Crafting a Smashing Proposal


Identified a problem? Check ✅

Have an innovative solution? Check ✅

You’re all ready to pitch your project to potential partners and win over their hearts. But before you send out a mass of cold emails, have you attached a proposal in them, specifically a brilliant one? Fret not if you haven’t; this article will guide you on how to write a smashing proposal!


What Goes into a Project Proposal?

Think of it like a hamburger. While the start and end contain your content, you’ll need a toasted bun to hold them all together and enhance the flavours of your project. To know what goes into the proposal, it’s vital to identify your audience and what they’re looking for. As tempting as it is to spice up your proposal, it is best to keep your content simple – you wouldn’t want to receive an overfilled burger, only to create a mess after the first bite.


1. Executive Summary

An executive summary introduces your project to your reader. Much like a synopsis of a book, this section should be succinct and contain enough information to allow your readers to briefly understand your project, and pique their interest to continue reading. Some key information to include would be:

  • A brief project description
  • Your target beneficiary
  • The identified problem/gap
  • The importance of addressing the identified problem/gap
  • How your project resolves the identified problem
  • Intended impacts

2. Project Description

Before you fervently share about your project, it is pivotal to build the context to allow your readers to understand how your idea was born. This is a good opportunity to share with your readers your knowledge on the beneficiaries, and for them to correct any misconceptions and provide constructive feedback. Tell your readers what are the problems and how you identified them. This helps you to introduce your project, and how it addresses the problem. Show that you have done up your research by including all relevant information you’ve dug up on the issue.

Let them know that you have looked into existing interventions or solutions, and understood how they are unable to address the issue. This elevates your proposed solution, and allows readers to understand how it addresses the issue without duplicating existing efforts. Goals and objectives are just as important, so add them in as they help reinforce your project motivations.


3. Project Planning

This is where all the core details of your project will be. When presenting this, do keep in mind to do it in a chronological manner. Your readers should be able to walk through the project in their head without additional guidance. Be sure to touch on the following aspects:

  1. Implementation process
  2. Outreach plan to beneficiaries
  3. Organisations & partners you have, or are reaching out to
  4. Manpower & resource allocation
  5. Communication plan with partners and volunteers
  6. Publicity
  7. Objective measurement
  8. Profile & roles of core team

As this section will be the wordiest, consider using tables and diagrams to aid your readers in digesting the content. A flowchart provides a great overview when describing the implementation process. A table provides a breakdown of the number of volunteers needed for each role or job scope. A mock-up gives a good idea of how your materials will look like. Essentially, replace a mouthful of words with an image wherever possible.


4. Budget

In contrast to the previous section, there would be significantly less words here but more numbers and figures. Your proposed expenditures can be broken down into the appropriate categories, explaining how the amount allocated for each category will be used. Similarly, use a figure or table to show budget breakdowns.

Aside from providing a breakdown of your budget expenditure, it is also good to list down any sources of funding you have, and how much funds you will get from them.

You may also choose to include any supporting assumptions or benchmarks you adopted in arriving at some of the figures. This allows you to relook at your budgeting, and assess if the proposed expenditure is accurate and justified, and assures readers that you have taken steps to ensure costs are realistic.


5. Timeline

It’s always helpful to provide an overview of the timeline of events that run your project. There are multiple ways to do it, and one way is through a Gantt chart (shown in the example below). It includes key milestones, such as volunteer recruitment, purchasing of materials, and the different stages of your project. If you’re working in a team, it will also be great to include names of team members responsible for each milestone.


6. Impact

Ending with a bang is what we all strive for. After explaining how your idea works, seal the deal by articulating the impact of your project.

You can start by letting the readers know how your proposed solution addresses the identified gap in the community. Show that you’re someone who is accountable by detailing your impact measurement. This includes both tangible measurements (e.g., the number of beneficiaries you wish to impact), and your plan in analysing more intangible results (e.g. how your project improves beneficiaries’ quality of life).

It will be great if your impact measurement is based on an existing model, but you should, at the very least, highlight how you will obtain all these data. The key to convincing potential partners to come on board is dependent on how well you articulate this section.


7. Conclusion

Alas, your readers will have reached the end of your proposal! As there’s quite a lot of information covered, include a summary of the key points raised to help remind your readers on what your project is about. These include a summary of your project objective, the identified beneficiaries and their related issues, your solution, as well as your project timeline, budget and desired impact.

To enhance your chance of receiving a reply (and hopefully secure a partnership), tell the readers how they can come into the picture and be part of the project, as well as how they will benefit from it.


8. Additional Documents

Have more to share but don’t want to scare your readers off? Consider using appendices in your proposal to provide more information about your project. Such documents can include:

  • Detailed expenditure breakdowns and/or timeline of project
  • Volunteer training materials
  • Mock-up images of activity materials

Final Seasoning

Just like any good cook, it is vital to taste and plate your dish before sending it out. Do a final review of your proposal and proofread it to ensure everything is presented in a coherent manner.

Keep in mind who you are pitching to. A funder may be more interested in your budget, while a partner may focus on your execution plan. Your proposal should serve the essentials to each stakeholder, stimulating their interest in working with you on your project. Once all these are checked and done, craft an inviting pitch email, attach your proposal in it, and voila, you’re one step closer to securing a potential partner!


Psst, if you receive a reply for a cup of tea to talk about your groundup, we got you covered in this post!


About the author:

Phui Yi is an intern at Groundup Central, who enjoys learning about the efforts of fellow groundups. If she is not doing work, then she's probably busy volunteering.