How-to: Writing a Project Proposal

Take all your amazing ideas and turn them into a concise, effective, organized document that will get donors, sponsors, and project partners on board.

All too often, all too many ideas exist in our heads only… or scattered across dozens of post-it notes… or spread thin and unevenly between your crowdfunding page, your project’s Facebook page, and that video you posted on YouTube showcasing your amazing project. Writing a solid project proposal is four parts science, one part art – and we break down the science for you below!

Follow this outline:

Your introduction briefly lays out what issue you are taking on and how you plan to accomplish this (e.g., There are 50 tons of garbage on the beaches of Chios which pollute the environment and depress tourism and we will solve this by forming teams of volunteers, locals, and refugees to collect refuse and upcycle it into consumer items). Make it brief and to the point, but also compelling – this is your chance to make a lasting first impression to the program manager who will read your proposal.

This is where you lay out what your programs are going to look like, which population they are meant to benefit, and how you’re going to implement them. The name of the game here is details: which population are you serving, where, in partnership with which other organization? Are you running just one program, or several? How many people do you hope to reach? How will you go about reaching them?

What is your proposed timeline? Over what span of time do you plan to implement your project? How much work have you already done, and how does this already completed work fit into the upcoming program activities? This section is important because, alongside your program budget, it will play a large role in determining how much money you are requesting: 3 months of programming will cost less than 6 months or a year, and it’s easier to predict what your costs will be and how conditions will evolve in a shorter time frame. However, 3 months will also give you less time to have an impact and ensure that the donor’s money results in systemic change.

This is your chance to show your donors what you’re already committing to this project. Donors will want to know you have committed serious staffers to carrying out the project, and that they have someone they can trust running the program and administering their money. Also, most donors won’t want to be the sole source of funding or support for a project, as this can be risky: if the donor has to withdraw suddenly from the project, and the project falls apart, this harms everyone. This is your chance to show the donor that they’re not walking into a trap, that their donation will complement existing resources rather than create dependency.

Monitoring and Evaluation, or M&E, is ‘humanitarianese’ for accountability. When a donor commits funds, they are going to want to know that their funds will have an impact. Your M&E plan is a chance to showcase how you will ensure that targets are met and goals are fulfilled. It also gives you a chance to communicate to potential donors that you’re serious about getting results and ready to hustle.

In order to present you Monitoring and Evaluation plan in a clear, concise way, that makes intuitive sense to your donor, you’ll need to learn how to make a logical framework matrix, or logframe. A logframe is another ‘humanitarianese’ tool that allows you to organize both your goals and your metrics for measuring these goals in a layout that is simple and intuitive… at least for your donor! Logframes are difficult at first, but once you get the hang of them, they are incredibly useful! See an example below, of a logframe for an imaginary daycare center!

Activity: Build specific space for child-oriented programming for refugee children at Ritsona and Malakassa camps.
ObjectivesIndicatorsVerificationAssumptions
GoalsLaunch a daycare center that provides pre-school care and education to refugee children in the Chalkida area.Every family with young children in Ritsona & Malakassa camps informed of day care center’s location, opening hours, & services; use of the day care center by at least 50% of the families targeted.”Regular outreach to families with young children at targeted camps to ensure awareness of service; regular census to keep track of how many eligible families live in these camps and how many use the center.Targeted families see the value of the day care center, trust the organizations and their staff enough to entrust their children to the center.”
OutputLaunch operations at Chalkida area day care center by February 1, 2018.
Site identified and land/building leased by 12/15/2017, day care center built by 1/15/2018, information campaign completed by 1/21/2018, center opens by 2/1/2018.Review of rental agreement for site, visual review and reports from building crew of site completion, survey of families targeted to ensure information campaign completedMultilingual staff available to review lease agreement in Greek while conducting outreach in Arabic and Farsi.
OutcomesProgress of children measurable by outside actors, managing orgs able to recruit enough volunteer early childhood education professionals to sustain program.Measurable improvement in basic reading, color coordination, personal hygiene, and socialization skills of children enrolled in day care center by summer of 2018.Results from observation carried out by outside experts in early childhood education invited to review the program.Progress of children measurable by outside actors, managing orgs able to recruit enough volunteer early childhood education professionals to sustain program.

This is where you give a brief, narrative explanation of your financing. This is where you explain, generally speaking how you will spend the donor’s money , including your operational budget, how you plan to manage expenses and deal with discrepancies between amounts budgeted and amounts actually spent, what other sources of funding you rely upon. This is just a brief narrative—you’ll also need to develop a separate budget (see our how-two guide for creating a budget).

Click here to download an annotated visual guide to write a project proposal.

Click here to download the Word document you can use. It will help you follow the structure and methodology presented here.

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