Tips for Writing Proposals
Be sure the proposal is neatly typed and is readable.
Use plenty of white space in your layout.
Use heading and topic listings to assist the reader.
Read carefully and follow meticulously the guidelines and requirements for margins, spacing, paper size and color, etc.
Be certain to include the required number of copies of your proposal with your submission.
The proposal should be clear, concise and direct. Reviewers particularly dislike jargon, poor grammar and spelling, vagueness about key terms. (What exactly do you mean by “team teaching?”) and needless exhortations (If you are applying to the National Endowment for the Humanities, you need not argue for the importance of the humanities or explain nationally recognized failings in humanities teaching.)
Open the proposal with a clear, succinct explanation of your request. Rambling, unclear proposals will fare badly in competition.
Write in a positive manner. Try to communicate your energy and enthusiasm for the project, but do not promise benefits that are obviously out of reach.
Write in active rather than passive voice.
Write in third person.
Write in a crisp, clear style with short, vivid sentences.
Tell the reviewers who you are and make a case for why you are the best person(s) to carry out this project. Modesty is an attribute which should be held to a minimum.
In the absence of specific guidelines, double-space and provide generous margins (but not so large as to make the proposal appear too long).
Write at least one, and preferably two, preliminary drafts of your proposal, allowing time for colleagues to review it and for you to rethink and revise it as necessary. Request that staff in the Grant/Contract Development Office review your proposal for an “outsider’s” view.
Include tables or charts if doing so will add important information. Do not overload the proposal with graphic depiction of information that could be summed up concisely in a sentence or two. On the other hand, well-planned tables and charts can provide a visual image of the project’s conceptual framework and present much information in a succinct fashion.
If the proposal is not accepted for funding, immediately ask the agency for a copy of the reviewer’s written comments. Do not abandon a project that has been turned down once or even twice; reconsider and revise it, or submit it to a more receptive funder for consideration. Do not be discouraged by rejection. Fund-seeking is highly competitive.
Do not be overwhelmed by the task of proposal development. Break it into smaller pieces. For more information and a step-by-step process for proposals, consult the Quick Start Guide.