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Definition, Format, and Guidelines in Writing a Project Proposal

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Do you remember how persistent you were as a child? You would fire question after question at the adults around you, such as “Why is the sky blue?” or “Why do I have to take a nap?” You were most likely determined even when asking for things like the newest toy or to watch your favorite cartoon. You probably would not have stopped until you got the answer that satisfied you, and your sheer persistence would win over the adults around you!

Now that you are older, that persistence may not always get you the latest gadgets or clothes, but you can channel that dedication toward more worthwhile pursuits, such as writing project proposals. But what are project proposals, anyway? Before we discuss this form of document, take time out to fill in the blanks below by writing situations that you think would need a project proposal.

Defining the Project Proposal

Project proposals are documents that are written for problem solving, service provision, event planning, or equipment selling. Generally, proposals are used to convince the reader to do what the proposal suggests, such as buying goods or services, funding a project, or implementing a program.

Proposals in the professional world are used for internal (within an organization) and external (from one organization to another) purposes. They are a way of generating income for companies or seeking funding for projects.

Proposals are usually written in response to Requests for Proposal (RFP), which funding agencies send out. Interested organizations send proposals following the requirements stipulated in the RFP. Requesting parties are thus able to compare different responses to a problem. Thus, it is clear that a proposal provides a plan to satisfy a need.

A proposal stands out depending on its ability to clearly answer questions about what is being proposed, how the plan will be carried out, when it will be implemented, and how much money will be needed or spent. In other words, proposals are persuasive documents that need to do the following: highlight reader benefits, prove your credibility in carrying out the project, and allow the reader to respond easily.

Even in your lives as students, you have been familiarized with writing proposals—maybe without even knowing it. Whenever you envision, plan, and complete a project for your science class or your club outreach, you are thinking about fulfilling a need for something. This process may involve writing a paper or doing a presentation in front of an audience to get their approval. While proposal writing may seem like a daunting task, they can be made easier by following the guidelines in writing and familiarizing yourself with the parts of a project proposal.

Formatting the Project Proposal

Proposals are primarily categorized according to their length. An informal proposal is about 2-4 pages long. A formal proposal, meanwhile, has 5 or more pages. Regardless of their purpose and audience, they have standard parts such as the following:

1. Introduction

This part provides the background necessary for understanding the project, which is done by discussing the following:

    • Rationale—This identifies the problem to be addressed and shows the need to solve it.
    • Objectives—These reveal what the project intends to achieve in terms of results. It also gives the reader an idea of the intended solution. Good objectives are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented, and bound within a realistic time frame).
    • Benefits—These show what the reader or the target audience can gain from the proposal, which may be improvements in processes or systems, an increase in revenue, or a change in behavior of the beneficiaries of the proposal.

2. Project description

This section gives specific information about the project itself. It indicates how the project will address the identified problem through the following parts:

    • Methodology—This details the different activities the project will take on, including the manpower (i.e., the people involved and their duties) and resources to be utilized, and the expected output.
    • Schedule—This discusses the task duration and expected start and end dates of each activity in the project.
    • Budget—This presents an analysis of all the costs anticipated in the project, which can be itemized or shown as a whole, depending on the needs of the project.

Organizations usually provide interested parties with a required format for project proposals, so make sure that you follow the prescribed format.

Writing the Proposal: Some Guidelines

The following section provides some guidelines in writing the proposal:

  1. Gathering data. One of the characteristics of an effective proposal is being well-researched. A proposal needs concrete data to back up its claims so it can become more credible. You can gather data from primary and secondary sources, and apply the strategies that you learned in writing a research paper in the previous lessons.
  2. Organizing data. A proposal becomes more effective if the information on it is clearly organized. You can use the parts of the proposal to guide you in your organization, or use an outline to structure your discussion more effectively.
  3. Writing the proposal. Once you have gathered and organized the data, draft your proposal by filling out the parts of the proposal with the relevant data.
  4. Revising the proposal. Make sure to review your proposal for accuracy and organization before you send it out. A good proposal will be comprehensive and will put your organization in the best light. 
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