Foundation, Corporate & Government Relations

Proposal Writing Resources

A proposal has many key elements that must be included and tells a story that not only follows the grant guidelines but also impresses the reader. Below are slideshows and online resources that will help you to write a successful proposal.  

Slideshow 1 explains the key elements of a grant proposal and provides other tips.

These sites are good for federal grants - 

This site contains tips for writing research grants - 

This site is helpful for grants to private foundations -

These sites provide general information -

Proposal Writing Tips

The following are some tips that will help you write a strong proposal. Contact us for more, or if you need any help.

  • Start early – Knowing the deadline date for your grant is essential, as deadlines are never negotiable. Getting an early start will give you time to think through your project and prepare all aspects of the proposal.
  • Readers are ordinary people – Remember that you are writing to another person. Use clear, simple sentences that express well-conceived ideas and avoid jargon. 
  • Get Proof Readers – Don’t be afraid to ask another person to read what you’ve written to assure clarity.
  • Read the Guidelines – Make sure you read and follow the guidelines as they are written and include all required information in the order that it is requested. Evaluators will deduct points from proposals that do not include all requested information. Also know requirements, such as font sizes, page limits, and margins. Your proposal won’t be read if it does not follow the directions.
  • Don’t Hesitate to Call – If you have questions about an RFP or a foundation’s grant guidelines, call the program officer or grant administrator for clarification. They are usually quite responsive. 
  • Ask to See a Winner – If you are applying to a federal program, you can request that the program officer send you a copy of a winning proposal. Likewise, go online to see a list of universities that won the same grant you are applying for. Abstracts are usually included with project director’s contact information. Contact them and kindly ask if they’ll send you their winning proposal and reviewers’ comments. It’s not cheating, it’s professional collaboration.
  • Charts & Tables are Your Friends – Including charts and tables is a great idea because they present a lot of information very quickly and also break up the monotony of reading a narrative. They are also space savers because in a proposal in which the narrative must be double spaced, charts can usually be single spaced. Be sure, however, that your charts/tables are easy to read and understand.
  • The Budget is Key – Make sure your budget makes sense for the program you have proposed. The funder’s attitude is: “Tell me what you’re going to do with my money.” Reviewers, and especially program officers, can tell when budgets have been inflated, or when they are missing components that are necessary for the success of the proposed program. Don’t ask for more than what’s allowed or you proposal won’t even be read.
  • Allowable vs. Unallowable – Since grant money is given to you by someone else, they decide what you can and cannot spend it on. These are called allowable and unallowable costs and they will vary by program or foundation. Know this when you prepare your budget and do not add in anything that is not allowed.

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