How to Craft a Winning Proposal

How to Craft a Winning Proposal


“Will You Marry Me?”

The most easily recognized and frequently used phrase in modern times is the four-word will you marry me? It is short, concise, covers the point, and effective. It is timeless, exciting, loaded with anticipation, and is usually offered with various expressions of humble physical manner such as bended knee and tender facial expression. It is the marriage proposal.

A proposal is a formal action or request of asking for a set of favors from one entity or person to another, with the promise of partnership and advantages accruing to both parties should the requests be granted. The request may be for cash, materials or both, or even advice and technical assistance. A good proposal should resemble closely the marriage proposal in brevity, advance preparation, knowledge of the subject, anticipation of benefit and timing.

It should recognize that there is a serious competition going on for the favor of the recipient, and the importance of ‘striking while the iron is hot’. It can run the risk of an early presentation without harm, but a late arrival is usually locked out or time-barred. Just as in the case of marriage, many proposals get rejected, but for the ones that succeed, the work of the writer becomes more delicate as the proposal gets closer to approval. It should be noted that the approval of such proposals is due to the fact that several writing steps are followed. It is in the public domain on ways that a good one can be written. One should research well on those steps including seeking help from experts with knowledge of article and academic writing. No matter how long it takes, stick with it until there is a definite response from the recipient.

For those that do not win, find out why and educate yourself for a better proposal the next time. The suggestions below can help you craft a winning proposal if followed closely, but as with the marriage proposal, it is the one that touches the heart of the recipient and not necessarily the best looking proposal that wins the day:

  • Manage your expectations and accept that good proposals take some time to develop and write, and that what you final write will depend more on the knowledge that you have developed over the years rather than a swift internet search or literature review. As important as these are, they should be part of your normal knowledge building as a player in the sector, and not a last minute practice in the week when a proposal has been called for.
  • Knowledge of your issue This will help you define your issue much better, and reduce the superficial matter from your proposal. Define the problem as clearly as possible. Put yourself in the reviewers’ seat and ask yourself if your statements sound convincing and if you would give financial resources for such a proposal.
  • Financial literacy is important in translating the ideas that you have into tangible requests for specifics sums of money. There are many low-cost online resources such as Udemy and edX that offer free and short courses on myriad subjects like finances, budgeting and using spreadsheet applications.
  • Always start with an outline of what you want to write about. Your proposal should be as brief as is required to cover the subject, and an outline helps you to focus on the subject matter. If necessary conduct a quick search on outline structures to save on time and get a good outline.
  • Where the recipient has provided a format take time to understand it and know what they are looking for. Some outlines even limit sections to specific numbers of words. Know the key words that are needed and ensure that you have attempted to ‘speak the recipients’ language.
  • Your actual topic for the proposal matters, so take time to craft a topic that clearly suggests your key ideas. “Enabling the Boy child in a dangerous society” is different from “Strategies to strengthen male children in a society that is increasing focused on empowering girls”.
  • Have a thesis statement that distills clearly the substance of the proposal in the opening paragraphs. The standard for proposals is just as high as in academic writing, and spending time on crafting a good and strong thesis statement helps you to stay within the subject.
  • Use figures to quantify the problem. Do not limit the problem to the emotional appeal alone. Use figures to elaborate the extent of the problem, for example, ‘only 45% of the girls sitting standard eight this year will sit form four after four years’, instead of ‘the rate of school dropout among girls is very high’.
  • Have good knowledge of the entity to which the proposal is addressed. Read up on their interests, past and present work, and what motivates them to support the kind of work for which you are writing the proposal. Find out why they seek proposals and compare it to their current work and focus, and who they have funded in the past.
  • Use language that your audience understands. Technical language can sound knowledgeable and educated, which is quite well, but the current reality is that the people who shortlist your proposal are usually administrative personnel who may not have the expertise to quickly see the real issues that you are proposing.
  • Be unique in the idea that you are proposing. With current technology it is possible to access much more information in a shorter time than was previously possible. Invest some time and investigate the possibilities in the sector offered by current readings and research and give your proposal an innovative edge.
  • A good grasp of your sector will lead to an effective proposal, so read broadly the current affairs and global trends in the key sectors. For example you should have at your fingertips that current Sustainable Development Goals as well as their precursor, the Millennium Development Goals.
  • Keep a money track active in your mind for the budget notes. It is easier to have a separate page for the aspects that relate to money, and use that to develop a budget. Most budgets have simple divisions of direct and indirect costs, so keep these distinct as you write.
  • The ending is also important so conclude the proposal just as well you introduced. The conclusion is a synthesis of the main points that you propose, and it offers you an advantage with reviewers who may target only the introduction and conclusion before deciding to proceed further. Many proposals put this in the executive summary.
  • Review the proposal. It is imperative that you review your proposal.Computer applications do not always conduct perfect language checks. Due to familiarity with the text you may fail to note some errors, soask someone else to do it to ensure that the spellings and grammar are correct.

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