Proposal Planning Guide
External funders, whether a private foundation, corporation, or individual, will often ask some version of the questions below. Taking the time to answer each of them will help you assess your readiness for applying for a foundation funding, articulate your ideas, and create the basis of a proposal you can use for foundation application or with individual donors.
A few key things to think about when answering these questions:
- Remember to focus on who will benefit from your project and not your department or project itself.
- Think about how you are helping the funder fulfill its goals and solve problems.
- As much as possible, avoid using jargon or terms specific to your field or discipline. If you use a word that would likely have to be defined for your audience, then that word is probably jargon and not simple enough.
- What is the problem you’re solving?
What is the cause of the problem? Describe the problem in the words a foundation might use. Why is it significant? Why does it matter? What’s the cause? Use hard data (numbers) and soft data (quotes and stories) where you can.
- Who are you solving it for?
Who is feeling the most pain? How are they affected? Who would get the most benefit? Use hard data (numbers) and soft data (quotes and stories) where you can.
- What is your solution?
Describe your proposed solution to the problem. Give a brief overview of what you’ll do and why. Make sure to position your project/research as a solution to the problem you outlined in your answer to questions 1 and 2.
- What’s your plan?
List 1-4 steps that briefly outline the projects methods and/or activities. Who is the target population? Who will carry out the activities? Why did you choose these methods? How long will it take? These questions often correspond with methodology, activities, or work plan section of a grant application.
- What will success look like?
How will you know if you’ve been successful and what measures will you use? Who or what will change and by how much? What impact will that have on the beneficiaries? What broader impact will this have on a community? These questions are often referred to as outcomes or goals on a grant application.
- Why you?
What makes you uniquely situated to solve this problem? Expertise, experience, resources? Do you have any success stories? What makes you standout?
- What do you need?
What is the budget/dollar amount needed (estimate)? What will it pay for (e.g. staff, equipment, travel, etc.)?