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Tips for Writing Successful Proposals

Basic ideas to help in the preparation of a proposal include the following:

 1. Match your proposal to the specifications of the grant sought. 

DO make certain your idea fits under the broad umbrella of the grant. Build on the NCTM Principles and Standards. State your goals (usually one or two) and objectives clearly. Remember: a goal is a broad statement about what you hope to accomplish. It usually is not measurable. An objective is a specific measurable statement about what you will do.

DON’T be unrealistic by aiming for “pie in the sky.”


2. Delineate your plan with utmost care. 

DO be specific about what you will do and when you will do it.  A timeline shows good planning and brings life to a proposal. Write clearly and succinctly.  Demonstrate the alignment of planned activities to your goals, objectives, and grant requirements.

DON’T expect proposal readers to guess what you are going to do; you must tell them your plan. Don’t use excess verbiage or unnecessary language, but be very clear on your intent.


3. Observe technical guidelines. 

DO read directions on the Request for Proposals (RFP) carefully and make certain to include everything mentioned and in the order mentioned (i.e., in the order of the proposal guidelines). Not following directions is a major reason many proposals are not funded. Have a sound budget. Get estimates about costs to be incurred and the length of time needed to complete the project.

DON’T exceed the page limit, font size, or budget limits. Don’t exaggerate or be unrealistic about the budget or resources needed for the project.


4. Emphasize the benefits. 

 DO show how a funded grant will benefit any participants. If the RFP calls for student participation, focus on the expected impact on student learning.

DON’T philosophize in the proposal. Show a direct need for the work and have a creative solution to any specific problems.


5. Describe possible long-term implications. 

DO have an evaluation plan that measures all stated objectives. Describe how assessment information will be collected, used, and reported.

DON’T over generalize implications or promise more than you can deliver.


6.  Enlist the support of your principal, supervisor, and colleagues. 

DO make certain that persons who write recommending letters indicate their strong support and commitment to you and your project. Provide them with a copy of your proposal so that they will understand the details and requirements of the project.

DON’T forget to have someone not connected to your project read both it and the RFP to see whether all guidelines are met, the proposal is sensible, your thinking is clear, and there are no mechanical errors. A new pair of eyes can be very helpful.


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