4 Guidelines for Winning Proposals

Winning proposals, image created by Dall-E
Winning proposals, image created by Dall-E

Entrepreneurs and start-up business owners are used to drafting and submitting many proposals. You are seeking funding and want to grow your business quickly. That’s understandable. However, are you ensuring that you answer your funders’ questions correctly? Are you creating a proposal that your investor can never say no to? If you are not satisfied with your proposal writing process and want to improve that for your business, bump the brakes and take two minutes to go through this. Some essential guidelines for every entrepreneur to draft and write winning proposals that stand out and bring in the funds.

The content below is inspired by an excellent grant writing workshop I attended with Porticus.

Here are the guidelines for you:

1. What is the funder asking themselves?

When you start planning your proposal, put yourself in your investors’ shoes and ask yourself the same questions they will when they review it. But, of course, funders differ from one to the other. So, you must ask the questions that matter, putting on a different lens that matches the reader every time.

Regarding your submitted proposal, funders will likely ask:

  • Does the proposal make sense?
  • Is there a viable and realistic work plan for the deliverables?
  • Are these people offering something that will last? Are they talking sustainability?

Now, funders consider how your proposal aligns with their organization. For this reason, add to your list of questions the following:

  • Does the proposal relate to any of our different grants?
  • Is the proposal aligned with our organizational values?
  • Where does the proposal fit in our strategic framework?

Of course, these only include some aspects you need to ask about when drafting your proposal. Add more about the monitoring and evaluation, legal compliance, and budget alignment.

      2. How to answer these successfully for winning proposals?

      So, we now asked the questions. How do you think you could answer these correctly to secure a win?

      The best proposals are the ones that tell the story

      Sara Habachi

      I found this as the perfect answer to guide all your responses to the questions you address.

      Tell your funder a comprehensive and consistent story that speak about your why, how, why this, why you, and how you place to measure all this. Of course remember that only true and realistic stories are the most compelling and best to hear.

      3. But first, Speak the language.

      I was telling you a few lines above how funders differ from one another. This is why you need to know exactly who you addressing to speak their language. Know your funder, the history of projects and businesses they funded before, who do they usually network with, and who are their key stakeholders.

      If you narrate the story with the tone and voice that your funder is used to, you will most likely grab their attention quickly.

      4. Winning proposals final gig: Evidence, Evidence, Evidence

      I believe this to be the cornerstone.

      What you are trying to do here is to gain the confidence and trust of your funders in your capability. You prove to your funder that you understand the why. Also, you show them evidence of your how.

      Your evidence can include (again not an inclusive list):

      • Stakeholder analysis
      • Research (from verified resources)
      • Reports of focus group discussions with your intended audience
      • Needs assessment reports
      • Previous examples of success that are very connected and relevant to your context

      Providing strong evidence is essential for winning proposals. Take time to prepare the list of evidence that will prove that you are the right person to get this win.

      Final thoughts

      This was it on the guidelines for writing and submitting knock-out winning proposals to your potential funders. Ask yourself the questions they do and answer them with the perfect storyline. While you are doing this, speak their language and provide them with everything to prove your narrative.

      Finally, we are here to help you if you need any support in writing winning proposals. Remember, this opens doors for your business to grow and expand.

      Meet The Author Of This Article

      I’m Jenny Ayman, a project manager in the development field with specific knowledge and experience in capacity building and entrepreneurship programs. I aspire to transfer the hands-on experience I gain in my professional career through writing.

      Also, if you need help planning your business, I recommend checking out some of our freelancer’s business plans or pitch decks!