Proposals are lengthy documents with various components, comprising of the background information, current situation analysis and the future projections. NGOs are expected to write every part of the proposal carefully with in-depth research, knowledge and detailed planning. In this free guide, we cover information about the various elements of a standard proposal to help NGOs apply for their grant funding.
1. Cover Page
A cover page is sometimes also referred to as the title page and as the name indicates, it is the first page that introduces the document to the reader. The title page provides the reader with the basic information regarding the content of the document (in this case the proposal). When drafting the proposal, enough attention should be given to prepare the cover page, as it is the first thing that the donor will see and a nicely prepared cover page may help in creating interest. The cover page should:
- Be attractive
- Be professional and formal
- Provide information about the proposal
- Not be over cluttered
- Use official fonts and color scheme
- Use an image that is synchronized with your project and organization
The cover page should capture the essence of the project proposal and should immediately catch the attention of the reader. Most experts suggest including the following information in the cover page:
- Title of the Project
- Organization Name and Logo
- Name of the donor
- Complete contact details of the organization (Address, Website, Email)
- Submission date
- Relevant Image (Optional)
2. Table of Content
The table of content goes after the cover page and provides the reader with an organized list of the various sections and subsections of the proposal. The reader gets a clear idea of the way you have organized the proposal and they can move to the sections that are most relevant to them. Things to consider while you make the table of content are:
- Use a simple format
- Lists all the sections
- Page numbers are correct
- The title and headings match in the text
3. Executive Summary
The executive summary is considered to be the most valuable and important part of the proposal. The primary purpose of the executive summary is to create interest in your proposal and help in convincing the donor that your proposal needs funds. In simple terms, it helps you sell your project. Things to consider while writing the executive summary:
4. Problem Statment
This is an important section of the proposal as it presents the argument of why your project needs funding. It describes the issues and problems that a particular community faces and how your organization would address the given problem. The primary purpose of this section of the proposal is to convince the donor that your project is important and the problem that you intend to solve is real. At the same time, it should also make the donor hopeful, that his support can help in addressing the problem and practical solutions exist to reduce the issue.
While writing this section of the proposal it is critical that you quote facts and figures as evidence to your problem. These facts can be from data that your organization has collected or can be from research articles or government reports. Along with stating data to justify the project, you should also mention about why your organization is suitable to carry out the project (mention about similar projects that you have implemented). The problem statement should answer the 5 Ws (Who, What, Where, When and Why):
5. Project Description
This is the main narrative of your project and provides the reader with all the necessary information of the project. This section of the proposal will have important elements of the proposal and will describe the project goal, objectives, methodology, impacts, etc. to the reader. We will be describing the various components of the project description below:
The goal is a broad statement that defines what you plan to do in a project. The goal basically defines the purpose of the proposal by giving an idea to the reader of what problem your organization intends to address. As the goal of the proposal shows the reader your intention towards solving a particular problem it should be linked with the problem statement. The following tips will help you to frame a quality goal:
- Avoid vagueness
- Link the Goal with the problem statement
- The goal should be consistent with your organization’s mission and vision statement
- Use simple language to write a goal
- Keep only one goal for a proposal
Once you have a logical and well-reasoned goal, you have to frame three/four objectives that would help you in achieving the particular goal. Objectives are detailed statements describing the ways through which you intend to achieve the goal. Consider the following while framing the objective of your proposal:
Objectives should address the 5 Ws: (Why, What, When, Where, Who?)
- Objectives should support the goal: it is very important that each of your objectives contributes and supports in achieving the goal.
- Objectives should follow a logical order.
- Frame SMART objectives: SMART mean objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.
- Use action verbs while drafting objectives: Use active verbs like create, identify, promote, enhance, increase, and develop etc.
- Keep 3-4 objectives: Most experts recommend keeping three to four objectives in a proposal.
- These refer to the smallest identifiable and measurable pieces of work planned for successful completion of the project. Defining the activities help the project staff to understand what actions to do and at what time. Every activity is associated with a definite interim goal or objective. The project activities will describe how each of your objectives will be achieved. Key questions that this section should answer:
- What are the specific tasks?
- Who is responsible for each task?
- What resources are needed?
- When will these activities occur and over what time period?
- Are there other organizations in your community serving a similar audience?
- Staffing and Administration: This section talks about project management aspects. Here, you mention about the implementation staff, the implementation schedule and other related stuff. You can describe the people who will be hired as part of the project along with their respective roles. Some of the points that can be considered while writing this section:
- Mention about the number of people to be hired for the project
- Mention about each role
- Describe qualifications for each role
Project proposals should explain the expected results that will be achieved by the project. Project results can be divided into three types:
- Outputs: These are immediate results obtained after implementing an activity. g. No. of hand pumps installed.
- Outcomes: Outcomes are the mid-term results which are not observed immediately but are felt after some time. g. Improvement in water availability.
- Impact: Impact is usually a long-term result and is usually not achieved during the life cycle of the project. g. Reduced Water Stress in villages
- The project timeline indicates when the various activities and processes will be carried out during the course of the project duration. The primary purpose of the timeline is to help the project staff to carry out the various activities in a timely and smooth manner. Some ways to write the timeline are:
- Use a simple format (Table, Gant Chart)
- Set realistic deadlines
- Allow some buffer time
Monitoring and Evaluation
This section discusses the proposed mechanisms and procedures for monitoring the project activities so that one can ensure that all activities occur as planned. You should have a well-defined plan to monitor your project activities and also to evaluate the success of the project. Monitoring allows the project team to keep a check on the progress, while evaluation helps the team to appraise data and improve project implementation in future. While working on the evaluation plan the following questions should be addressed:
How will success be measured?
- What do you consider success to be?
- How will the result be measured?
- What methods will be used to assess results?
- Who will conduct the evaluation and when?
Risk and Assumption
This section of the proposal describes the external factors that may impact the success of the project. Identifying the risks and assumptions will help you not only in developing a stronger proposal but will also show the donor that you have a good understanding of external and internal factors. Also by thoroughly analyzing these, you will be in a better position to mitigate the risks and reduce the chances of project failure. While assessing the risks and assumptions you should look at :
- Political Willingness
- Resource Availability
- Climatic Conditions
- Support of government
- Internal organization issues (Experts, trainers and staff)
- To sustain the impacts of any community based project it is essential that suitable linkages are developed with the local community, government department and all relevant stakeholders. You should clearly spell out the sustainability measures in your project, so that the donor is convinced that the project will sustain itself even after the funding ends. While describing the sustainability section you should mention about the following:
- Participation: Describe how the project ensures ownership and participation throughout the planning, implementation and monitoring and evaluation phases of the project.
- Support from authorities: Explain about linkages that will be developed with local authorities, government departments that will help in long term sustenance of the project.
- Sustainability of the project: Describe the measures that will be taken to help ensure that the project activities will continue or that the project will have a lasting impact after the funding ends.
An important aspect of the project is the communication plan that will be used to disseminate the project results and key project learning. Your project proposal should mention about how you would ensure that the project results are shared with relevant stakeholders and target groups. Here you can mention about the following:
- Use of Social Media
- Type of reports that will be published
- Field manuals and training booklets
- Workshops for sharing project results
- Best practices
- Case studies
Often, the most difficult part of a proposal is budgeting. While developing the budget involve one of your finance team members and project team members to sit together and work on a tentative budget. Give this team a brief overview of what all you want to do in the project so that have an idea to work out the costs. Your budget should be divided into categories such as salaries, fringe benefits, travel, supplies, and equipment.
7. Organization Profile
NGO profile is an important document that tells about the NGO, where it has come from, and where it is heading to, who all are guiding it and who all are impacted by its action. A profile provides important information about your organization to the donor.
- Organization Name
- Established date
- Registration details
- Contact Details
- Aim and Objectives
- Track record of experience
- Organization Structure
Annexure is the additional information that you wish to submit to the donor. All additional documents and reports should be submitted as appendix and should not be part of the main body of the proposal. Points to consider when preparing the annexure are as follows:
- All documents should be properly numbered
- Only the most relevant documents should be submitted
- The following documents can be annexed
- CV of project team
- Evidence of nonprofit status of your organization
- Research reports/data to support your problem statement
- Relevant experience of the NGO