program, you need to develop
the idea into practical action with projects, processes, and products. That
means you must define the problem or need you wish to address, formulate
goals and objectives to solve that problem, and decide what strategies and
actions will enable you to fulfill them.
A good approach to how your project can meet its goals and objectives lies
in developing a project outline that establishes a strong connection between
the activities you propose to undertake and the resolution of the problem
you have formulated. This kind of project outline enables you to put the
case in a way to persuade a potential sponsor of the value of your activities.
In doing that, try to see your project from the perspective of your potential
donor and have colleagues critique your project. What will your proposal
accomplish and for whom?
Outlining the Proposal
1. Statement of Need or Problem to Address
What needs to be done, and why does it need to be worked on now? What need
will the proposal meet? What services will your proposal provide and for
whom? What gaps exist in the knowledge base of your field or area? How does
the proposed work fill an important gap and propose to solve an important
problem? What methodology or approach will the proposal take to meet the
goals and objectives in solving this important problem? These questions
will enable you to persuade potential sponsors or grant makers that your
proposal merits attention and will impact the problem you have defined in
an important way.
2. Goals and Objectives
State the overall goal of your proposal. What caused the problem you wish
to address, and how do you propose to solve it? State the precise outcomes
that can be measured to determine or assess accomplishments.
3. Action Plan and Methodological Approach
What actions will enable you to achieve your objectives? How will you conduct
preliminary studies and/or results? For a research proposal, fundamental
or applied, you must develop a methodology. For service projects, give careful
consideration to whom your proposal will serve and how effectively it will
do that. In developing any proposal, clearly demonstrate your professional
qualifications and expertise to carry out the proposed work.
4. Budget and Personnel Requirements
How many people with what kinds of qualifications and experience will you
need to carry out the project? What space, equipment, and travel resources
will you need? How much time will it take to carry out the proposed activities?
The granting agency or philanthropic foundation often sets allowable time.
Dealing with these questions should enable you to determine with a good
degree of accuracy what will be the financial requirements of the proposal.
The title of your proposal should succinctly convey the solution to the
problem you will address.
Now you can complete your proposal outline with a simple title that clearly
explains insofar as possible what you plan to do. Avoid trendy and faddish
titles that might turn off potential sponsors.
With these matters now addressed, you will find it easier to write a brief
outline to serve as the basis for the next step in developing your proposal.
This outline should include:
1. Title of proposal;
2. Statement of problem and need to address it;
3. Action plan, proposal design or methodological approach, and preliminary
4. Budget and personnel requirements.
5. Before proceeding to identify potential sponsors, take the following
1. Do a thorough bibliographical search both to avoid duplicating existing
research projects and to seek information from surveying the professional
literature that could strengthen your proposal;
2. Do a self-evaluation of your qualifications and experience relative to
the requirements for carrying out the project and competing for extramural
3. Assess how your proposal fits the mission and resources of the Site because
much of the time sponsors make grants to the institution rather than to
individuals and require evidence of institutional commitment.
4. Discuss your ideas with others in the broader area of knowledge as well
as with experts in your field. Draw upon the advice of individuals who have
received funding from the government agency or philanthropic foundation
from which you seek funding. Share your proposal with your
colleagues or elsewhere who have served as panelists or referees for recommending
that the agency or foundation make grants to fund related projects.
6. Grants Information
7. Degree of Sponsor Interest
After identifying potential sponsors, do as much as possible to obtain information
that helps you to determine the level of interest that these funding sources
likely will have in your specific project. You will find most of the necessary
information in printed materials easily accessible in the form of documents
for public consumption. Both government agencies and philanthropic foundations
have to provide public information on their grant making activities because
of reporting requirements, administrative and legal.
In seeking to determine the level of interest that potential sponsors might
have in your project or proposal, keep in mind the following factors concerning
the agency, foundation, or corporation:
1. The purpose and mission statement;
2. The stated priorities of the program;
3.The eligibility requirements for recipients of awards, including defined
geographical and specific subject restrictions;
4. The types of activities eligible for funding and presently being funded
in the area of interest;
5. Whether the funding mechanism used will be a grant or contract or some
6. The amount of competition based upon available funds, projected number
of awards, and the range of funding for them (but this knowledge of competitiveness
should be an incentive, and not an impediment for making application);
7. The specific proposal guidelines for a grant application;
8. The review cycle or time between application deadline and grant award;
9. The grant making record to universities or organizations and the kind
of activities or projects funded in the more recent past.
10. The deadlines for reports on and completion of grant or contract.
8. Contact with Agency Staff
A. Once you have determined from available information that your proposal
fits the program, it would be appropriate and advisable to contact agency
staff or foundation personnel to ask questions about any changes in program
priorities and funding levels. Many foundations discourage phone calls and
prefer a letter. Often the agency or foundation will indicate a preference
that you should follow in regard to contacting the sponsor. Sometimes an
applicant uses all three ways to contact a potential sponsor. A letter should
be only one or two pages but include concisely all information in you proposal
B. You should have no expectation from contact at this point of any commitment
for funding. But you should be able to receive some sort of indication about
the relevance of your proposal to the up-to-date interests of the agency
or foundation. Thus the response of the sponsor to your preliminary contact
will enable you to assess whether to move forward in developing a full proposal.
C. General Principles for a Full Proposal
As you develop your full proposal, it will be helpful to keep a few general
principles in mind.
1. The proposal must show need for the activity, give all the information
to evaluate it accurately, and demonstrate your ability to conduct the work
it requires, and a cost estimate.
2. Reviewers frequently have to read a large number of proposals in a short
erefore making it essential for yours to capture attention by virtue of
its being well-conceived, well-organized, carefully proofread, and as concise
9. Developing a Full Proposal
The requirements of the particular agency, foundation, or corporation to
whom you apply will determine the format of your proposal. Rigorously follow
these requirements, even detailed guidelines concerning format and length.
Most government agencies have specific guidelines for developing your full
proposal. Foundations and corporations often have fewer directions. Foundations
usually require a proposal in letter form of two to five pages. But all
sponsors require in some form the following ingredients.
A. Narrative: The main body should tell exactly what you propose to do and
provide justification for doing it. State first of all the need your proposal
will meet, or the problem it will address. Second, provide supporting statements
for all assumptions you make thus clarifying every aspect of your proposal.
Service projects require a needs assessment. Fundamental, or basic, and
applied projects must include a rationale for what you propose to do. Third,
explain your overall goals, specific
objectives, preliminary work, and knowledge base in a manner that logically
and lucidly connects the defined problem and the proposed solution. Finally,
describe your action plan or methodological approach in sufficient detail
to assure those reviewing your proposal that you can complete the project
effectively and efficiently with the expected level of quality and productivity.
Be sure your narrative convinces reviewers of the cogently conceived and
carefully conducted way that you will carry out all aspects of the proposed
B. Evaluation: With diminishing resources available to fund fundamental
and applied research, many sponsors now request that you select or develop
as part of your proposal an appropriate methodology to evaluate your particular
project. That should address the sponsor's growing concern these days about
C. Budget: To say the least, the budget becomes a key element in any proposal.
For reviewers, your budget outlines the project in fiscal terms and provides
in a nutshell the organization of your proposal.
1. Salaries often comprise the major part of your budget. You need to break
them down in terms of the number of professional and support staff, their
salary levels, and the percentages of time to be spent on the project. Other
budget items include office supplies, equipment, travel, current rate of
fringe benefits on salaries, and institutional overhead or indirect costs.
2. Reviewers know the cost of doing research in your area or field. They
expect accurate estimates of all your anticipated costs. Figures either
too high or too low may cause them to question how well you know the field
and your abilities as a project administrator.
D. Abstract: Prepare a brief abstract of your proposal keeping in mind that
reviewers likely will rely on it heavily in evaluating your project. Thus
you must be sure to cover within the limited length of the abstract all
the key components in your proposal. The abstract should describe the main
objectives, projected scope, and methodological approach. A foundation would
expect an abstract or summary as a cover letter or first paragraph of a
letter-type proposal. Federal agencies often designate where the abstract
should be. Other agencies may require a one-page abstract of the grant proposal.
Federal grant application forms often have a designated place for the abstract
for publication upon funding the grant. While the abstract comes first in
the fully developed proposal, you will be in the best position to write
it after completing the main parts of your proposal.
E. Appendices: Integrate data essential to your proposed research into the
text of the application at the point it will be most effective as well as
appropriate. Reprints, letters of support, preliminary data, progress reports,
and similar documents should be referenced in the body of the proposal and
placed in the appendix. Unless the sponsor has other requirements, the curriculum
vitae of principal personnel should be put in the appendix. Materials such
as charts, graphs, tables, or illustrations that add important data to your
proposal but impede a smooth reading of the narrative should be put in permissible
appendices. But be sure these appendices do provide all data that you consider
necessary to your proposal. Moreover, make certain that these appendices
meet agency guidelines.
10. Steps to Follow in Writing the Full Proposal
A. Be sure to follow the sponsor's guidelines by filling out forms correctly
and supplying requested information. Otherwise you may hurt your chances
of the sponsor's funding your proposal.
B. Make certain to address the stated criteria in various sections of the
proposal. One weak section could lessen chances for funding an otherwise
C. Use clear and precise language aimed at your specific audience. Avoid
using professional jargon or unnecessarily technical terminology.
D. Become familiar in writing your proposal with the review procedures of
the sponsor, and learn whether reviewers are professional peers or non-specialists
with a lay knowledge of the particular fields.
E. Agency staff and foundation personnel commonly recommend that applicants
have colleagues read their proposals to catch any weaknesses and add certain
11. Submitting Your Proposal
12. Format and Content
As mentioned earlier, most federal sponsors have publications identifying
requirements for proposals distinctive to that agency and provide more specific
instructions on how to prepare proposals. But in most cases, federal and
private sponsors require that proposals contain the following information.
A. Cover page: including the title of the proposed research program, name
and title(s) of principal investigator(s), proposed time the project will
take, proposed sponsor, the date, any required endorsements, and the amount
of funds requested.
B. Abstract: a succinct description of research objectives or project activities,
any activity or closely related work in progress, literature review, and
any other professionally pertinent information;
C. Table of contents or index with page references.
D. Detailed description of program with a research plan that states objectives
and describes procedures to fulfill them.
E. Description of present facilities and equipment and percentage of time
these will be available for your project or activity.
F. List of personnel including professional titles.
G. Curriculum vitae of professional staff.
H. Selected list of publications by principal investigator(s).
I. Budget with justification and supporting documents as appropriate.
J. Statement of duplicate submission if the same proposal will go to other
K. List of current and pending support for key personnel.
L. Letters of collaboration, subcontractor proposals, and supporting documentation
required for the proposal program or activity.
4. This guide resource for not-for-profit, charitable and educational organizations.
10-Point Plan for Standard Grant Funding Proposal
This grant writing guide for the most part pertains to private grant seeking.
However, some of our sample grants do apply to public, or Government, grant
Always follow the exact guidelines specified by grant makers in their grant
applications, Requests for Proposals and guidelines.
1. Prove that you have a significant need or problem in your proposal.
2. Deliver an answer to the need, or solution to the problem, based on experience,
ability, and imagination throughout your proposal.
3. Reflect planning, research and vision throughout your proposal.
4. Research grants makers, the funders providing grants, the types of funds
the grants makers award, and the types of grant seekers the grants makers
award funds to.
5. Determine whether the grants makers and funders goals and objectives
for grant making match your grant seeking.
6. Target your proposal to grant makers appropriate to your field and project.
7. Contact the grant maker to determine specific grant making guidelines.
8. Present the proposal in the appropriate and complete format, and include
all required attachments.
9. State clearly and concisely the community's and organization's needs
and objectives. Write well; use proper grammar and correct spelling. Prepare
an interesting, unique proposal.
10. Always cover the following important criteria: project purpose, feasibility,
community need, applicant accountability and competence.
11. State project logic, probable impact, money needed, and demonstrate
12. Unless specifically requested by the grant maker, omit the following
unimportant criteria which can detract from the proposal: working relationships,
advocates, minority status, social acceptability, prior funding, and influence
A. Funding Proposal Summary:
Full Proposals: Full Funding Proposals are a maximum of 15 pages (single-spaced),
and include the following sections:
1. Qualifications of the Organization,
2. Problem Statement or Needs Assessment,
3. Program Goals and Objectives,
7. Long-Term Funding and
Preliminary Funding Proposals:
Preliminary or Inquiry letters are used to determine funder's interest in
the full proposal. They are signed by CEO/Board Chair, and include contact
information, and are no more than 2 or 3 pages, are sent to the funder's
grant program administrator, and include the following criteria:
1. Organization Overview/Purpose,
2. State Reason for and Amount of Request,
3. Describe Needs or Problem (including target population, statistics, example),
4. Describe Project or Program,
5. List other Project Funders (prospective and committed),
6. Request Funding Application.
B. Full Funding Proposal Detail:
1) Cover Letter (one page)
Clear, concise overview of organization/purpose and reason for/ amount of
funding request. Be sure to show how your proposal furthers the grants maker's
mission, goals and matches the funder's grant application guidelines.
2) Summary or Cover Sheet (* page)
Introduce the proposal, present a clear, concise summary of proposal and
visual framework of project, and include: Applicant name and credibility,
need/problem, objectives, methods, total project cost, amount requested.
3) Qualifications (1-2 pages)
Describe applicant, qualifications for funding and establish credibility.
Demonstrate the means and methodology to solve the problem, or meet the
need, within 12-15 months, and include the following:
1. Organization identity and purpose, constituents and service area. Brief
summary of organization history, mission and goals;
2. Brief description of organization current programs, activities, service
statistics, and strengths/ accomplishments. Long-range goals and current
programs/projects and activities;
3. Evidence and support (including qualified third-party statistics) of
4. Number of board members, full time paid staff, part-time paid staff,
and volunteers. Evidence of Board involvement, activity and key staff members
qualifications and administrative competence.
4) Problem Statement or Needs Assessment (3-4 Pages)
Objectively address specific situation, opportunity, problem, issue, need,
and the community your proposal addresses. Support your statement with qualified
third-party research/evidence to justify the need or problem. Clearly, concisely
demonstrate that a relevant, compelling problem or need exists, and include
1. Description of target population;
2. Definition of community problem to be addressed and service area need.
5) Program Goals and Objectives (1 - 2 pages)
Describe the outcome of the grant in measurable terms, in a succinct description
of the proposed project outcome and accomplishment, including your overall
goal(s); specific objectives or ways in which you will meet the goal(s).
Program Goals and Objectives should include:
1. Minimum of one goal for each problem or need in the problem or statement;
2. Description of the benefiting population;
3. Performance - the action which occurs within a specific time frame at
an expected proficiency;
4. Process - the method by which the action will occur;
5. Product - the tangible results from the action's performance and process.
6) Methodology (4 + Pages)
Describe the process to be used to achieve the performance and product,
in a rational, direct, chronological description of the proposed project;
actions that will accomplish your objectives; impact of your proposed activities,
how they will benefit the community and who will carry out the activities;
time frame for your project/program; long-term strategies for maintaining
the on-going project/program. Methodology should include:
1. Restatement of problems and objectives; Clear description and explanation
of program/ project scope and activities;
2. Sequence of activities, staffing, clients and client selection;
3. Time line of activities.
7) Evaluation (1 - 2 Pages)
Determine the plan for meeting performance and producing the program/project
and justify how you will measure the effectiveness of your activities, who
will be involved in evaluating and how they will be used; your measured
criteria to produce a successful project/program; the expected outcome/achievement
at the end of funding period. Evaluations should include :
1. Plan for evaluating accomplishment of objectives;
2. Plan for modifying process and methodology;
3. Provide methods - criteria, data, instruments, analysis;
Clearly delineate costs to be met by the funder and all other funding sources;
outline both administrative and program costs.
For specific projects, include separate budgets for the general operating
and the special project. Show income and expenses in columnar form (according
to general accounting/bookkeeping principles).
Delineate personnel costs for salary and fringe benefit information, and
other-than-personal-services (OTPS) expenses for facility operating (rent/mortgage,
utilities, maintenance, taxes), and travel, postage, equipment costs, supplies,
and insurance, etc.
List actual committed and pending sources of income only. Include fees for
service, government funds, corporate/private grants, individual donations,
Prepare a detailed budget consistent with the proposal narrative:
1. Include project costs to be incurred at the time of the program's implementation.
2. Include no miscellaneous or contingency categories, include all items
requested for funding, and all items to be paid by other sources, consultants.
3. Detail fringe benefits separately from salaries, detail all OTPS costs.
4. List separately all donated services, including volunteers, indirect
costs where appropriate
5. Sufficiently justify performance of the tasks described in the narrative.
8) Long-Term Funding (1/ 2 page)
Present a brief, concise specific plan to cover the on-going project/program
financing, cover maintenance and future program costs, document sources/uses
of future/long-term funds.
Additional attachments are usually required at the funder's discretion.
Typical appendices generally include:
1. Verification of tax-exempt status (IRS determination letter)
2. Certificate of Incorporation and By-Laws
3. Listing of officers and Board of Directors
4. Financial statements for last completed fiscal year (audited, preferred)
5. Current general operating budget and special project budget (if applicable)
6. List of clients served (if appropriate)
7. List of other current funding sources and uses
8. Biographies of key personnel or resumes (only if requested)
9. Support letters or endorsements (limited to maximum of two)
10. Diagrams for equipment or schematics for building requests (if applicable)
10) Format and Appearance
There are different forms and formats for proposals, some at the applicant's
discretion, most at the funder's requirements. Always read and follow the
grant application and guidelines carefully.
In general, foremost, the proposal should be presented neatly, professionally,
and in an organized package. The cover letter should be typed on letterhead,
followed by the proposal and appendices, respectively. Generally, you do
not have to include an index or table of contents, unless required. Type
and single-space all proposals. Write, organize and present your proposal
in the order listed in the application and guidelines.
Unless requested, do not bind the proposal; use staples or a folder to contain
the submission. Only include the information and materials specifically
requested in the application and guidelines. The proposal is judged on content
and presentation, not weight. Make sure to submit the number of copies of
the grant requested by the grant maker. Assemble and present the proposal
in an organized, concise, and attractive manner.
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