What is Involved in Writing Proposals?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 February 2020
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
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There are many different types of proposals. Some have to do with earning the business of a prospective customer, while others are aimed at securing resources for a project, such as creating funding for research or starting up a new business. While there are various kinds of proposals, there are a few elements that are always important to the process of writing proposals. Here are some examples.

First, writing proposals requires doing some research before ever beginning to draft the document itself. A common mistake many businesses and individuals make is failing to learn all they can about the entity that will ultimately receive the proposal. In order to increase the chances for success, it is important to study the history, goals, and current status of the recipient. Often, valuable clues on how to structure the content of the proposal are found during this advance investigation.

In situations where an entity is inviting others to submit proposals, a document known as a Request for Proposal is made available. Also known as an RFP, this document should be read from beginning to end before the first draft of the proposal is attempted. Often, RFPs include templates and specific directions for organizing the response in a manner that is desirable to the recipient. Writing proposals first, then attempting to tweak them to fit the format specified in the RFP, often leads to difficulties that could have been avoided by simply reading the RFP ahead of time.


Should the RFP contain nothing more than general instructions, the proposal writer must realize that does not mean the proposal can be structured any way he or she pleases. When writing proposals with few guidelines, doing research ahead of time becomes all the more important. Small bits of information that may seem unimportant at first glance can actually be critical to the way information is presented in the proposal. For example, if the recipient is known to be in the process of becoming a green company, the proposal may present in subtle ways how choosing this proposal would further those goals.

Successfully writing proposals also means making the organization and text immediately accessible to the recipient. Avoid using complicated terms, unless you know that the recipient will understand them immediately. Structure the document so that one section flows logically into the next, making it easier for the recipient to follow to the logical conclusion that your proposal is the one to accept. Many proposals include a table of contents in the front, and an index in the back, making the document even more user friendly. A bid proposal sheet that sums up the associated costs or pricing offered to the recipient is also an excellent idea, as long as the guidelines from the recipient allow a page or section of this type.

In short, knowing as much about the recipient as possible is key to writing proposals that get you what you want. Keep in mind that your goal is to grab and hold the attention of the recipient long enough to earn the business or receive the funding. By structuring the proposal so it speaks to the needs and desires of the potential client, and making sure the document flows in a logical manner and is easy to read, you have a much better chance of obtaining what you want from the proposal recipient.



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