What makes a winning proposal?
Do you understand why your organization is successful in some competitions and not in others?
Politics aside, there are several tips to help you succeed in writing a proposal to achieve the result you want…funding for your project.
1. Understand Your Audience
Who are you writing to?
What is your audience’s information needs?
The more you know about your reader the better equipped you are to relay a message with impact.
Do you understand the environment in which you are proposing your program for funding?
Does your funder have certain funding priorities?
It is recommended to an environmental scan to determine the fit with your proposed program, to the need, the RFP requirements, and the budget. If you have the opportunity to go to a bidders’ meeting, make sure you attend to see and hear the:
- Funders requirements
- Competition’s questions
Know your audience!
2. Match Your Proposal’s Content with the RFP Criteria
This is a no brainer. You need to make sure you have addressed every item in the RFP or grant application. The writing needs to be clear, organized, well researched and concise. Use the headings in your proposal as outlined in the RFP application. If necessary use subheads under each category to provide content markers for readability.
Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. If you were reading 30 or more proposals, I think you would appreciate it if the proposal package was easy to read, well organized and addressed all the requirements. Always keep the audience’s needs in mind with how to make the reader’s job easier.
Double check and triple check you have all the RFP requirements in your proposal package!
3. Know Your Organization’s Selling Points in the Competitive Landscape
- Do you have a long track record of funded programming success?
- Or is your organization relatively new to providing services?
If your organization has a long track record of success you want to emphasize your success rates and gather client impact statements to that effect. You have the evidence to demonstrate that previously funded programs were successful. And going forward, based on your track record, future funded programs will also succeed.
You will also want to show that your proposed program/service/research is not already funded by another competitor.
If your organization does not have a long history working with funded programs, you will need to demonstrate your fresh perspective in:
- Innovative program design
- Collaborative approach to providing services
- Previous research and expertise in the service area
Do your proposal research!
4. Provide Strong Evidence to Back Your Claims
As in point 3, if you are going to make a claim of why your organization should be funded, be prepared to back-up your claim with evidence.
Do you have support for your proposed program from partners, research, and past client testimonials?
The more evidence you can supply, the better chances you will have in getting your program funded. The funders need to demonstrate to their bosses that the program/service/research will deliver the desired outcomes.
Funders are risk adverse!
5. Show Market Demand for Your Program(s)
Why is there a need to fund your particular program or service?
What is the demand from clients or the need from government agencies/employers?
You need to demonstrate how your program will help in some way to achieve a desirable outcome to benefit all stakeholders. Your program must balance the clients’ needs with those of the funder’s and other involved parties.
What’s in It For Me?
6. Describe Effectively the Outcomes or Deliverables You Will Achieve with the Money
This is a key component of your proposal. What results are expected and how will you measure these results?
In a future “Non-profit Issues and Solutions” Newsletter I will discuss further how to develop indicators for program outcomes.
7. Show Me the Deliverables!
Analyze the Marketplace to Determine Budget Parameters
This is a tricky one! As you need to have a good understanding of where your budget falls within the funder’s expectations. You do not want to propose too high a budget or your program will be considered too expensive to fund. Too low, and the funder may think you cannot adequately provide services.
It is a balancing act!
8. Write in an Easy to Read Format With Clear and Concise Language
You need a professional looking proposal package that is easy to read with headings and subheads. Usually you are restricted in proposal length, so you need to use clear and concise wording to fit within the required number of pages.
Use persuasive language!
9. Summarize your Proposal’s content clearly in the Executive Summary
This is the first chance for you to impress your reader. An Executive Summary is written to help the funder reach a decision based on your proposal. It is a snapshot of your proposal highlighting the most important points. The Executive Summary can influence how closely the funder reads the rest of your proposal.
In a future “Non-profit Issues and Solutions” Newsletter I will discuss further how to write an effective Executive Summary.
Summarize for me why I should fund your organization!