Proposal Preparation Overview

A great proposal starts with an good idea, but a good idea isn't enough. It must be developed thoroughly and include not only how much money is needed but how that money is going to be allocated. A proposal needs to address the following questions:

  • Are you or the group you work for eligible to apply for this grant?

  • What is the subject or problem being addressed?

  • What work do you want to try to solve the problem?

  • How will your project work?

  • How many people do you need to help you solve the problem?

  • How will you know if your work is successful or not?

  • How will you disseminate to others what you have learned from this project ?

  • When your project is completed, how will it affect others?

  • Why is the knowledge you will gain worth knowing?

  • What are the costs involved, both direct and indirect?

  • How will we know that the conclusions are valid?

  • How will you continue your project after the grant time period is over?

Once you have found a potential sponsor, secure the program guidelines and application materials. All federal grants use for their submissions. State and private sponsors will have their own methods for submission and their own specific guidelines. It is important to know the guidelines as you write your proposal. You should follow the guidelines rigorously. If the organization lacks guidelines for proposals, then use the this organization.

  • Title page: It should include the project title, the sponsor's name and the start and completion dates of the project.

  • Abstract: This is a snapshot view of your project and should be concise and informative. Many writers wait to write this part last even though it occurs second in order. This is so that all the details of their proposal are clear in their minds.

  • Project Narrative: This is a clearly written report of exactly what you want to do, why you are the best person to do it, how it will be done, the length of time and what outcome you expect. Many projects also like to see a plan to evaluate the project and how you plan on disseminating the information gathered from the project.

  • Available Resources: This is a statement of the amount and quality of resources available for the project. This may include curriculum vitae of the PI and co-PIs and a listing of equipment and facilities. If you are working with other organizations, a letter of support should be included.

  • Bibliography: Many sponsors want a listing of literature citations about the current work being done on this project.

  • Budget: This is both a cost estimate and a supporting narrative about your project. Be reasonable in your request and clear in the narrative in justifying why the funds are needed.

  • Appendices: This is dependent on the project. Common factors in appendices includes curriculum vitae of co-PIs or support personnel, letters of support, or survey summaries. The material must be central to your project and not just thrown in to make the proposal look thicker. 

Private Foundations: Many private foundations request only a concept paper of two to three pages that takes the form of a letter. They examine the information and then may request a full proposal later. As such, the concept paper should be more than just an introduction but a clear description of the project.

This page was last updated on: June 23, 2014