Proposal Planning and Writing

To make planning and writing less daunting, give yourself enough time to write the proposal (at least 6 weeks – 1 month for a 20 page proposal).
How do you do that?

  1. Read the previous year’s Request for Applications (RFA).
    Although most agencies do not release RFA’s until 1-2 months before applications are due, you can always look up the previous year’s application for reference. Most RFA’s do not change too much from year to year and sending a quick email to a Program Officer will easily answer any questions about upcoming changes. Reading an RFA ahead of time will give you time to plan and develop your project long before you have to start writing.
  2. Talk to the Grant Development Office early in the process.
    We can help get sample proposals, talk to Program Officers, help develop your idea, write/edit text, assist with budgeting, facilitate the internal grant approval process, provide valuable resources like sample text and much more! See Chabot Grants Process webpage for further detail.
  3. Start planning and developing your project well before the application is due.
    This is especially true with grants that ask for collaborations and partnerships. Getting together your partners ahead of time and detailing their commitments will save you a lot of time and effort when it comes time to write the proposal.
  4. When writing your application, complete the budget early.
    Although there are competing schools of thought on this tip, I find it very useful to come up with, at least, a draft budget very early in the writing process (I often draft the budget as I am writing the Needs Statement). The budget provides clarity and focus as you write your project description since your description should justify and describe the all of the activities that the funds will support!
  5. Continuously build, develop, expand, and/or refine current projects.
    If you see a funding opportunity that may not seem feasible now but might be possible with a little extra planning or additional elements, take some preliminary steps to build those pieces into your program. Not all grants are created equally. Some fund projects that are fairly simple and straightforward and there are others that fund more complex projects (e.g., regional collaborations, partnerships with K-12 schools and/or 4-year institutions, projects that will have regional/national impact, long-range projects with many phases of development, etc…).

Hopefully, with these tips, the information in the links below, and support from the Grant Development Office, proposal writing and planning will be a little more approachable!

Online Grant-Writing Tutorials

Planning and Writing Resources

  • Grant Decision-Making Matrix – To apply or not apply? This matrix will help you decide whether or not you’re ready to apply for a grant. Listed are common factors readers take into account.
  • Grant Development Timetable – This timetable will help you set deadlines for each step of the proposal planning and writing process. You can customize the table to your needs.
  • Proposal Preparation Checklist – This checklist is designed to help prepare your proposal for optimal success.
  • Sample Descriptions – Chabot College – This document contains excerpted text from previous proposals. Scroll through the document and you will find general descriptions about Chabot, its students and faculty. The data listed in the text is current up to the dates cited. Institutional Research and Grants will be able to update these data for you if needed.

Grant Writing Do’s and Don’ts

The Do’s:

  1. follow the required proposal format exactly. Usually points are given for each section requested. If you omit a section, you lose points and probably lose the grant.
  2. plan carefully to meet deadlines. Grant deadlines are hard and fast — and if you miss it, usually it is a full year before you can submit again.
  3. present a compelling need for the project that is validated with current, relevant data ( use statistical facts, expert testimony, current research studies, etc. to substantiate need ).
  4. provide solid evidence that your strategies/solutions will address the identified need. Persuade the funding source that your project methods and activities are feasible and will result in the outcomes you anticipate.
  5. establish the capability of the college/division/program to administer the project.
  6. ensure that your project goals and objectives match the priorities of the funding source.
  7. collaborate and/or coordinate activities with other agencies/individuals that are working in the same or related field. Funders like to see evidence of collaboration and recognition for others working on the same problem.
  8. think carefully through your budget. Once you are funded, you are committed to do what you said you would with the funds requested.
  9. describe how your project can be replicated at other locales. Funders like replicable projects that will have a long-term impact on the community.
  10. work closely with the Grant Development Office, Room 218, x6810. I can provide assistance that may save you time and I can also help coordinate internal approvals and required grant signatures.

The Don’ts:

  1. write in jargon or “educationalese.” Write for a well-educated person who may not be an expert in your field.
  2. pad your budget. Agencies will reject proposals with unrealistic budgets. Funders want to see a reasonable and well-explained budget request.
  3. prepare a proposal with fifty pages of single-spaced text in courier font with no subheadings, bullets, or graphic elements that make a proposal look attractive. Use formatting tools to help break the monotony for the reader scoring your proposal.
  4. blindly pursue grant opportunities ( i.e. I need money and that other college got a cool grant ). Have a development plan based on college needs and priorities and allow the plan to guide which funding sources you will go after.
  5. submit proposals full of errors. Funders may think that your lack of care and attention to detail will also manifest itself in the implementation of the project. Always thoroughly proofread your proposal.
  6. get discouraged if your proposal is not accepted by the funding source the first time. Reviewer’s comments are always available to help you strengthen your proposal for resubmission. Often you can make some minor revisions and resubmit successfully the next time around.