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5.2: Generic Structure of a Proposal

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    All proposals need to have a framework. Typically, all proposal will include a introduction, problem, solution, and cost. I’ve further divided parts of a proposal in the sections below.


    The introduction simply announces the focus of your proposal, or briefly shares what your proposal is about. Be careful to not give too much detail here. Think of this section as giving a reader a taste of what your proposal will uncover. Save all our details for the problem section of the proposal. Simply make sure this section states the purpose of your proposal clearly and gives the reader enough information for them to infer what the proposal will be about.


    The problem section needs to introduce your readers to a problem, goal, or need that is relevant or important to them. Make sure to summarize the problem from your reader’s point of view. (Note: Utilizing class discussion on creating themes from hot button issues will help you to do this.) Describing the problem effectively will take some research. You may need to do some research to learn who your readers are, what is important to them, and why they may want this problem solved or a specific need met. You may also need to research the community where the problem is occurring. If working in a technical field, you likely will have to know as much as possible about the company or client you are working on the problem or need with. You will want to reach out to a potential reader to discuss the problem or need with first to gain some insight into the situation and to find out if writing the proposal is needed. This way you won’t find yourself wasting time writing a proposal that is not needed or supported.

    When writing your problem section, you will need to make sure to have a problem statement. A problem statement is simply a statement of the problem your proposal is working to address. For example, a problem statement may sound something like “homelessness is not only a personal matter for those who are homeless, but also a community concern since homelessness arises due to housing concerns, lack of proper mental health, and other problems that relate back to community.” Following the problem statement, you should have a statement of needthat illustrates what is needed to solve the problem, according to your proposal. Here you may state something like “We are asking for funding to help provide clothing, food, and temporary shelter to the homeless in our community.” Later in the proposal you will share how this statement of need plays out in the solution you propose by giving further evidence with concrete details about how that amount of money or those resources will be helpful in solving the problem or realizing an opportunity.


    After the problem is articulated, make sure to state your goals or objectives for meeting the solution. These objectives help to connect the problem and the solution together. Objectives need to be brief and each objective needs to be part of a list. Objectives also need to be an action that helps to solve the problem or realize a solution to a present need.


    How do you want to achieve the objectives that you listed? Answering this question should bring you to your solution. Here you must address each objective and persuade readers your solution is the best way to achieve the objectives you have outlined. You want to persuade readers that you have the best solution.

    Make sure that in your solution you are not promising more than you can deliver. Proposals function like contracts, so proposing more than you can deliver will be similar to breaking a contract. The best way to ensure you are not promising more than you can deliver is to be specific about any limitations and clearly outline how each objective helps to support the solution.


    After a solution is proposed, you need to share steps for achieving the solution. When you write this section, be sure to consider the following. Please note that not all the categories listed below may apply to your proposed method or plan:

    • Facilities
      • What facilities do you have that can help you to carry out this work? Consider if you will need to cover costs for any of these facilities, particularly if you end up needing to use the facilities of a client or partnering organization or business. You also need to consider how the facilities, if any, will help you to meet your objectives.
    • Equipment
      • If you need to purchase equipment, make sure to work this into your budget section. If you already have the equipment available, you will have to describe how it’s useful to meeting the needs of your solution, who will use the equipment, and for how long.
    • Timeline or Schedule
      • All methods will require you to share a timeline, or schedule, of all major steps that lead to your proposed solution. When setting up this timeline, it is best to share it visually as a Gantt chart, which is a bar chart that shares a project schedule. Make sure to include due dates or timeframes for drafts, research, and obtaining resources. Many good project managers will also advise you to plan for error in your schedule.
    • Qualifications
      • Qualifications are where you explain who is qualified to do the work you are proposing, and helps to show off how competent you are for completing the plan you are proposing. Qualifications also helps to show off the expertise and training of all your team members.
    • Management structure
      • Many proposals may require you to share the structure of your management team. You need to identify each person on your team, share their qualifications, and describe their role on the project. All successful projects require qualified people to do the work you are proposing to do, so sharing this information helps to persuade the readers of the potential success of your plan.


    Your readers will be investing time and money in your project, so it will help to share with them how much your project will cost. You will also need to be clear with them about what resources you already have that can be used for this project, along with sharing a budget of any costs that will be incurred during the life of the project. A budget statement is a good way for organizing and categorizing your expenses and resources. You will also need to think about compensating people on the project for the work they are planning to do, and these costs may need to be written into the budget.


    Occasionally you may have to include appendices or other supplementary material within your proposal. These could include things like maps that highlight areas that need to be addressed for community improvement or sharing CVs illustrating the expertise of everyone on the project. Never include supplementary material that was not asked for by the client or supplementary material that does not make sense to include.

    5.2: Generic Structure of a Proposal is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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