Basic Components of a Proposal

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Proposal Contents

Generally, the foundation will give you an indication of what questions it wants answered and that should be your first point of reference. However, if there are not precise requirements, the following provides a good guide to structuring your proposal. The questions offered in each section should be answered, but it is not necessary to do them in the order they are posed in that section.

  1. Abstract/Summary
    1. Should be able to stand alone.
    2. Try to keep this to one page.
    3. Use the highlights (or topic sentence) from each section of the proposal.
    4. Answer the following: what will be done, by whom, for what purpose, for how long, at what cost, what are the outcomes, and who will benefit?
    5. Make it clear what you are asking the foundation to do.
  2. Statement of Need
    1. What is the issue you are addressing?
    2. Why does this matter?
    3. Why is what you propose necessary?
    4. Who benefits? Make sure you can indicate the public good achieved.
    5. Why hasn't this issue been addressed sufficiently in the past? Who else is working in this field, what have they done, and why wasn't that enough? Demonstrate your knowledge of the field.
    6. Assure that there is no duplication of other work. However, if you are seeking to replicate another's work in a new environment or with a different population, that's legitimate.
  3. Project Activity & Outcomes
    1. Why did you choose to address the issue in the manner that you have? Are there other approaches? If yes, why aren't they appropriate to the situation you are seeking to ameliorate?
    2. What will be the specific outcomes achieved?
    3. What are the specific activities involved? Who will do them? How?
    4. Present a timeline of activities.
    5. Why is your organization the best one to do what you propose to do?
  4. Evaluation
    1. In general, evaluation sections of a proposal should assure the potential funder that there is a way to know whether or not you achieved your goal.
    2. First of all, make sure you have project goals and objectives that are truly are measurable, otherwise you will not be able to design an evaluation.
    3. State what the goal of evaluation is. What do you hope to learn, prove, or demonstrate?
    4. Evaluate each project objective.
    5. Describe your evaluation methodology precisely. You may mix methodologies depending upon the objective being measured. Be creative; not everything is measured with a survey.
    6. Depending upon the nature of the project, an evaluation may examine either or both process and product.
    7. Evaluations may be quantitative or qualitative or both.
    8. It is a good idea to build in evaluation throughout the life of the project so that you can have good information for making mid-course corrections if necessary.
    9. Think about what can be learned from your evaluation and with whom you want to share the information. Some parts of what you learn may be for internal uses only, but much can be shared with your peers. Foundations like to think that their grants have a life beyond the single grantee.
    10. Specify who will conduct your evaluation; it can be conducted by project personnel or outsiders or both.
    11. Utilize on-campus resources to design your evaluation or to gain assessment tools.
    12. When you are done describing your evaluation goals and methodologies, you should have answered this question: How will you know that you did what you said you would do?
  5. Dissemination
    1. Dissemination should be linked to your project goals and objectives. For example, if you are trying to affect policy, your dissemination plan should target policy-makers, media, and affected populations.
    2. Be creative; sending an article to a professional journal is only one of many options. Consider op-ed pieces to newspapers or articles to more popular periodicals; conference presentations; community outreach activities; a web site; convening work groups of your peers; presentations to policy-makers; reports; briefing papers; press releases; videos; getting interviewed on radio; asking the foundation to provide an opportunity to meet with grantees doing similar work; newspaper coverage; presentations to community groups; listing yourself on speakers bureaus.
  6. Budget and Continuation Funding
    1. Show your budget in table form and use a budget narrative to explain each item.
    2. Include other sources of funding, both cash and in-kind. Do not overlook the value of all in-kind contributions, including those of your collaborators.
    3. Indicate how the project will be funded after the grant has run out.