Make a professional project proposal just by filling in the blanks. Most project proposals require pre-defined sections that you can re-use or edit to fit the particular project. Use this one to ensure that you have a good backbone of elements that can scale from small projects, grant requests, or even very large projects.
Making a project proposal is as much about knowing all of the answers that an interviewer or stakeholder might want to know, but also about knowing the questions that they might ask. We’ve combed over many proposals to include the best questions and advice to help you get off to a great start.
You’ll need to do all of the proper research and homework first, but this template will give you a head-start and a good framework. You should always consult a lawyer though before finalizing any contracts.
A Project Proposal is a document, similar to a Letter of Inquiry, which includes many specific types of questions and answers, depending on the audience. In many organizations, you may have a formal project proposal format that allows operators to communicate to stakeholders and funders about new or existing work that needs to be done.
Usually, a Project Proposal is written as an organization such as a Non-Profit company, to an audience of a specific donor, charity, or grant organization. It is also common for project proposals to follow a similar format within large organizations, where the department below may submit a project proposal to the department above, in the chain of management.
Because of the norm for an extremely specific format, we have provided this template as an outline, which you can use to store all of the commonly asked questions, and retrieve them to construct the proposal depending on specific audience’s requirements. The first test that you need to pass, when asking for money or support on a project, is that you can follow instructions. Always answer questions as they are asked, and don’t rely on the prompts we provide in our template as a 100% guarantee that they will match your proposal’s audience requirements.
In today’s age of digital project management and reporting, it is normal for a project proposal to be submitted in an automated form or application, with questions and responses for each field. Before you start filling out form elements, you should ensure that you have created the entire proposal first.
Start with the broad, but long-form statements first. In this way, the sections that you write will flow and be dependent on one other. Before you start, remember that the proposal should include everything that your audience has asked for, and everything that applies to your problem statement, but nothing else. If you have evidence that could seem contrary to your problem statement, re-think including it in your proposal.
Before you start, try speaking aloud the 2-minute elevator pitch for your project. If you can’t get it all out in 2 minutes, it’s not necessarily a problem with your project, but your understanding of the key elements may not be sharp enough. Repeat until you can state the problem, vision, benefits, success criteria, approach, and budget in 2 minutes. This will help create flow and tie-ins between sections when you are writing out the text for each component.
Once you have a good outline in mind, start with the long-form sections, from the beginning. This means leave your executive summary sections blank! Always do them last.
Start with the problem. There must be something your projects helps with saving money on, saving time, or increasing quality or quantity. Paint a bleak picture and describe the issue in detail, and show it in context with other organizations, peers, and industry standards.
Your organization needs to be a clear go-to for the solution. Prove it by listing the persons in your organization and including biographical paragraphs which clearly show that they are the right people for the job. Show your experience, and that your organization is invested in the completion of the project. It is much more likely that you will get funding for a project if you can prove that you don’t need funding for the project. If your organization is invested, successful, and independent, then the project is much more likely to succeed and continue after funding or support is no longer available.
When you are proving that your problem exists and that your project is the solution, you must provide evidence. This evidence can be in the form of qualitative and quantitative evidence. On the quantitative side, you might have a clear current state of things, using test scores, common KPI or performance metrics, and criteria that are standardized. Numerical data from high-quality sources are the best and remember that they should be taken over time and show a trend.
Although quantitative evidence is generally preferred, qualitative evidence can also strongly illustrate a problem or solution. Use quotes, articles, images, and stories to get the point across. Sometimes, a key perspective can be a selling point for a project, with a single person’s story and point of view. These help to humanize more than simple numerical evidence, and get stakeholders to take action.
Once you have finished the “need statement” or problem sections, you must tie into a solution. This is where you describe your project. As with any persuasive document, start broad and drill down more and more into the details as the document gets further on.
Some proposals follow a common format: Problem, Vision, Benefits, Deliverables, Success Criteria, Plan, Budget. Although we see this as a simple approximation of a project proposal, it helps to illustrate the need to convince in an upside-down triangle approach. Start with the most broad, then with each consecutive section, drill down more and more.
Make an outline and write out of order if needed. If you have some details but aren’t sure how they fit together in a broader sense, you should still write them in. You will need to go back and make sure that every section flows into the next, but it is better than writing your summaries and broad strokes ideas first, before they are clear.
The number one reason why project proposals are turned down is that they are not within the interests of the would-be benefactors. Research, research, and do more research. Before you start weaving together a narrative with the problem, solution, evidence, and nitty-gritty planning details, you must determine if the proposed project is within the interest scope of the people you are pitching it to. If the organization doesn’t have the resources, have already completed a similar project, or have accepted the problem, no matter how good your proposal, it’s likely to be turned down before anyone even reads the executive summary.
Lastly, after all sections are complete, you will need to provide support. This is a good section to include the “about our organization” extras, such as biographies, references to content, previous project reports, and other things. Here, make sure that all of your reporting documents are available, your Letter of Determination from the IRS if you are a nonprofit, and copies of any documents which your proposal requires.
After you have submitted your proposal, keep following the instructions and the plan you’ve laid out. Focus on building a positive relationship with your benefactor, and report both positive and negative news. Always make scheduled milestone reports on time, and pick up the phone when they call. Show a measure of consistency, reliability, and integrity, and before you know it, your new project partners may become long time business partners.