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Creating the Proposal

Here are a few broad ideas to help you get started:
Need more specific advice about writing proposals, citation styles or where to find research? Check out our list of online resources.

Please contact the office of grant development if you would like assistance with any stage of the grant writing process.

Before You Begin Writing

Start asking questions about your project:
  • Subject: What is this project about?
  • Purpose: Why is this project being done? What is the problem or need being addressed? What are the project’s goals?
  • Activities: What will be done? What methods will be used? What will you need to make this project a success? How will you measure success? Who will be in charge of doing what and when?
  • Target population: What special group is being served or studied?
  • Location: Where is the work being performed?
  • Outcomes: What kind of findings will result? To whom will these be useful?
Talk with other people about your project for input and ideas. Touch base with colleagues, supervisors and associate deans about your project. Discover how your project relates to the priorities of your unit.

Sponsor Analysis
By examining the guidelines and doing some preliminary research to understand as much as possible about the sponsor, you will increase your chances of successful funding. What does the sponsor care about? How can you explain your project in a way shows the sponsor that you care about the same things? How will your project help solve these problems?

If your sponsor has a web site, see if they provide sample proposals or grant writing tips. Review copies of successful proposals from past grant recipients. Pay particular attention to their organization, formatting and documentation.

Consider contacting the sponsor to clarify application requirements or answer questions you might have about their preferences or values. Sample questions might include:
  • “Do you want 10 single or double-spaced pages?”
  • “Can indirect costs be included in the budget?”
  • “Your organization funds both education and research projects. Do you have a preference?”
As You Write the Proposal

Application Form
Browse the list of frequently requested data, including the mission statement, the EIN, the DUNS number and paragraph-length descriptions about St. Norbert College, that you can insert into your application.

Cover Letter & Abstract
If the sponsor requests an abstract or cover letter, write these last (even if it will appear first in your final proposal). It is easier to summarize a project if you have already fleshed it out first, and oftentimes, you can take sentences verbatim from your narrative to include in your abstract.

Proposal Narrative
Once you have found a sponsor, you will need to follow the sponsor’s guidelines in order to write the proposal. Be sure to include everything the sponsor requests, such as non-profit status, resumes, audited financial statements and a list of the Board of Trustees.

Most sponsors prefer to fund "people" rather than buy "things"; therefore, describe your project in humanistic terms. In other words, how will your project make a difference in the lives of students, faculty, or community members?

Remember that proposals must be persuasive to be successful. Don’t just provide information about your project and expect the sponsor to understand why the project should be funded. You need to explain how this project is a solution to a problem.

Consider including a time and task chart that illustrates who will be doing what and when.

If space allows, provide specific details. Show how your project will be successful, will be sustainable or has community support. Doing your homework and providing specifics enhances your credibility.

Have as many people proofread your proposal as possible to make sure the information is both understandable from an outsider’s prospective and accurate.

Don’t forget the importance of a well-designed and easy-to-read document. Try using headings, bullets and white space to break up long paragraphs of text. Remember that the important thing is readability. Keep it simple, professional and legible.

Provide a realistic budget. Don’t inflate your budget. However, don’t underestimate the funds required for the project to be successful. Be sure to investigate what the sponsor funds and what the sponsor does not fund (some sponsors will not fund construction costs, for example).

Include a budget narrative that explains the basis of your cost calculations. This will help to persuade reviewers that sufficient funds have been requested to achieve project goals and objectives in a cost-effective manner.

Before You Send the Proposal

  • Have you demonstrated that this project is a solution to a problem that both you and the sponsor care about?
  • Is your proposal as detailed as space allows?
  • Is your proposal persuasive as well as informative?
  • Are budget items allowable, necessary, sufficient and accurately calculated?
  • Is your proposal easy to read?
  • Have other people proofread the proposal?
  • Have you followed all the formatting guidelines?
  • Have you included all requested information and the necessary attachments?