“It is only when there is some kind of relationship with a donor that a request for support is likely to succeed. The donor needs to feel confident that the organisation shares its values, that there is common ground in what both are trying to achieve, and that the organisation has the ability to deliver on its promises before it commits to funding.” – ASK Inyathelo Pocket Guide on Proposal Writing

With this in mind, we share a few tips we’ve learnt from various practitioners and resources that could help refine your organisation’s proposal writing.

Firstly, the content of a sound proposal:

  • is direct in stating what is being sought for and for what purpose
  • presents facts accurately
  • places a reader into the world of the project immediately
  • is cognisant and reflective of knowledge of other players in the space
  • provides information that describes the value of the work concisely in simple clear language without too many adjectives, hyperbole and tautology
  • fulfils high level ideals through tangible deliverables
  • succinctly shows both the demonstrated success and proposed impact levels (i.e. what the project will achieve)
  • focuses proportionately on both the need (challenge) and the solution. A proposal is solution-based, not needs based.

A proposal also needs to be technically sound, so should ideally:

  • show a systematic arrangement of information
  • use legible fonts and layout
  • be written in language that is accessible and free of jargon and industry buzzwords
  • be proof read in order for ease of reading and understanding (i.e. for correct grammar, syntax, spelling etc.)

“The proposal should reflect the passion that the organisation has for its work.”

(As expressed in the ASK Inyathelo Pocket Guide on Proposal Writing). This can be bolstered by testimonials from various stakeholders, feedback, photos of events – helping you to locate the technical aspects of your proposal with the passion and impact of the work.

*The content in this article has been compiled with input from our recent proposal writing sessions conducted by Gillian Mitchell (Inyathelo Associate).

Additional Resources

Recommended additional reads to bolster your approach include: The x-factor in proposal writing and The Proposal Dies Hard.

Kathy Cook (2002). Proposal Writing and Fundraising | A Guide for South African non-governmental organisations and community based organisations. (Should you have trouble finding a copy, note that we have one available for perusal in the Inyathelo Book Lounge).

Download this resource from which some of the above content has been sourced: ASK Inyathelo Pocket Guide: Proposal Writing