Writing a proposal can be a challenging but rewarding experience. Whether you are competing for a multimillion-dollar federal contract or applying for seed funding through a research grant, you have to find your funding opportunity, analyze the funder’s needs, and persuade the funder that you can fulfill those needs. You might be working with the analysis of a business development manager, or you might be doing the information collection and analysis on your own. Sometimes you will be working with a specific template, tailored to the instructions for submission, or you might start from scratch. Whatever the situation, to write a good proposal, you have to be more than a good writer. You also have to be a good analyst and researcher who can collaborate with others and meet deadlines.
This six-week course introduces professional writers to the activities, responsibilities, challenges, and opportunities that characterize proposals written to receive funding. We discuss some differences and similarities among proposal types, including government contract proposals, commercial contract proposals, nonprofit grant proposals, and research grant proposals. We learn how to analyze unique proposal writing situations, including audiences (customers, reviewers, and teammates) and resources (collaborators, templates, and time). The results of this analysis inform every aspect of our writing approach, from drafting and revising processes to word choice and typeface decisions.
After we learn how to make these writing choices, we wrap up the course with some tips for finishing a proposal you can be proud of, while safeguarding your wellbeing and relationships.
- Understand varying situations for writing funded proposals
- Write persuasively using audience analysis
- Analyze resources to plan an efficient writing process
- Coordinate with subject matter experts, colleagues, teammates, and staff
- Identify and prepare for compliance concerns
- Learn strategies for writing persuasively at the word level
- Conceptualize persuasive visual elements
- Edit in phases to take some pain and strain out of proposal development
- Overview of different proposal genres
- Challenges of proposal writing
- Benefits of proposal writing
- Identifying audiences of proposals
- Analyzing the audiences’ needs and constraints
- Analyzing the audiences’ opportunities
- Funding for proposal development
- Tools of persuasion
- Collecting and synthesizing data
- Collaborating with teammates and associated staff
- Ensuring compliance
- Persuasive word choice
- Persuasive grammar
- Layout and graphics
- Revision, editing, and proofreading phases
- Style guides
- Tips for time management and workload management
Rachael Graham Lussos is a writing instructor, proposal writer, and technical writer and editor. Since 2016, she has taught multilingual composition at George Mason University (GMU), executive writing for American University, and professional development courses in writing, practical grammar, and proofreading for government and commercial clients. Since 2011, she has written and edited proposals for government and commercial contracts in national security, homeland defense, and space and technology industries. She is pursuing a PhD in Writing and Rhetoric at GMU, where she studies proposal writing instruction, rhetoric of health and medicine, and activist composition.