The Basic Concept of Proposal Development

  • What does it take to successfully seek external support?

Common Terms and Definitions

  • Grant, contract, cooperative agreement
  • Proposal, request for proposal (RFP), solicited proposal, unsolicited proposal

Choosing a funding source

  • Determine what is needed for successful conduct of the project
  • What type of funding is required?
  • Where will the project be conducted?
  • What population will benefit?
  • How much money is needed, and for what purposes?
  • What time factors are involved?
  • Determine which organizations are likely to sponsor the project
  • Make contact with those most likely to sponsor the project

Determine what criteria are used for the review for merit

  • Significance
  • Methodology
  • Environment
  • Qualifications
  • Resources (budget)
  • Other considerations

Before you write: Planning and Preparation

  • Why do we write proposals?

Questions to consider in developing a proposal:

  • What is the need or problem to be addressed?
  • How have you determined that there is a need or problem?
  • What have others done about the need or problem?
  • How have these efforts succeeded or failed?
  • What will you do that is different?
  • What do you expect to achieve in relationship to the need (goal)?
  • What will you do to address the problem?
  • Can these efforts be grouped together as common activities that are measurable (objectives)?
  • Specifically, what do you plan to do (methodology)?
  • How will you know you are doing it right (evaluation)?
  • How much will each activity cost (budget)?
  • What makes you the best person to do this work (capability)?

Elements of a Proposal

  • Summary; introduction; problem statement; objectives; methods; evaluation

Order of events for writing and submitting proposals


  • Plan well in advance to successfully welcome your deadline
  • Do your homework; find out what has been supported
  • Is your idea significant, meritorious, interesting

Discuss with department chair for support and interest.

  • Does the project fit the mission of the department/college…university

Solicit help from Office of Sponsored Programs to locate sponsor and to identify contact persons at federal agencies, foundations, etc.

  • We can make first formal contact
  • Identify an advocate
  • Coordinate with others

Call for application guidelines for pre-proposal or proposal submission.

  • Does the project require matching funds/cost sharing?

Write proposal following the guidelines and restrictions.

  • If there are particular areas that the Principle Investigator (PI) needs help (budget), OSP staff will assist
  • Solicit appropriate support letters from community, etc.

Receive approval/routing form from sponsored programs office; Get appropriate signatures for department and college commitment.

  • At this point, the proposal should be completed for review before sign-off
  • Signatures required

Submit at least one week before application deadline. Notify the Office of Sponsored Programs of status updates.