How to Write an Effective Proposal

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In almost every field, from education to business to nonprofit management, written proposals are often a job requirement. Whether you are trying to secure funding for a new project, land a new account or change a process or procedure, decision-makers need a clear explanation of why your idea is better than others. Writing an effective proposal can help you acquire the funding and support you need to complete a project; a poorly written and presented proposal could lead to a rejection of even the most solid idea.

Conduct thorough research before beginning your proposal. Understand who your audience is and what information they are looking for. If you are answering a request for a proposal, be clear on the proposal guidelines and deadlines, and gather the supplemental materials you need to submit with the proposal.

Analyze the language used by the proposal audience, and look for buzzwords and concepts that they regularly use in their communication. Learn to speak their language, and incorporate that understanding into your proposal.

Begin with an overview of your proposal. Summarize what you are asking for and why. Introduce the main points of your proposal without going into details; the summary should only be a few paragraphs and no longer than a page.

Detail the problem that you are trying to solve with your proposal. Whether you are asking for funds to purchase new supplies or equipment, or asking to be chosen to complete a job, you need to provide clear evidence that you understand the issue at hand and what needs to be accomplished.

Explain how your solution will solve the problem effectively. Use clear, concise language and support your claims with as much evidence as possible. The readers of your proposal may be skeptical of your ideas and solutions, so be prepared to back up your claims with solid facts.

Research the other possible alternatives to your proposal, and be prepared to answer objections. While you should not detail other solutions in your proposal, carefully word your solution so that it is clear why your ideas are better than others.

Provide specific information regarding the budget, deadlines and work team for your proposal, if applicable. For example, if you are seeking funds for a project, you must be able to provide potential sponsors with a breakdown of how the money will be spent.

Present your best work. Carefully edit and proofread your proposal; it is best to have several other people look at it to ensure that you do not miss any errors. Format your proposal following the instructions of the organization seeking the proposal and make it look as attractive as possible.


  • If you are responding to a request for a proposal, follow the instructions from the issuing agency to the letter. Not following instructions can be grounds for immediate disqualification.