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Short Guide to Proposal Preparation

As they embark on the process of writing and submitting a proposal, writers frequently ask questions like:

  • To what agency or agencies should I submit my proposal?
  • What sorts of things should I include in a proposal? Specifically, what does the funding agency require? What does the University require? Aside from what's mandatory, what sorts of things are advisable to include?
  • How do I organize the different parts of a proposal?
  • How do I work up the budget?
  • How do I get the proposal approved by the University?

This guide is intended to help answer such questions. Although there are many different kinds of proposals, the basic research proposal used as an example throughout this guide represents the most common proposal and its features are relevant to other types of proposal writing. 

Please send all feedback regarding this guide to: Denitta Ward, Deputy Director of OCG, Denitta.Ward@Colorado.edu

The Office of Contracts and Grants will assist in every way possible as you work toward securing funding for your proposal. Please use the resources you find on this site and do not hesitate to contact OCG for advice or assistance.

Even a grant proposal that is not funded yields positive results. First, the reviewers' comments usually give the applicant an idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the proposal. If these comments are not provided, the applicant should request them. Second, the applicant often may submit a revised proposal that is stronger and more likely to be funded than the original proposal. Revised proposals typically enjoy a higher rate of success than first-time submissions.

National statistics show that the majority of sponsored project proposals (applications) are not funded. Many unfunded proposals are not actually rejected; in fact, most proposals are approved by the reviewers. However, there is not enough money available to fund every approved proposal. Therefore, funding may depend on whether the reviewers give a lukewarm endorsement or an enthusiastic endorsement to a proposal.

A denial letter frequently includes statements that the applicant is encouraged to submit future applications; that the applicant is on a mailing list to receive future funding opportunity information; and/or that the comments from the proposal's reviewers are enclosed. Funding agencies want to encourage good proposals.

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