5 easy steps of writing a good proposal

Advice from Tim Williams, Team Leader of the EU-Eastern Partnership, Culture and Creativity Program.

  1. Competition is all about the best application

Step one is really about you and your attitude. A really important thing to remember is that you are entering a competition. It’s an elimination process. It’s not about how well-known your organisation is, it’s about how well you actually write your proposal.

  1. Understand what the funder wants to invest in

There are two kinds of funding: One is in a crisis situation, when many donors will fund you, that is you – the organisation, all your activities, all of your staff, everything that you will do. But in a period of stability a donor wants to fund something new that your organization is planning to do. They want to seed fund a new direction – not your day-to-day operations.

  1. Meet the needs of the funder

In step three think about the logic of what it is you are going to do. So, again look at what the funder is asking for, what are their aims and what are their goals, and then think about what do you do. So, you’ve got their goals and you’ve got what you do, and then think about how you meet in the middle. That is: Think about the results of your activities. For example, if you run workshops, what do they result in, and how does that result fit in to the goals of the funder. That middle bit is really important, it is the logic of the project. Spend a lot of time identifying that. Write it down. Make sure the results are SMART. That’s really important.

  1. Plan your budget like an accountant

A bad budget is where you just write one lump sum for activity that you do. Really think like an accountant, break everything down to the smallest unit you possibly can. Think about how many participants there will be, how many bus trips, will they need to get to the centre, how many cups of coffee will you need to provide, how many overnight accommodation will need. And once you’ve done that full budget then look at what is the maximum amount a donor will pay for. And then rework the budget until you’ve actually got the total down to the right amount.

  1. Agree all the previous steps – and start writing!

If you need approval from your boss or partners – get them to sign off the budget and the logic (step 2+3) first. Then writing the text is very simple. All it is, is the budget and the logic of the project written in one form. So you are actually copying something, which is already been agreed by your partners, by your stakeholders, and it will follow exactly the budget, the logic and what the funder wants. That is a simple way to write a proposal.

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