Writing the proposal is the end of stage one of a project, not the beginning. As you begin to write, think about the questions below. If you can’t answer these questions, return to the beginning. You are missing something important. It does not mean the program should not be done. It means that there is more planning to be done before you are ready to request funding.
What do you want to do?
1. Describe the project.
2. What is the problem that you are trying to solve or the question that you are trying to answer?
3. Is this the beginning of a process which requires further work or the end of a process?
Why are you doing it?
1. How does this program fit with the goals of your unit/organization? Does it help push the mission forward? Does it build upon other programs? If not, does the new direction in which you are going fit within the strategic plan?
2. Why is it important to you? Why would it be important to anyone else? Besides you, who cares, that this will happen? Who are the folks who would think it is important?
3. What do you expect to happen by the end? Is there a product? Is the result measurable?
4. What difference will it make in the world beyond the program?
Who is involved in doing it?
1. Who is going to be involved on your staff, on someone else’s, volunteers, in the community?
2. Do you have partners? If so, who are they? What are their roles? Do they need resources to do what they have committed to do? Do you have a written agreement with them? Are you going to get one?
3. How many kids/adults are you going to serve? How are they to be recruited? How old are they? Why that age? When do they become involved? What are their ethnicities? What is their socio-economic background? Is there anything else that is important about them—disabilities, gender, weight. Where do they live/work/go to school? Is this important to understanding the program?
1. What does the staffing look like? Who is going to supervise whom? Who does what and who is responsible for what? Who is doing what to whom?
2. If you have partner organizations, how is the work divided? How will disputes be settled? Is there a written agreement?
3. Is it an ongoing project? When will it start? End? Is it a seasonal project? If so, why and what are its dates?
4. How often does the program meet? Why have you chosen this plan?
How and When?
1. What are the elements of the program? What specific things do the participants do?
2. Do different things happen at different times? Month by month, or week by week if necessary, what is going to happen? Can you chart it? If you can’t, why not? If you can’t, how do you explain to someone who is not familiar with your project how it works?
3. Do different participants do different things? If so, what makes all these things into a whole?
4. What do you need to do this? Permission? Insurance? Equipment? Supplies? Extra help?
5. What is the plan that must be followed to ensure that everything happens?
6. When you show the results to someone who does not know anything about the project, will they understand where you started, how you got to the end, why you took this route to get there, and how the results relate to the beginning?
How much is it going to cost?
1. If you need to pay for anything….find out what it will really cost. Don’t guess.
2. What are all the real costs? Whose time is involved and how much is their time worth even if they are not part of the proposal?
3. Do you need to pay for consultants? Stipends? People at partner organizations?
4. Do you need to pay for computers, paper, electricity, heat, light, etc.?
5. How are you going to pay for the recordkeeping, billing, and other administrative tasks necessary to do the project?
6. Are there expenses that the foundation will not pay for, e.g. travel? If so, how are those going to be covered?
What is likely to go wrong?
1. Where are the problem areas and have you left enough time, resources, options to solve them? For instance: How long will recruitment really take? If it takes longer, then what happens to your schedule?
2. How will you keep the program on track?
How will you know your project met its goals?
1. How will you evaluate the project? What methods will you use? Why did you choose those methods? What will the evaluation tell you? Why is that information useful and to whom?
2. Is there a research aspect to this proposal? If so, do you have the right data? Do you have the people involved who can analyze the data?
What makes this project special?
1. There are lots of good programs in the world. What makes this program unique, innovative, worthy, exceptional, stand out from the others?
2. Basically, why should anyone who is not you, your staff, or your participants care what happens in this project?
There are always more questions, but if you can answer these, the rest will be easy.