What is a Proposal?
A proposal is a written document to persuade the reader for a suggested plan of action. For example, a proposal may aim to attain a grant from the government to carry out a survey on communication practices on organizations.
Characteristics of Proposals
1. Proposals are persuasive documents as these try to convince the reader of the suitability of a particular course of action.
2. Proposals are generally written for an external audience though in some cases they may be made for internal purposes, by one department for another or from an individual to the management.
3. These may be solicited or unsolicited.
4. They vary in length from a couple of pages to several pages.
5. Proposals may be made by individuals or organizations for both individuals and organizations.
Types of Proposals
Proposals may be solicited or unsolicited. Solicited proposals are invited, that is, the awarding organization calls for proposals from interested individuals/parties. The awarding organization lays down the requirements that the proposal should contain. In many cases, a standard format is provided for the parties to submit their proposals. Government agencies routinely ask for proposals from potential suppliers.
Unsolicited proposals are also called prospecting proposals. They are more detailed and should catch the receiver’s attention. They require more background information and should be persuasive so as to convince the reader of the suitability of the proposal.
In addition to the above, proposals may be typically research proposals which include details of the plan of the research, need and objectives of the research and the budget of the research.
Format/Content of Proposal
The proposal may be in the format of a letter (mostly in the case of proposals being sent within organizations), or a form proposal (in which the form is supplied by the organization calling for proposals) or in a detailed report form.
The following are the topics under which information may be provided while writing a proposal. Depending on the complexity and the length of the proposal, these eight topics can be combined or further subdivided to suit the needs.
(i) Objective statement: The opening statement should present the purpose/objective of the proposal, that is, what the presenter is proposing to do. It should be linked to the need of the receiver to gain acceptability. The problem/objective should be stated clearly.
In the case of solicited proposals, it is important to link the objective statement with the topic for which proposals are invited. In the case of unsolicited proposals, the objective should be of interest to the organization where the proposal is being submitted and it should also catch the reader’s attention. This can be effectively done by summarizing the benefits of the proposal.
(ii) Background: Provide the reader with background information of the problem. This helps the reader to better understand the problem and see it in the right perspective. For example, a proposal of a research organization to a company for carrying out a survey on consumer behavior may be backed by information related to declining sales due to changing consumer needs.
(iii) Need: Need for what is being proposed is an offshoot of the background information. Based on the background information, the need is established so that the reader is clearly able to understand its advantages.
(iv) Procedure/Discussion of the plan: This is where you provide the details regarding how you will go about achieving the objectives listed out earlier. Give a step-by-step description of your plan of action, proposed schedule of the activities and an estimated budget. This is the heart of the proposal and needs to be written carefully, concisely and logically.
(v) Qualifications: Give the qualifications and experience of the persons who would be involved in the proposed project. This is given with a view to providing evidence of their ability to handle the project. Details of previous experiences of the organization/individuals in handling similar projects, the availability of facilities, equipment, expertise, and so on, provide credibility to the proposal.
(vi) Request for approval: To conclude the proposal you may briefly summarize it in a couple of lines followed by a direct request for approval. This may not appear as a separate heading but may take the form of a few lines at the end. ·
(vii) Appendix: Any supporting information relevant to your proposal may be included as an appendix towards the end of the proposal.
Guidelines for Writing a Proposal
Scot Ober has compiled some of the points to be kept in mind while writing a proposal. These are as follows:
- Give ample, credible evidence for all statements.
- Do not exaggerate.
- Provide examples, expert testimony and specific facts and figures to support your statements.
- Use simple, straightforward and direct language preferring simple sentences and active voice.
- Stress reader benefits. Remember that you are asking for something, usually a commitment of money; let the reader know what he or she will get in return.