What do Winning Proposals Have In Common?

By Gary Carnow

By Gary Carnow

Here are ten of the common elements found in winning proposals:

  1. Winning proposals have clearly defined needs and describe how those needs were identified. Winning proposals define programs to meet the identified needs.

  2. Winning proposals describe what kids and teachers will do. Create a real-life scenario for the reader. Try to paint a picture with words. The reader must clearly make sense of what you intend to do.

  3. Winning proposals present the material in a logical manner. Sections are clearly identified and a parallel structure is maintained. Each need has a stated objective, activity, and evaluation statement.

  4. Winning proposals are written in positive terms. Some writers believe that if you describe how bleak a situation is, someone will throw money at you to solve your problems. This is not true. Funders hedge their bets by backing proposals that describe worthwhile programs that will meet identified needs and match the criteria set forth by the grant-maker.

  5. Winning proposals do not overuse educational jargon. Terms that are known only to educators are clearly defined. For example, "cooperative learning" has different connotations in different parts of the country. Define what you mean. Will a non-educator understand your proposal?

  6. Winning proposals present detailed budgets that match the proposed program. All bases must be covered. If you are going to purchase hardware, have you purchased software? If you are going to buy software, what specific programs do you intend to purchase? If you plan to offer training, how much, and at what cost?

  7. Winning proposals give something back. Some projects develop a product. The process you go through can become a product. Funders want others to adopt and adapt what you've learned. Dissemination of information or knowledge to others may give your proposal the winning edge.

  8. Winning proposals follow all the guidelines specified in the Request for Proposal. If a scoring rubric or evaluation checklist is given to you, read it and follow those directions!

  9. Winning proposals are professional looking. They are word-processed and simply presented. They are not bound in fancy leather covers with 12 different typefaces. Instead, winning proposals are presented according to the directions in the Request for Proposal. Most grant-makers want a signed original and several copies. Sign all materials in blue ink. This way the original can be clearly distinguished from the copies.

  10. Winning proposals are not too short or too long. They tend to be as long as necessary to answer each and every question in the Request for Proposal. As a rule of thumb, use the scoring guidelines to determine length. For example, let's say the grant-maker wants the finished proposal to be no longer than ten pages. How long do you make each section? The guidelines may suggest you include an abstract, needs, activities, expected outcomes, evaluation plan, and a budget. If the scoring guidelines weight the evaluation section to be 20 percent of the final score, take that to mean that 20 percent, or two of the ten pages, should be devoted to evaluation.

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Gary A. Carnow, Ed.D., is the Director of Technology and Information Services for the Alhambra School District in the Los Angeles area. He specializes in instructional and administrative planning and uses of technology. Dr. Carnow is the recipient of the Marshall McCluhan Award in Global Communications for his work in training teachers to use technology in their classrooms, and has obtained over 20 million dollars in grant funding.

  • Subjects:
    Funding and Grants
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