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How to Write a Charitable Project Proposal
In addition to serving as a blueprint for launching and operating the project, a project proposal for a charity must also sell the idea to the charity’s leadership and convince donors to support the effort financially. Format is as important as content to those who will read your proposal. Prepare a complete proposal that you can submit in its entirety, or cut and paste sections of the proposal into forms, cover letters or inquiry letters. The finished project should be comprehensive, engaging and free of errors.
The executive summary, or abstract, of the project proposal summarizes the information that follows. Although the executive summary is the first section of the proposal, you might choose to write it or fill in the blanks after completing the proposal. Include in the executive summary a brief description of your organization, the project and the need it addresses. Add information about the project design, scope and evaluation. If the proposal is for funding, state the total budget and the amount you are requesting from the funder. Your executive summary should be easy for the reader to scan for answers that generate interest in the entire proposal. A poorly written executive summary can result in the reader pulling your proposal from consideration.
Define the Need
Research the need your project addresses. For instance, use state and federal resources to describe poverty or transportation needs in your city. Describe the target population, such as families with low literacy. Discuss the existing resources, if any, and why the need remains unmet. An example is the existence of two teen pregnancy programs that help a small percentage of the target group or that provides parenting programs but not housing. Your proposal should demonstrate your knowledge of the issue and the resources in your community.
Fully develop all aspects of your project before attempting to describe it in a proposal. Explain your goals for the project, such as an increase in reading grade levels. Describe in detail how your project will operate, including project year, project site, marketing, staffing and collaborative relationships with other organizations.
Include information about the number of people your project will serve, and also describe your record-keeping methods. Funders, especially, want to know about evaluation methods. For instance, you might demonstrate client satisfaction through surveys or tracking participants’ employment status.
Projected Budget and Funding
The project budget demonstrates to readers that you have carefully determined project expenses and researched potential funding. List all expenses expected during the project year, including wages, supplies, equipment, building expenses, and administrative costs or overhead.
Prepare a separate table that shows all funders to whom you plan to submit the proposal and the portion of the budget you will request from each. Create a budget narrative in list form that explains in detail each line item in the budget. For instance, explain that the $1,500 for transportation is to reimburse three eldercare advocates for home visit mileage up to $500 each.
Demonstrate your efforts, either within the proposal narrative or the budget, to identify resources for your project. Examples are donated space to hold financial literacy classes, or donated computers and office equipment. Explain how the use of volunteers instead of paid staff saves money and involves the community. Potential funders want to know how you will support your own project through fundraising events, such as a direct mail campaign to past donors, or investment of your organization’s funds in the budget.
Gail Sessoms, a grant writer and nonprofit consultant, writes about nonprofit, small business and personal finance issues. She volunteers as a court-appointed child advocate, has a background in social services and writes about issues important to families. Sessoms holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies.