Writing a Fundraising Proposal

On this page:

  •  A word of caution about the format of proposals
  • A generic proposal format

Many donors have their own formats for proposals. If you are thinking about approaching a particular donor, always find out first if they accept uninvited applications and if they have a format. There's nothing worse than spending all that effort on a great proposal, only to find out they won't accept it, as it does not fit in their area of focus!

Remember that a typed proposal is always better, unless the guidelines state otherwise. If you don’t have access to a computer or typewriter, hire or borrow one. You can always use the computers available in Internet cafes. The money spent will pay off in terms of how the proposal is received.

A suggested format for a proposal is given below, if the donor does not have a particular format that they prefer. You can adopt it according to the circumstances.

1. Title Page

Include the name of your organisation and your logo, if you have one. Include the title of the project and the name of the donor applied to (and any specific donor budget line, you are applying to, for example "Small Embassy Funds").

2. Summary Page

Include the title, brief description of the project (2 paragraphs), the amount requested (and total budget, if different), contact details for you and your organisation.

3. Table of Contents Page

Include page numbers, but make sure you update them if you make changes. It is being placed after the project summary page, so that the summary is the first thing a donor sees.

4. Main Proposal

A. Introduction & Justification

What are you doing and why? What is the need your project will meet? Does your understanding of the situation agree with or differ from other organisations? Who designed the project? Is it your assessment of the problem or were the stakeholders (those affected by the project) involved? If yes, how were they involved?

B. Goals & Objectives

What are you aiming for? Outline the changes or differences you hope the project will make. Write your goals and objectives as clearly as possible.

C. Activities

This is the main body of the proposal. What are you going to do? Include the number of outputs (e.g. wells built, farmers trained, seeds & tools distributed, workshops held, research produced etc). Also include details of your method – how will the activities be carried out and by whom?

D. Monitoring & Evaluation

How will you monitor your work? How will any lessons learned from monitoring feed back in to future planning? Will the project beneficiaries / community be involved in monitoring? How about other external agencies or people? Will you try to monitor with the help of local Government, for example? Will you evaluate the project after it has finished to see whether the changes you expected, or others, have happened?

F. Key Personnel

Whom are you employing?  List by title, not just by name and give their main role in relation to the project.  One page on this should be enough.

G. Capacity Building and Community Participation

What inputs are the target communities putting in? The inputs may be in cash or in kind. If you are building capacities, is that really needed, or are you just doing it because it sounds good?  Explain why it is needed, in simple language.

H. Sustainability

How will the project result carry on after the project? If you are providing training, will there be refresher training? How will you know if the skills learned are being used, or will be used in the future?  If the project activities will continue after the proposal period is complete, how will you fund it?

5. Budgets

  • Show all costs clearly

  • Show the donors requested contribution

  • Avoid unclear budget headings, such as Miscellaneous, Contingencies and Administration etc.

  • If the donor is an international donor, put the budget in your local currency unless the donor's format requires otherwise.  Put the totals in the donor's currency or in US Dollars.

6. Conclusions

These should be in a single paragraph, summarising all that you hope to achieve. You don’t have to write this if don’t want to.

7. Appendices

Attach only those appendices which are really useful to the donor in understanding your proposal.  They might include:

  • A work plan and a schedule of when you will undertake which of the activities

  • Letters of support from other organisations, or a list of other donor-funded projects you have carried out in the past. 

  • A history of your organisation's achievements

  • A map of the project area

  • Any technical schematics that you may have. 

  • A document or chart outlining your organisational structure