How To Write A Funding Proposal For Your Small Business

How to Write a Funding Proposal for Your Small Business

A funding or “grant” proposal will have a well-defined deliverable that can be documented. The project will need to define the exact results that are requested to be funded. A grant proposal must be well-planned and presented. In a grant proposal, the requested funds are often for projects that will benefit both the government agency (mission and goals) and the organization that requested the funds. Grantees typically are looking for projects that will result in positive change and/or have a large impact on specific principles, ideals, or philosophy.

For example, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) identifies a large number of types of federal grants that non-profits can apply for—one sample program is designed to reduce tobacco use and educate citizens about healthy eating. Even with these solicitations, companies submitting a high-quality small business proposal have an opportunity to be awarded a contract.

The keys to writing a grant proposal include:

  • Defining your goals, costs, and timeline.
  • Present a summary of the grant opportunity that you are proposing, and the amount of funding being requested. This could be as a cover letter or an executive summary.
  • Tie in the goals and objectives of your proposed project with the organization’s mission.
  • Differentiate your proposed project from those being proposed by your competitors.
  • Identify how the funds will be used and your methods for implementing your program.
  • Keep the content of your presentation formal as a stand-alone project where you invite the reader to participate.

This is a high-level presentation as once you have an interested grantor, then you can go into the details to describe exactly how you will accomplish every step.

In your executive summary address the following points:

  • Describe what your organization does and identify your mission and history.
  • Provide some details of the project using an attractive and descriptive name.
  • Identify the importance of the project, the problem you are solving, and why this is important.
  • Describe the results you expect to receive and how you will evaluate its success.
  • Make a case as to why your organization is the best for the project.
  • Identify how much funding you need and how you will finance ongoing work.

Company Background
Provide a clear and concise background of your company including the founding, history, mission, client base, etc.

Provide sufficient information about your infrastructure to provide confidence that you have the resources, expertise, and financial capacity to successfully carry out the contract responsibilities.

Introduce your key personnel, i.e., management, project manager, and supervisors. Include some background information and samples of successful implementations of similar projects. If available, support this with letters of recommendation, awards, licenses, and certifications.
Identify the Problem and the Solution that you are offering

Get heads nodding and showing that you understand the problem and how you can provide the solution. Identify any other solutions that have been tried, why they didn’t work, and why your innovative solution solves those issues and will result in meeting the organization’s goals. Where possible, use numbers and facts to state the problem.

Describe the urgency of implementing the solution now rather than at some time in the future. Using proven facts, compare the problem with issues that you have dealt with in the past and how you were able to solve those problems through the successful implementation of your solution. Also, discuss that your key personnel and project team who worked on those projects will also be working on this project. At the same time, keep the focus on their organization and the outcomes being sought.

Present your Primary Goals and Objectives for the Project

This step needs to be made very clear so that there is no question about your understanding of the problem and what your solution will achieve. Describe how you will measure the success of the program throughout the implementation and how their investment in the project will benefit the target stakeholders. The client’s objectives should be the outcomes you are proposing to achieve.
Your goals should be stated in general terms while the objectives should use SMART, i.e., Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound measures of progress.

Methodology and Strategic Approach
For a small business proposal, you must be clear in describing how you will achieve those goals. Provide specific lists of the resources you will be using/acquiring, i.e., personnel, facilities, services, and resources you will need to be able to deliver the results.
Identify the tasks and schedule you to propose to implement the project and the expected results at each stage in the process. Describe how these are cost-effective approaches to accomplishing the tasks and achieving the desired outcomes.

Evaluation Criteria
Make it clear what the evaluation criteria are and how the project will be evaluated as it moves along. Demonstrate that the investment made will be able to be measured to show the effectiveness of the project.

Funding Sources and Ongoing Progress
While the grant is there to get things moving forward, you will need to show how you will sustain the ongoing development of the program as it grows and evolves. This may include basic operations such as maintenance and support.

Presenting a 5-year plan can be extremely helpful. Your cost analysis should include standard numbers like inflation, ongoing training, growth, and the evolution of the program. When presenting a project budget, be sure to include all relevant costs including travel, supplies, marketing, and personnel as well as tangential items like insurance, utilities, and other overhead costs.

Steps For Writing A Business Proposal

Steps for Writing a Business Proposal

One of the most important aspects of writing a winning proposal is first understanding the business’s goals and objectives. This will help to define the steps for writing a business proposal that will incorporate a good understanding of the problem that they are facing and the type of solution that they are looking for.
In addition, you need to communicate what your company does, its unique capabilities, experience, and qualifications as well as identify your company’s achievements, milestones, overall vision, and mission or future plans; and why your company is ideal for providing the solution that will solve or mitigate their primary problem.

The next key is to provide your technical approach describing exactly how your company will effectively implement your solution along with proof that you have successfully accomplished this approach in the past with other clients. Your technical approach must also identify the resources you’ll use to implement your solution, which may include a schedule of events and a breakdown of the costs associated with those resources.
Business proposals are different than government agency proposals in that they typically do not have a large number of compliance requirements or provide detailed information about exactly what to include. They may put out a formal solicitation or request for proposal (RFP). In these cases, you need to provide them with the information that they request. They may also ask informally for a proposal so that they can evaluate your company’s capabilities. To respond, you will need to do much more research into their specific issues in order to address them appropriately. Then, your may be interested in providing an unsolicited proposal, which is actually more of a marketing effort where you are primarily interested in gaining their attention and having them contact you about your services. Since you do not have specific knowledge about their pressing issues, the emphasis on your capabilities is key.

In business proposals, it is extremely important that you provide an Executive Summary to introduce your company, demonstrate your company’s achievements, and proposed solutions. Even so, keep the content clear and concise which peaks their interest to investigate the more detailed content in the technical approach itself. This is effectively done by clearly outlining the problem and emphasizing the need and urgency of the issue. The reader now will be interested in reading about your solution to their problem.

When defining the steps for writing a business proposal and presenting the problem, show a clear understanding of their pressing needs as you know them, which demonstrates that you are not just providing a generic pitch. With this approach you have the opportunity to identify problems and issues that they might not even be aware of, implying that you most likely have a solution that they will benefit from.
When presenting your proposed solution, you will identify exactly how you will relieve your prospect of their various pain points. This is often best represented in its own section, which can be referred to again and again. Provide detailed information and include a timeline of events. Of course, this only gets you so far since at this point, they have no idea that you can actually deliver what you are promising.

Following your proposed solution, support your methods and approaches with proofs by referring to past projects/clients where you have successfully implemented similar solutions. Name your past clients, who on your team led the effort, and the results and timelines that were achieved.

These proofs lead us to another key section, which includes references, client testimonials, and project profiles or case studies as well as any industry awards received. This third-party evidence builds trust and creates confidence in your company’s abilities to achieve your stated end results.

The next question will be when can you do this and over what period of time?

Flow charts or Gantt charts work best showing what gets done, when, and by whom. Sometimes, graphic representations of events along a flow chart work great, especially for long-term projects.
In your pricing section, identifying any legal issues is appropriate, but the primary focus is on the fees you will charge, how you schedule receiving payment, and any special terms & conditions. It is also best to keep this a bit open by offering a couple of options. The key is to ensure that your profit over costs is acceptable to you and that your overall price is not cost-prohibitive to your client.

If you are at the point where you are seeking a go, no-go, you will want to include the contract terms and conditions with signature blocks for your client to sign and date. Your company’s signature block can also be filled out, signed, and dated to get things moving forward.
Some things to consider throughout the proposal is to use your company logo and other brand identity graphics and taglines that reiterate your mission, goals, and/or values as a business. Also, links to your website are good when you have quality information that will help your prospects solidify their decision to move forward.