OSP has several guides or tips for writing effective proposals; however, the following provides a brief
overview of the proposal narrative development process. Please contact OSP with any questions.
The First Steps
Take time to thoroughly read the sponsor’s mission statement and needs. A proposal must be
responsive to the needs of the agency or sponsor. An idea may have a great deal of merit and
deserve funding. But if it does not address the needs of the sponsor, it may not be funded.
Read the sponsor’s guidelines. And then read them again! Understanding and following the
sponsor’s guidance for submitting a proposal is critical to a proposal’s success.
Become familiar with the forms they require, the format they prefer (including font size and page
margins, maximum number of pages), and other pertinent or required information. If guidelines
are not followed, the chance of funding could be greatly reduced.
Most common mistake: Waiting until the last minute to find out what is needed to submit a proposal.
Contact the Office of Sponsored Programs. OSP assists with the developmental stages of a
proposal. The sooner the process is started, the more help OSP can provide! OSP assistance
• Assistance with the required GVSU Internal Review and Approval Form
• Reviewing proposal for completeness and accuracy
• Contacting sponsor for clarification or concerns
• Coordinating signatures and/or endorsement
Handling electronic submission
Acting as the university Authorized Representative (AOR)
Know where to find the information, or Frequently Required Proposal Data, that the sponsor
The Next Step: Writing the Proposal
Grant Proposal Format. The sponsor may require the proposal to follow a specific format. If so, follow that
format to the letter. If no particular format is required, use a standard outline in the following order:
• Title page
• Statement of problem
• Objectives to be accomplished
• Procedures or methodology or project plan
• Project personnel
• Adequacy of the institution to carry out the project
• Budget and budget justification
Cover Letters: Foundation and corporate proposals should be accompanied by a one-page cover letter
that conveys, in simple terms, the name of the project and its purpose, the amount requested, the period
of the project, and the name of the contact person. It should be signed by both the Principle Investigator
and the Office of Sponsored Programs, as the designated university official. Cover letters do not usually
accompany proposals to government agencies. A more detailed explanation of each proposal
Title Page: Include the title of the proposal, complete identification of the principal
investigator(s), institutional names, and the address, telephone number; fax number, and e-mail
address of the institution and the Principal Investigator
Abstract: Present a brief, clear summary of your project, usually not more than half a page.
Often there are specific guidelines for the length (amount of space or number of words) for this
abstract. If the project is funded, the sponsor will often use this abstract for press releases, etc.
Statement of Problem: Explain why this proposal is being written. Describe the problem
It will solve, or a solution it will improve. Explain why the sponsor should be especially interested
in the project. It must address the sponsor’s needs.
Introduction: This is the place to set the "tone" for the proposal by establishing a link
between the project and the interests of the sponsor.
Need Statement: Let the sponsor know there is a clear understanding of the problem
and need, their need. Incorporate statistics if appropriate.
• What significant needs trying to be meet?
• What is the current status of the needs?
Review of Relevant Literature:
• What gaps exist in the knowledge base in the field?
• What does the literature say about the significance of the problem, at a local, state,
regional, national level?
• Is there evidence that this project will lead to other significant studies?
• What previous work has been done to meet this need? Was it effective?
• Do organizations involved in this area of study see the need as important?
Project Description: Complete the project objectives, methods, project personnel, evaluation
plans, dissemination efforts, and plans to sustain the project beyond the life of the grant.
Statement of Objectives: Specify what will be accomplished through the project. Use
as much detail as possible. Explain the goals of the project and demonstrate a clear
understanding of the agency’s goals. Be certain to include a time frame for completing
the project and achieving your goals. Many sponsors require a separate time line.
• Will this project help meet the need?
• What services will be delivered? To whom? By whom?
• What will be the impact of this study?
• How does the project fit the goals of the sponsor?
Statement of Methods: State how goals will be accomplished. Provide a detailed
description of what will be done on the project, and how it will be carried out. Suggested
topics for discussion might be:
• Pre-proposal planning activities
• Pilot studies
• Needs assessment surveys
• Schedule for hiring
• Schedule for ordering supplies and equipment
• Plan for putting equipment into operation
• List of meetings with colleagues and consultants
• Means of acquiring subjects
• Methods for data collection and analysis
• Formative and summative evaluation procedures
• Procedures for dissemination and publication
• Report preparation
• Follow-up activities
It is important to include all necessary materials, personnel, and activities in the
statement. The materials and personnel should also appear in the proposal budget.
Project Personnel: Show the sponsor that the personnel involved in the project are
experts in the field and capable of accomplishing the goals and objectives of the project.
Discuss the following for each named project member:
• The individual's publications in the field
• Previous grants in this area
• Involvement in a similar study, whether funded or not
• Evidence of relevant training or certification
• Unpublished papers, conference presentations in the area
• Pilot studies in the area
• Evidence of competency in the role you and others will play in the project
Statement of Evaluation: The evaluation should prove that change or improvement
occurred and that the project met its goals. Measure change or progress between
conditions before the project started, and conditions after the project was completed.
Decide how much change is necessary to make the project a success.
Develop indicators by which to measure the success or failure of each of your proposal
objectives. Reaffirm the importance of your objectives and their relationship to the values
of the sponsor.
• Are proposed questions important to the sponsor?
• Are procedures and methods (evaluation design) appropriate?
• Should I evaluate during the project, or after its completion?
• Are my questions realistic and able to be completed?
• Will the evaluation results be clear and understandable?
To plan the evaluation:
• Identify if you intend to evaluate the proposal's impact, progress, or both.
• Decide on a quantitative or qualitative method of evaluation. Perhaps both methods
should be used.
• Be prepared to summarize and report the results of the evaluation.
• Pick an evaluation design to best answer the sponsor’s questions.
• A formative design tests the project while it is still in progress. A summative design
measures the effects of the project after it is finished.
• Show an example of your evaluation instrument (or reference the appendix) and
include the costs for this part of the project in your overall proposal budget.
Tip: Clear performance indicators are vital. Performance indicators should:
• Be Realistic (can you actually do this in the time allowed)
• Be Measurable (can you show what you have done).
• Reflect Sponsor’s Goals (are you answering their need)
Contact GDA if you have questions or concerns.
Dissemination: Dissemination is the process by which your project is reported to
other professionals and the public. The dissemination plan should include:
• Which results will be reported
• What audiences will be reached
• How the results or products will be disseminated and shared
Continuation: Most sponsors want to know what will happen after their funding ceases,
or how the initiative will be sustained in the future. A strong proposal will clarify if its
program will continue by becoming self-sustaining, if certain aspects will become
institutionalized, or if the research will lead to further opportunities.
REMEMBER: persons reviewing grants often read and rate many proposals at once. Be sure the
proposal is succinct and easy to follow. Make certain the abstract and budget are consistent and provide
a complete summary of the proposed project. If the sponsor has a specific format, make sure to follow it