The most important aspect of a good proposal is a good idea.
You must have a clear idea, well thought out and well stated. Everything about the proposal will be directly connected to this excellent idea. This is why it is necessary for the person (or people) who will be working on the project or who has an idea for a project to write the first draft of the proposal.
If you are responding to a RFP (Request for Proposals) or a program where there are specific guidelines, you need to read the guidelines very carefully. The guidelines will give you the outline to follow when you write your proposal. They will also tell you the order of the different sections of the proposal, the deadline date (postmarked or received), number of copies to be submitted, print size, single or double spaced, and page limit. While you may think this is a little too detailed, proposals have been rejected because they did not follow the guidelines.
Writing a proposal that has specific guidelines is not a time for creative writing. It's a time to follow the instructions, address the points requested, and pay attention to the review criteria.
A proposal generally has the following sections: Introduction, Problem Statement, Need, Objectives, Plan of Operation, Timeline, Evaluation, Quality of Personnel, and Budget.
Some items to avoid in writing a proposal: Jargon -- the reviewers will recognize this and deduct points. Budget surprises -- everything mentioned in the budget must be referred to in the narrative. Additionally, the budget figures should be correct. Broad, sweeping statements -- provide as much detail as possible in the space allowed; tailor the information to the project.
Additional tips: Talk to or visit the program office if possible. The program officer may provide additional information that is valuable in writing a proposal. Have a colleague read your proposal. Also, have someone not in your field read your proposal. This will help you in presenting information succinctly. Try to finish the proposal early so you are not rushing to get it into the mail at the last minute.
Please read Kutztown University's Overview of the Grant Proposal Process.
External Links to Proposal Writing Resources: