Tips for Developing Proposals

This overview may assist in the preparation of proposals to organizations. Please check organization application guidelines and confer with your Foundation and Corporate Relations contact for addressing proposal-specific details. A standard proposal might include or require the following elements:

Executive Summary

In one concise paragraph provide an overview of the proposal or grant application. This paragraph, usually best written after the proposal text is completed, provides the foundation reviewer with a snapshot of the problem or goal to be addressed, the anticipated solution or outcome, the funding required, and some indication of “value” (organizational expertise, match to funder’s interests, and so on). The Executive Summary may appear on the proposal title page.

Contextual Background (Including How Your Project Fits The Foundation’s Goals)

Describe the organization or individual researcher in terms of qualifications for undertaking this project. This section may go at the beginning of the proposal, following the summary, or it may come after methods. Include information such as:

  • Purpose, mission, location, founding
  • Structure and special expertise
  • Significant accomplishments of organization as relevant to proposed program or research
  • Ways in which proposed project extends the mission and draws on or leverages expertise.

Case Statement

Explain the problem to be solved or the need to be met by the proposed project and funding. Include brief description of the population / audience to be targeted if appropriate. Outline goals as well as objectives and steps to reach those goals; use measurable objectives where appropriate.

Work Plan (Including Timeline)

Describe a plan of action to achieve the objectives. Include:

  • Concise description of program or research activities
  • Rationale for methods-problems can be addressed in several different ways; why this approach?
  • Sequence of activities and anticipated timeline
  • Staffing with indication of qualifications relevant to proposed activities.

Evaluation Plans

Indicate how effectiveness of the program or research will be ascertained; also indicate if an outside evaluator will be used and what types of data or information you will collect. Include a dissemination plan such as publications or conferences to present outcomes and findings.

Outcomes And After-Effects (Potential Impact, Relating To Foundation’s Goals)

Stress measurable results and significance of results in terms of innovation or scalable model.


Divisional financial administrators and local business centers (LBCs) are key resources in correctly preparing budgets and should be consulted during proposal preparation. Typically the budget would include line items matched to the plan of work and staff in the proposal narrative, using standard categories such as salaries and benefits, travel, materials, equipment, and so on. The Budget Justification is used to explain any unusual line items.

Internal review of proposal before submission

All proposals are subject to procedures of appropriate University areas. Please check with departmental or divisional administrators on correct procedure for specific areas. Typically the three areas below are mandatory review points:

  • Department
  • Division
  • University Research Administration

Submitting the proposal

  • Re-check proposal package for completeness.