How to Write the Proposal

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Before you start writing, consider what Federal grant reviewers are instructed to look for regarding successful proposals. Reviewers are comparing your application to the RFP or RFA requirements. Organize your application to match the order of the requirements as they are listed in the RFP or RFA. This will make it easier for the reviewers to understand your proposal. In addition, everything included in the proposal must have gotten its cue from a request present in the RFP or the RFA.

Most funders, public or private, look for the same basic elements in proposals.

These basic elements include:

  • Executive Summary. This may be the most important part of the proposal since it is the first page that reviewers see. It is a snapshot of what is to follow, summarizing all of the key information contained in the proposal.
  • Introduction of the Organization. This section should describe your mission, history, track record, and successes, and confirm that your organization’s goals and capacity are consistent with the goals the funding agency is seeking to meet.
  • Statement of the Problem/Needs Assessment. This section should describe the problem or specific needs you plan to address within your community. Needs must be documented with statistical and other evidence and linked to the program strategies you propose and relate to the state or national priorities of the grant program. 
  • Goals and Objectives. Goals are statements that express the change you will produce through your program. Objectives are statements that define how many, who, how much or by what measure, and over what period of time the change will take place.
  • Program Design and Methods. The methods section describes the specific activities that will take place to achieve the objectives, and enables the reader to visualize the implementation of the project. It should convince the reader that your agency knows what it is doing and further establish its credibility.
  • Project Management. Describe your organization’s ability to conduct the program and manage it administratively, as well as any information about your experience with similar projects. Cite the qualifications and experience of key staff and consultants as well as the level of effort to be devoted to the grant. Be prepared to attach job descriptions and resumes of key staff.
  • Evaluation. Review the RFP requirements carefully and use these as a foundation to design your evaluation plan. There are two types of formal evaluation: one measures program outcomes, and the other analyzes the process; either or both might be required for your project.
  • Future Funding. Sometimes called “sustainability,” this part of the proposal focuses on what will happen to the program after funding ends. Explain what parts of the program will end and those you will sustain through other funding sources.  Identify other sources of potential support or ways to generate revenue to support the activities.
Click to open interactivity Follow these tips for writing a great grant proposal.

Follow these tips for writing a great grant proposal.

Use the following checklist when writing your grant.

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Create a budget and a budget narrative that adhere to the RFP or RFA requirements.

The budget consists of two parts—the line item budget and the budget narrative. The proposal must demonstrate a clear and strong relationship between the stated objectives, project activities, and budget. The RFP or RFA will describe allowable cost categories for the program budget. 

The line item budget describes the specific categories of program funding (including matching funds, if applicable), expenses, and their amounts. It also requires both public and non-public sources to be delineated.

You will need to complete Standard Form 424A-Budget Information (available at This is the standard, two-page Federal budget form for non-construction projects. Its purpose is to summarize and describe the requested financial assistance. Other forms may be required by the agency and by government-wide rules.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-122 addresses issues of costs and budgeting for Federal grants to nonprofit organizations, and is available at Understanding the cost principles and allowable costs for grant programs is critical to creating a budget that can be approved. Just be sure the requested budget amount is within the allowable range of the grant amounts described in the RFP.