WRITING THE GRANT PROPOSAL
Components of a Proposal
There are eight basic components
to creating a solid proposal package: (1) the proposal
summary; (2) introduction of organization; (3) the
problem statement (or needs assessment); (4) project
objectives; (5) project methods or design; (6) project
evaluation; (7) future funding; and (8) the project
following will provide an overview of these components.
The Proposal Summary:
Outline of Project Goals
The proposal summary outlines the
proposed project and should appear at the beginning
of the proposal. It could be in the form of a cover letter or a separate page, but
should definitely be brief -- no longer than two or
three paragraphs. The summary would be most useful if it were
prepared after the proposal has been developed in
order to encompass all the key summary points necessary
to communicate the objectives of the project. It is this document that becomes the cornerstone
of your proposal, and the initial impression it gives
will be critical to the success of your venture. In
many cases, the summary will be the first part of
the proposal package seen by agency officials and
very possibly could be the only part of the package
that is carefully reviewed before the decision is
made to consider the project any further.
The applicant must select a fundable
project which can be supported in view of the local
in the absence of Federal support, should be pointed
out. The influence
of the project both during and after the project period
should be explained. The consequences of the project as a result
of funding should be highlighted.
Presenting a Credible Applicant or Organization
The applicant should gather data
about its organization from all available sources.
Most proposals require a description of an applicant's
organization to describe its past and present operations.
Some features to consider are:
- A brief biography of board members
and key staff members.
- The organization's goals, philosophy,
track record with other grantors, and any
- The data should be relevant to
the goals of the Federal grantor agency and should
establish the applicant's credibility.
Statement: Stating the Purpose at Hand
The problem statement (or needs assessment)
is a key element of a proposal that makes a clear,
concise, and well-supported statement of the problem
to be addressed.
The best way to collect information about the
problem is to conduct and document both a formal and
informal needs assessment for a program in the target
or service area. The information provided should be
both factual and directly related to the problem addressed
by the proposal.
Areas to document are:
- The purpose for developing the
- The beneficiaries -- who are they
and how will they benefit.
- The social and economic costs
to be affected.
- The nature of the problem (provide
as much hard evidence as possible).
- How the applicant organization
came to realize the problem exists, and what is
currently being done about the problem.
- The remaining alternatives available
when funding has been exhausted.
what will happen to the project and the impending
- Most importantly, the specific
manner through which problems might be solved.
Review the resources needed, considering how
they will be used and
to what end.
There is a considerable body of literature
on the exact assessment techniques to be used.
Any local, regional, or State government planning
office, or local university offering course work in
planning and evaluation techniques should be able
to provide excellent background references.
Types of data that may be collected include:
historical, geographic, quantitative, factual, statistical,
and philosophical information, as well as studies
completed by colleges, and literature searches from
public or university libraries.
Local colleges or universities which have a
department or section related to the proposal topic
may help determine if there is interest in developing
a student or faculty project to conduct a needs assessment.
It may be helpful to include examples of the
findings for highlighting in the proposal.
Objectives: Goals and Desired Outcome
Program objectives refer to specific
activities in a proposal. It is necessary to identify
all objectives related to the goals to be reached,
and the methods to be employed to achieve the stated
objectives. Consider quantities or things measurable
and refer to a problem statement and the outcome of
proposed activities when developing a well-stated
figures used should be verifiable. Remember, if the
proposal is funded, the stated objectives will probably
be used to evaluate program progress, so be realistic. There is literature available to help identify
and write program objectives.
Methods and Program Design: A Plan of Action
The program design refers to how
the project is expected to work and solve the stated
out the following:
- The activities to occur along
with the related resources and staff needed to operate
the project (inputs).
- A flow chart of the organizational
features of the project.
Describe how the parts
interrelate, where personnel will be needed, and what
they are expected to
the kinds of facilities, transportation, and support
- Explain what will be achieved
through 1 and 2 above (outputs); i.e., plan for measurable
results. Project staff may be required to produce
evidence of program
performance through an examination of stated objectives
a site visit by the Federal grantor agency and or
grant reviews which may
involve peer review committees.
- It may be useful to devise a diagram
of the program design. For example, draw
a three column block. Each column is headed by one
of the parts (inputs,
throughputs and outputs), and on the left (next to
the first column) specific
program features should be identified (i.e., implementation,
and systems development).
In the grid, specify something about
the program design, for example, assume the first
column is labeled inputs
and the first row is labeled staff. On the grid one
might specify under inputs
five nurses to operate a child care unit. The throughput
might be to maintain
charts, counsel the children, and set up a daily routine;
outputs might be
to discharge 25 healthy children per week. This type of procedure will help
to conceptualize both the scope and detail of the
- Wherever possible, justify in
the narrative the course of action taken. The most
economical method should be used that does not compromise
project quality. The financial expenses associated
with performance of
the project will later become points of negotiation
with the Federal program
staff. If everything is not carefully justified in
writing in the proposal, after
negotiation with the Federal grantor agencies, the
approved project may
resemble less of the original concept. Carefully consider
the pressures of the
proposed implementation, that is, the time and money
needed to acquire each
part of the plan. A Program Evaluation and Review
Technique (PERT) chart
could be useful and supportive in justifying some
- Highlight the innovative features
of the proposal which could be considered distinct
from other proposals under consideration.
- Whenever possible, use appendices
to provide details, supplementary data, references,
and information requiring in-depth analysis.
These types of data, although
supportive of the proposal, if included in the body
of the design, could
detract from its readability. Appendices provide the proposal reader with
immediate access to details if and when clarification
of an idea, sequence
or conclusion is required. Time tables, work plans,
methodologies, legal papers, personal vitae, letters
of support, and endorsements
are examples of appendices.
Product and Process Analysis
The evaluation component is two-fold:
(1) product evaluation; and (2) process evaluation.
Product evaluation addresses results that can
be attributed to the project, as well as the extent
to which the project has satisfied its desired objectives.
Process evaluation addresses how the project
was conducted, in terms of consistency with the stated
plan of action and the effectiveness of the various
activities within the plan.
Most Federal agencies now require
some form of program evaluation among grantees. The
requirements of the proposed project should be explored
may be conducted by an internal staff member, an evaluation
firm or both. The applicant should state the amount of time
needed to evaluate, how the feedback will be distributed
among the proposed staff, and a schedule for review
and comment for this type of communication.
Evaluation designs may start at the beginning,
middle or end of a project, but the applicant should
specify a start-up time.
It is practical to submit an evaluation design
at the start of a project for two reasons:
- Convincing evaluations require
the collection of appropriate data before and during
program operations; and,
- If the evaluation design cannot
be prepared at the outset then a critical review of
the program design may be advisable.
Even if the evaluation design has
to be revised as the project progresses, it is much
easier and cheaper to modify a good design. If the problem is not well defined and carefully
analyzed for cause and effect relationships then a
good evaluation design may be difficult to achieve.
Sometimes a pilot study is needed to begin
the identification of facts and relationships.
Often a thorough literature search may be sufficient.
Evaluation requires both coordination
and agreement among program decision makers (if known).
Above all, the Federal grantor agency's requirements
should be highlighted in the evaluation design.
Also, Federal grantor agencies may require
specific evaluation techniques such as designated
data formats (an existing information collection system)
or they may offer financial inducements for voluntary
participation in a national evaluation study.
The applicant should ask specifically about
these points. Also, consult the Criteria For Selecting Proposals section of the
Catalog program description to determine the exact
evaluation methods to be required for the program
Long-Term Project Planning
a plan for continuation beyond the grant period, and/or
the availability of other resources necessary to implement
the grant. Discuss maintenance and future program funding if program is for construction
for other needed expenditures if program includes
purchase of equipment.
Budget: Planning the Budget
Funding levels in Federal assistance
programs change yearly. It is useful to review the
appropriations over the past several years to try
to project future funding levels (see Financial Information
section of the Catalog program description).
However, it is safer to never anticipate
that the income from the grant will be the sole support
for the project. This consideration should be given to the overall
budget requirements, and in particular, to budget
line items most subject to inflationary pressures.
Restraint is important in determining inflationary
cost projections (avoid padding budget line items),
but attempt to anticipate possible future increases.
Some vulnerable budget areas are: utilities, rental of buildings and equipment, salary increases,
food, telephones, insurance, and transportation. Budget adjustments are sometimes made after the grant award, but
this can be a lengthy process.
Be certain that implementation, continuation
and phase-down costs can be met. Consider costs associated with leases, evaluation
systems, hard/soft match requirements, audits, development,
implementation and maintenance of information and
accounting systems, and other long-term financial
A well-prepared budget justifies
all expenses and is consistent with the proposal narrative.
Some areas in need of an evaluation for consistency
are: (1) the salaries in the proposal in relation
to those of the applicant organization should be similar;
(2) if new staff persons are being hired, additional
space and equipment should be considered, as necessary;
(3) if the budget calls for an equipment purchase,
it should be the type allowed by the grantor agency;
(4) if additional space is rented, the increase in
insurance should be supported; (5) if an indirect
cost rate applies to the proposal, the division between
direct and indirect costs should not be in conflict,
and the aggregate budget totals should refer directly
to the approved formula; and (6) if matching costs
are required, the contributions to the matching fund
should be taken out of the budget unless otherwise
specified in the application instructions.
It is very important to become familiar
with Government-wide circular requirements.
The Catalog identifies in the program description
section (as information is provided from the agencies)
the particular circulars applicable to a Federal program,
and summarizes coordination of Executive Order 12372,
"Intergovernmental Review of Programs" requirements
in Appendix I. The applicant should thoroughly review the appropriate circulars
since they are essential in determining items such
as cost principles and conforming with Government
guidelines for Federal domestic assistance.
United States Government Manual Superintendent of Documents U.S. Government Printing Office Washington, DC 20402
OMB Circular Nos. A-87, A-102, A-110, and A-133,
and Executive Order 12372:
Office of Administration
Room 2200, 725 Seventeenth Street, NW.
Government Printing Office (GPO)
The government documents identified
above as available from the GPO can be requested (supply
the necessary identifying information) by writing
Superintendent of Documents Government Printing Office Washington, DC 20402
Regional and Federal Depository
Regional libraries can arrange for
copies of Government documents through an interlibrary
Federal Depository Libraries will receive copies of
the Catalog directly.
A list of depository and regional libraries
is available by writing: Chief, Library Division,
Superintendent of Documents, Stop SLL, Washington,