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Proposal Writing Tips
What makes some proposals more "fundable" than others? Click below to see tips for:
  • Developing the Proposal
  • Formatting the Proposal Document


  • Develop proposals as plans for creating desirable change, not as "wish lists" to cover funding gaps in your operating budget. Reviewers will see right through a transparent grant proposal.

  • Develop proposals through a planning process: identify needs, define goals, relate to school improvement plans, and select appropriate strategies based on research.

  • Don't begin proposal writing without obtaining support from all key decision makers.

  • Link your proposal to wider national or regional issues, not just local issues. This will show funders that your project has significance not only to your district, but to other school districts and organizations as well.

  • Never make assumptions about what reviewers know, i.e., "this is a known problem". Your proposal is your only chance to communicate the worth of your project. So...even if it seems obvious to you, explain.

  • Make sure your proposal matches the priorities and purpose of the funding agency. A project to improve reading performance for at-risk elementary students, although well-founded, would not be favorably reviewed by the Centers for Disease Control.

  • Convince funding agencies that your project deserves funding over others through qualitative and quantitative facts, research, and skillful presentation.

  • Don't mistake internal problems for problems worthy of grant funding. Statements such as "we need more staff," we need to expand this program," or "if funding is not secured, the program will have to close" are examples of agency problems.

  • Research your needs and methods. Don't base your proposal on unsubstantiated assertions.

  • Review the budget with your department or school's budget staff to ensure line items and unit rates are correct.

  • Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite! A great final proposal is a product of many rough drafts! Three to four rewrites are a minimum (1st draft - conceptualization, 2nd draft - organization, 3rd draft - streamlining, 4th draft - polishing).

  • Write your proposal summary carefully, after all else is written. Make a good first impression (some funders may even screen proposals based on the summary).

  • Allow others unfamiliar to your project to review the proposal. If they have trouble understanding what you want to do, chances are good that the reviewers will also.

  • Make sure your proposal has been reviewed by the Grants Administration & Government Programs Department and approved by the Superintendent and School Board (see Grant Application Processes).


  • Don't confuse the reader. Write the proposal with a logical flow, describing activities in the order in which they will occur. When you've finished, ask yourself if you've made clear the "who, what, why, where, when, and how" of your project.

  • Always type proposals and application forms. Never submit handwritten documents (excluding original signatures, of course).

  • Use statistics to emphasize and validate your points. Do not provide data which isn't relevant to the problem you're trying to address. Graphs, tables, or charts break up the page and help the reader see the most important data. Comparisons can also help illustrate the severity of a problem or issue.

  • Use headings to make your document easier to read. Where possible, these headings should follow the outline of the grant application guidelines to help the reader review your proposal (and increase the likelihood of a favorable rating!).

  • Attach current resumes and job descriptions for key project personnel. Resumes that are obviously outdated or irrelevant to the project can do more harm than good.

  • Have someone check the final draft proposal thoroughly for typo's, grammar, and spelling errors, and make corrections.

  • Include a bibliography or reference list citing your research sources.

  • Avoid using jargon, specialized language, or acronyms unless you've explained what they mean.

  • Neatness and readability count! Don't crowd text, reduce font size below 10-point, or cut margins too short to save space. Always follow format instructions provided. Remember, readers review many proposals...a complete proposal that is easy to read has a greater chance for funding recommendation.

  • Use simple sentence structure and active verbs for easy, interesting reading.

  • Review your final proposal carefully. Make sure the proposal meets all formatting requirements (page limits, font sizes, margins, spacing) and addresses all specified criteria.