Standard Proposal Outline (from the Foundation Center)
Executive Summary – Four to six paragraphs, typically written at the end of the process, that serves a
number of purposes. One, it tells the funder whether or not the proposal fits the guidelines. Two, it’s the
organization’s opportunity to catch the eye of the funders and inspire them to read further. Three, it’s
the writer’s opportunity to emphasize the key points.
- Problem – a brief statement of the problem or need (one to two paragraphs)
- Solution – a short description of the project that includes what will take place, the benefit, how
and where it will operate / work, for how long and who will staff it (one to two paragraphs)
- Funding requirements – an explanation of the amount of money required for the project and
future funding plans (one paragraph)
- Organization and its expertise - name, history, purpose, activities and capacity to carry out the
proposal (one paragraph)
Statement of Need – Three paragraphs that allow the reader to learn more about the issues, presents the
facts and evidence that support the need for the project and establishes that your non-profit understands
and can address the problem.
- Use accurate, specific facts / data to support the project and illustrate the need.
- Provide an example that hits home.
- Provide hope (i.e. don’t just talk about how bad run-off from development, emphasize what can
be done about it)
- Put a human face on it, provide real life examples and emphasize the needs of those served
Project Description – Nuts and bolts of the project
- Describe the project in a way that is interesting / compelling
- Five sections –
o Objectives - Define measurable improvements in behavior, performance, process or a
tangible item that will result from the project.
o Methods - A detailed description of the activities leading to achieving the objectives that
includes how, when (project timeline), and why the methods will work.
o Staffing / Administration – A short description of the number of staff, their qualifications
and what they will be doing.
o Evaluation – A description of how the organization and the funder will know the project
is a success. What methods will be used to evaluate success? What types of measures –
qualitative or quantitative? Remember that success is not just completing a list of
activities…what is the impact of the activity on achieving the objectives? Who will
o Sustainability – Since funders rarely want to make a long term commitment to one
organization, they want to know that the project will attract other funders. Evidence of
current funding (for larger projects) is helpful and may be requested.