A proposal, in a legally-binding sense, is an offer from one party to another of a service or performance, usually in exchange for money. Research proposals, for example, outline the research a professor, analyst, or other research professional will undergo, in exchange for financing from a grant or a large institution like a university. A business proposal is created by a company to request funding from an investor to develop a new product or service.
Regardless of why you wish to write a proposal, here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Who is your audience? A grant committee, a board of directors, etc.
2. What level of familiarity will your audience have with your topic? How much background information should you include?
3. What do you need your audience to understand from your proposal? What is the most effective way to say this to them?
4. Define your issue for your audience and give them reasons for you to speak to this proposal group specifically.
5. Has anyone else had your same issue before? For example, funding for the arts is low across the board, or you faced a unique manufacturing challenge.
6. How have other groups dealt with this issue before – if at all – and how do you plan to distinguish yourself for greater success?
7. Define your solution: anyone receiving a proposal will want to know how you intend to use the resources you request to best effect. This requires lots of details.
8. Be careful with technical jargon – if this is for medical research funding, for example, you may need to use a high level of jargon to define your research in particular. However, if you are writing a proposal for a music grant, you need less “industry” jargon and more familiarity.
9. Use emotional appeals without appearing manipulative: this can be tough to wrap your head around, but there’s a humanitarian reason you need funding or other resources in many cases, and you should mention that.
Information to Include in a Proposal
Other elements of a proposal can include:
• An outline of the proposal: this will quickly define your problem, your solution, and how the resources you request will be a necessary part of the solution.
• Schedule and budget: especially if you request a large amount of money, like a year-long organizational grant, the committee will want to know from your proposal when and how you plan to use that money. If you do not include this, you could appear fiscally irresponsible.
• Why this proposal to this group: be clear in your opening paragraphs why you chose to write this proposal to this person, group, or committee. This shows you understand your problem and are actively working on an appropriate solution.
• Biographical information: this information proves that the proposal’s author has the skill and authority to complete the proposal.
• Applicant credibility: this is information about you as an individual or organization that proves your mission is in line with the donor, investor, or proposal committee’s ideals and goals.
• Sponsor values: this demonstrates how the sponsor, grantmaker, or investor can help move you from “what is” to “what should be.” This is a good place to tug at the committee’s or investor’s heart strings.
Our proposal outline can help you get started on your next grant, research, business, or other proposal!