Develop Your Proposal in Eight Steps
(Adapted from Getting the Most Out of Your Project and Proposal: A Guide From Beginning to End, by Jamie Levy (J.D. Levy and Associates, 1998). Used with permission.)
Developing a grant proposal can be an overwhelming process for development novices and professionals alike. Simplify the task of proposal development by dividing the workload, from planning to submission, into these eight basic phases.
Phase 1: Understand the Proposal Process
Familiarize yourself with the general process, including how grant proposals work, the common components of a proposal, and potential funding sources. If possible, enroll a grant-writing program such as the three-day "Fundraising for Small Nonprofits" seminar offered by The Fund Raising School, a division of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.
Phase 2: Create a Timetable
Take the proposal development knowledge you gathered in Phase 1 and apply that knowledge toward creating a timetable of tasks and deadlines, based on your organization's need (the subject of your proposal), the time limitations related to that need, and the projected deadlines of the funding sources you plan to approach with your proposal. Assign a person or team to execute each task listed on your timetable. Expect the timetable to change as you conduct more detailed research into your proposal and your potential funder.
Phase 3: Conduct Your Research
Identify and locate all of the information you need to develop the foundation of your grant proposal. Specifically, identify the perceived need or problem for which you require funding; the solution your organization proposes; and the nature, mission statements, and methods of the funding sources you hope to approach. Research the past grant-making history of your potential sources.
Phase 4: Build the Foundation
Now that you've collected the necessary data, interpret and make sure you understand the results of your research. You need to thoroughly understand and be able to describe, in detail, the logistics of your organization's perceived problem and proposed solution. You also need to recognize what makes each of your potential sources a good match for your proposal.
Phase 5: Prepare the Approach
Choose a funder from your list of potential funding sources. Ideally, this funder will be the best ideological and practical match for your proposal, based on your interpretations from Phase 4. Determine how to approach the funder with your proposal. Collect any additional material you may need about the funder in order to support your proposal.
Phase 6: Set Your Guidelines, Plot Your Course, and Write
This phase is threefold. First, identify the proper channels for contacting the funder, and decide the best time to make contact and request the funder's proposal guidelines. Revise your project timetable if necessary to comply with the funder's proposal specifications and deadlines. Next, begin structuring your project, developing each section of the project. Finally, write the proposal.
Phase 7: Review and Revise
When you have completed your proposal, review the piece carefully. Referring to the funder's proposal guide, verify that all of the essential information is included in the proposal. Insert any missing information. Proofread for spelling, grammar and syntax errors.
Phase 8: Submit Your Proposal
Submit the proposal according to the funder's guidelines. Follow any post-submission instructions included in the guidelines.