Project proposals are documents designed to present a plan of action, outline the reasons why the action is necessary, and convince the reader to agree with and approve the implementation of the actions recommended in the body of the document. In many cases, the document is drafted as a response to a Request for Proposal (RFP) that is issued by a current or prospective client. However, a document of this type may also be prepared to serve an internal purpose, especially when someone within the company has an idea of how to make the company more profitable or efficient and needs authorization and backing to implement the action.
In any situation, a project proposal will be clearly arranged so that readers can follow a logical progression of thought to the conclusion. Many sample proposals offer a basic guideline that can help even novices get into the swing of effective proposal writing. The guidelines usually identify five key components or sections of any project proposal: the introduction, background, strategy, budgeting or financing, and outcome.
With the introductory section of a project proposal, the idea is to tell readers what the project is all about, and why it is worth taking the time to consider the project in the first place. Essentially, this section serves to validate the time and effort spent in presenting the data as well as the time required to read and consider the merits and feasibility of the project itself. The introduction is not the place to present the nuts and bolts of the project, only to establish its potential and cultivate enough interest to encourage the reader to learn more.
The background expounds on the basic points of the introduction, often citing specific reasons why the project plan is a good one, based on historical data, projections of future needs and performance, and the current circumstances of the business. The background helps to build the case for how the project can meet the needs that have arisen due to past actions while also anticipating future needs and addressing them in a timely manner. For the most part, the background section will firmly establish that something must be done and pave the way for learning how that something can be accomplished.
With the strategy section of the project proposal, the goal is to outline all procedures that are necessary to make the project successful. Often, the strategy helps to define short term and long term goals for the project, explains how to systematically accomplish each step and what type of return can be expected from the effort. Here, the reader begins to get an idea of how important the project is and the potential it has to help the company make better use of available resources while positioning itself for the future.
The budget section gets down to what most decision makers must know before approving any project: what is the cost involved with the implementation of the project proposal. In this section, the detail must be backed up with facts and figures that are well researched and cover every imaginable aspect of the financing needed to launch and maintain the project over time. Many proposals fail here, due to a lack of detail and supporting evidence for the detail that is included.
Finally, the project proposal points to the outcome of implementing the project. This is the section where all of the benefits are spelled out clearly. The advantages may include such items as reducing operating costs, increasing the public profile of the business, generating more sales, or increasing profits due to more efficient use of available resources. As with the budget detail, it is important that every benefit named can be supported by other data in order to be seriously considered.
Writing a proposal is sometimes easier when a formal RFP is provided. Often, the RFP will lay out the basic structure of the proposal, provide invaluable clues as to specific information that is of interest to the potential client, and define the order in which data is presented. When an RFP is provided, it is essential to follow the specifications of the document to the letter. Otherwise, the proposal will be set aside and one of the other vendors who did follow the provisions closely will be awarded the business.