Ten Easy Steps to Creating A Fabulous Proposal
Identify a need that your organization can fill — either through responding to a suitable RFP or through a passion that reflects your organization’s mission and vision and annual business plan;
Develop a short concept paper about the need and how it can be addressed by your organization. Alert your fund raising staff or consultant to potential deadlines. If not responding to an RFP, ask your fund raisers to generate a matching grant maker list;
Call a brainstorming meeting with program and fund raising staff, volunteers or board members, as appropriate, to get group input. Develop program components that draw on your organization’s core capacities and can successfully meet the need. Create a proposal production team. Be sure to involve as many people as you need - use interns, volunteers or board members. This is no place for pride of authorship.
Reach agreement on the proposed program components. Run your plan by the leadership for approval of the program components. Give a copy to your finance staff for a first quick budget assessment of the cost of the program you propose.
Analyze the RFP or the funding guidelines of the targeted funder(s) for desired proposal structure and approach. Develop letters of inquiry to private funders, if required. This takes time — don’t put it off! It helps to create a proposal submission checklist!
Call a meeting of the project team and assign responsibilities for different portions of the proposal based on your checklist. Set hard DEADLINES! Check with finance on how far off you are with the budget. Hold weekly or bi-weekly meetings of the proposal team to keep the project on track.
Everyone develops the proposal sections — as assigned — and according to the dates agreed upon (don’t forget the budget!). Make sure everyone avoids nonprofit jargon. Explain your project the way you would if you were talking to a real person.
Assemble all parts of the proposal for a first comprehensive draft and review against the agreed upon components (this is where you catch proposal creep etc.) Deliver a first complete draft of the proposal and budget to the team leaders and to your finance staff.
Make revisions as indicated. Deliver second draft to your ED along with the budget and budget narrative. Time permitting, have an outside reader review your proposal and budget for clarity of presentation.
Make final revisions. Carefully compare the completed proposal packet to the checklist. Submit the proposal in a timely manner via the delivery method the funder specified. Sit back and wait for the money to roll in.
This should get you started. If you think you need to learn more before you can do this work, please take a look at our workshops, where you or your staff members can learn more. If you find that you don’t have the time or staff who can take on the work, you may need to hire professional help. In that case, give us a call.
© 2009 - 2010 Savage/Meléndez & Associates, LLC