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by Maricel Rivera | Published on May 18, 2022
Image source: Getty Images
You have this wonderful idea for a project. The more you research it, the more you think it’s something worth the funding and resources.
It’s a potential game-changer, and if things work out the way you envision them, the resulting product will be a huge win for the organization, even for the industry as a whole.
But how do you get the company’s decision-makers to buy into your idea?
The short answer: Craft a compelling project proposal.
In this guide, we’ll talk about what a project proposal is, why you need one, and how to write a proposal the bosses will notice.
A project proposal is a document that outlines everything stakeholders need to know to initiate a project. It’s a necessary first step towards getting a project off the ground. A project proposal is usually selected during the project intake process.
A well-written project proposal informs and persuades, and combines project management skills with a few other essential skills: research, data analysis, and some copywriting.
It follows conventional proposal formats that include the following elements:
If you’re not sure where to start, know that some of the best project management software applications offer project proposal templates you can use for free from their tools library.
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Before you sit down and begin writing your project proposal outline, there are some things you must consider, including:
Identify who the decision-makers are and determine the relationships between them.
Each stakeholder will have their own goals and preferences. Multiple versions of the proposal may have to be written depending on your audience.
For example, if the proposal is for the head of the technology department, jargon and technical language are likely expected.
On the other hand, if it’s a small business owner you’re trying to win over, use simple, easy-to-understand language, with the proposal highlighting the project’s positive impact on the company’s bottom line.
A paper from the Project Management Institute (PMI) Global Congress by Francis McNamara cites four basic reasons why project proposals get rejected:
In essence, certain projects fail to receive the green light, not because they’re bad projects per se but because the proposal lacked clarity and persuasiveness.
You need facts, figures, graphs, and charts to substantiate your proposal and justify the project’s existence.
Research past projects, both successful and unsuccessful because you’ll need as much hard data, evidence, and examples as you can provide to craft a convincing proposal.
Remember that the reason you’re writing a proposal is to obtain executive buy-in. You want key people to support your project. You need decision-makers on your side to turn a vision into reality.
You want the proposal to speak to them, and then motivate them to take the next step, which is to greenlight the project.
What’s the problem your project is trying to address? Why is it a problem? Why is it worth solving? Make your audience see the problem the way you see it.
Tips for defining the problem:
How will your project solve the problem? Why is your solution the better option over other similar solutions? Discuss why other solutions won’t work for the situation.
Tips for presenting your solution:
This section provides a picture of the functions and attributes of the deliverable, plus how to know if the project is successful.
Tips for defining deliverables:
This is the most critical section of the proposal and discusses how to achieve the project’s objectives. It starts with an explanation of the approach and why it’s relevant and effective. It also explains how problems will be managed.
Tips for planning:
This is the section where you break down project costs and detail how you will meet deadlines.
Tips for defining a schedule and budget:
End your proposal with a conclusion that briefly summarizes the problem, solution, and benefits. Emphasize the significant parts, and make your proposal stand out by restating ideas or facts you want your audience to remember.
Check your proposal for consistency of ideas and whether the elements support each other.
Tips for tying everything together:
Rewrite your proposal as necessary to make it interesting, helpful, clear, and persuasive. Ask for feedback, and ensure the proposal is organized and visually appealing.
Tips for editing:
A project proposal is, in itself, a project and, therefore, can benefit from project management software.
Software is an essential piece of modern project management basics, with benefits that include:

Here is a shared folder in the project management software Wrike. Image source: Author
Whether your project sees the light of day depends on how effective and convincing your proposal is.
Decision-makers aren’t likely to spend a lot of time on your proposal to decide if it’s a go or no-go. It’s vital, therefore, that your proposal captures their attention right off the bat, gets them excited about the project, and, in turn, spurs them to action.
Maricel Rivera is a software and small business expert writing for The Ascent at The Motley Fool.
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