The Key to Developing Successful Proposals

A recent Tuesday Dialogue featured a presentation and discussion by Edmund Morris who spoke by Skype from Doha, Qatar. His talk was supplemented by a PowerPoint Presentation and a printed document containing his responses to questions that had been submitted earlier by CIE members. The combination of media worked very well. 

Edmund has five plus years of experience writing proposals in response to RFP/RFA/RFQs from a variety of bi-lateral and multi-lateral agencies.  Based on his experience he put together a set of guidelines, steps and recommendations for those wanting to learn about the process of writing proposals.

CIE Tuesday Dialogue ParticipantsHe highlighted the fact that there are in fact three separate processes involved: the donor’s process of designing and getting approval to issue a request; the bidder’s process of designing a response and negotiating an award; and the project process of startup, implementation and completion.  Each of these sequences has its own rules and challenges. Successful organizations need to understand all three of these sequences.


Edmund stressed the need to “know the terms of reference by heart” and not to deviate from them.  Likewise he advocated knowing and using both the language and the financial structures of the particular donor agency issuing the RFP.  He suggested reading speeches by agency leaders, studying policy papers issued by the agency, and unashamedly using language and terms used by the agency in the proposal.

After walking the audience through the steps of both the technical and financial components of  proposals, the conversation turned to the larger issues, like the future of large institutions who now get most of the funding, the use of local staff as a better strategy, and the dilemmas of whether AID really makes a difference. These issues provoked a lively debate. Thanks to Sebastian Lindstrom, a current student, for organizing this session.