Basic Components of a Proposal

Letter of Transmittal/Cover Letter

Description: States your request for funds, brief description of proposed project, the contents of your proposal package, offers to provide additional information, offers to meet/discuss further (if applicable).

Tips: Highlight features of your institution and your proposal that fit well with the criteria and interests of the potential funder. Be direct and respectful.

Cover/Title page

Description: States the title of the project, your institution's name, address, phone, contact person, plus the name of person/organization to whom you are submitting the proposal.

Tips: Neatness and first impressions count! The cover (as well as the entire proposal) should be attractive and professional in appearance.

Table of contents

Description: Identifies the sections and their locations in your proposal in outline form.

Tips: Show a logical and organized path from one section to the next.

Executive Summary

Description: In one or two sentences each, it identifies you/your institution, the need/problem, your objectives, proposed activities to address the need, total cost, and "the ask" - the summary is usually no more than one page in length.

Tips: The Executive Summary is the first glimpse a potential funder will have of your proposal. It is the point at which the first "cuts" are made in the screening process for fundable proposals. It appears first in the proposal but should be written last. Be clear, concise, and be interesting (so they will want to read the rest of the proposal!).


Description: Describes you/your institution's capability, expertise, and qualifications as an applicant for funding.

Tips: Demonstrate that your institution's qualifications and expertise will be well suited to address the need/problem in your proposal.

Need/Problem Statement

Description: Tells why you are seeking funding - are you seeking to address an existing condition or state of being, or to solve a problem by addressing a specific situation?

Tips: Avoid circular reasoning! For example, the lack of a new playground is not reason enough to fund a playground project. Demonstrate the need for a playground with statistical evidence on population groups, survey responses, citing expert statements, etc.


Description: State measurable levels of accomplishment within a specified time frame as a result of the proposed activities to address the need/problem - outcomes.

Tips: Set realistic, credible objectives. State your anticipated outcomes - don't explain your activities here. For example, "As a result of the summer college prep program, retention levels for incoming freshmen will increase 65% over the previous 4 years.


Description: Describes the activities you plan to undertake to achieve your stated objectives to address the stated need/problem; the population to be served and why; the timeline; the implementation plan; specific duties of involved personnel and time to be spent on project (job descriptions); management of project.

Tips: Avoid "insider" jargon or slang. Be clear and logical. Don't assume that the potential funder knows all - or even anything - about the problem you seek to address or your field of expertise.

Qualifications of Personnel

Description: States the qualifications and relevant expertise of the project staff, citing any professional licenses, certifications, or other credentials of proposed project staff members (resumes or vitae can be included as attachments).

Tips: Demonstrate why your institution and its personnel are uniquely qualified to successfully carry out this project.

Evaluation Plan

Description: Describes how you will measure the success of the proposed activities - formative and summative evaluations - and why, who will serve as evaluator and why, and how the results will be used and disseminated.

Tips: Funders expect to see clearly measurable improvements and quantitative accountability. More and more funders also look for the project's potential for replication and/or impact on public awareness/policy on regional or national levels.

Project Sustainability

Description: Demonstrates a commitment to the proposed project by the proposing institution to sustain its operation beyond the life of the grant.

Tips: Discuss plans for future funding and maintenance. Potential funders look for reassurance that a project they invest in will not disappear at the end of the grant period. Seeking new grant funding at the end of one grant period is not an effective sustainability plan.


Description: Shows all specific costs involved to implement and operate the proposed project by spending category: personnel; fringe benefits; travel; supplies; equipment; printing/postage; etc.

Tips: Be as accurate and specific as possible. Careful budgeting will work to ensure a smoothly running project as well as reflect on your credibility should the need occur to request any modifications to the budget. Explain the more significant costs in a separate statement (Budget Narrative) to be included with the budget.

Contact Information

Grants Development

Cheryl Beauchamp
Director of Grants
Fitzgibbons Health Technologies Center, Room 136
Fax: (518) 629-8070