Open the file below and read all pages thoroughly.
In a few paragraphs, explain in your own words the following:
What is a proposal?
What are the different classifications of proposals?
What are the “deliverables” of proposals?
What are the major components in the structure of a proposal? Briefly explain the functions of each component.
! TECH TIP: How To Create a Gantt Chart 307
Sample Internal Proposal 308
WRITER’S CHECKLIST 316
CASE 11: Revising a Brief Proposal 317 and
A PROPOSAL IS an o!er to carry out research or to provide a product or service.
For instance, a physical therapist might write a proposal to her supervisor for
funding to attend a convention to learn about current rehabilitation practices. A
defense contractor might submit a proposal to design and build a “eet of drones
for the Air Force. A homeless shelter might submit a proposal to a philanthropic
organization for funding to provide more services to the homeless community.
Whether a project is small or big, within your own company or outside it, it is
likely to call for a proposal.
When writing a proposal, pay special attention to these steps in the writing process.
PLANNING Consider your readers’ knowledge about and attitudes toward
what you are proposing. Use the techniques discussed in
Chapters 4 and 5 to learn as much as you can about your readers’
needs and about the subject. Also consider whether you have
the personnel, facilities, and equipment to do what you propose.
DRAFTING Collaboration is critical in large proposals because no one
person has the time and expertise to do all the work. See
Chapter 3 for more about collaboration. In writing the proposal,
follow the instructions in any request for proposal (RFP) or
information for bid (IFB) from the prospective customer. If there
are no instructions, follow the structure for proposals outlined in
F O C U S O N P R O C E S S Writing Proposals
External proposals usually have a #rm deadline. Build in time
to revise, edit, and proofread the proposal thoroughly and
still get it to readers on time. See the Writer’s Checklist on
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The Logistics of Proposals
Proposals can be classi!ed as either internal or external; external proposals
are either solicited or unsolicited. Figure 11.1 shows the relationships among
these four terms.
FIGURE 11.1 The Logistics of Proposals
INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL PROPOSALS
Internal proposals are submitted to the writer’s own organization; external
proposals are submitted to another organization.
Internal Proposals An internal proposal is an argument, submitted
within an organization, for carrying out an activity that will bene!t the
organization. An internal proposal might recommend that the organization
conduct research, purchase a product, or change some aspect of its policies
For example, while working on a project in the laboratory, you realize that
if you had a !ber-curl measurement system, you could do your job better
and faster. The increased productivity would save your company the cost
of the system in a few months. Your supervisor asks you to write a memo
describing what you want, why you want it, how you plan to use it, and what
it costs; if your request seems reasonable and the money is available, you’ll
likely get the new system.
Often, the scope of a proposal determines its format. A request for a small
amount of money might be conveyed orally or by email or a brief memo. A
request for a large amount, however, is likely to be presented in a formal
External Proposals No organization produces all the products or pro-
vides all the services it needs. Websites need to be designed, written, and
maintained; inventory databases need to be created; facilities need to be
constructed. Sometimes projects require unusual expertise, such as sophisti-
cated market analyses. Because many companies supply these products and
11_MAR_03364_ch11_292_317.indd 294 9/8/15 11:09 AM
The “Deliverables” of Proposals 11
services, most organizations require a prospective supplier to compete for
the business by submitting a proposal, a document arguing that it deserves
SOLICITED AND UNSOLICITED PROPOSALS
External proposals are either solicited or unsolicited. A solicited proposal is
submitted in response to a request from the prospective customer. An unso-
licited proposal is submitted by a supplier who believes that the prospective
customer has a need for goods or services.
Solicited Proposals When an organization wants to purchase a product
or service, it publishes one of two basic kinds of statements:
r� “O�information for bid (IFB) is used for standard products. When a state
agency needs desktop computers, for instance, it informs computer
manufacturers of the con!guration it needs. All other things being equal,
the supplier that offers the lowest bid for a product with that con!guration
wins the contract. When an agency solicits bids for a speci!c brand and
model, the solicitation is sometimes called a request for quotation (RFQ).
r� “�request for proposal (RFP) is used for more-customized products or
services. For example, if the Air Force needs an “identi!cation, friend
or foe” system, the RFP it publishes might be a long and detailed set of
technical speci!cations. The supplier that can design, produce, and deliver
the device most closely resembling the speci!cations—at a reasonable
price—will probably win the contract.
Most organizations issue IFBs and RFPs in print and online. Govern-
ment solicitations are published on the FedBizOpps website. Figure 11.2 on
page”296 shows a portion of an RFQ.
Unsolicited Proposals An unsolicited proposal is like a solicited proposal
except that it does not refer to an RFP. In most cases, even though the poten-
tial customer did not formally request the proposal, the supplier was invited
to submit the proposal after people from the two organizations met and
discussed the project. Because proposals are expensive to write, suppliers are
reluctant to submit them without assurances that they will be considered
carefully. Thus, the word unsolicited is only partially accurate.
The “Deliverables” of Proposals
A deliverable is what a supplier will deliver at the end of a project. Deliverables
can be classi!ed into two major categories: research or goods and services.
In a research proposal, you are promising to perform research and then
provide a report about it. For example, a biologist for a state bureau of land
11_MAR_03364_ch11_292_317.indd 295 9/8/15 11:09 AM
The “Deliverables” of Proposals 11
management writes a proposal to the National Science Foundation request-
ing resources to build a window-lined tunnel in the forest to study tree and
plant roots and the growth of fungi. The biologist also wishes to investigate
the relationship between plant growth and the activity of insects and worms.
The deliverable will be a report submitted to the National Science Foundation
and, perhaps, an article published in a professional journal.
Research proposals often lead to two other applications: progress reports
and recommendation reports.
After a proposal has been approved and the researchers have begun
work, they often submit one or more progress reports, which tell the sponsor
of the project how the work is proceeding. Is it following the plan of work
outlined in the proposal? Is it going according to schedule? Is it staying
At the end of the project, researchers prepare a recommendation report,
often called a !nal report, a project report, a completion report, or simply a report.
A recommendation report tells the whole story of a research project, begin-
ning with the problem or opportunity that motivated it and continuing with
the methods used in carrying it out, the results, and the researchers’ conclu-
sions and recommendations.
People carry out research projects to satisfy their curiosity and to advance
professionally. Organizations often require that their professional employees
carry out research and publish in appropriate journals or books. Government
researchers and university professors, for instance, are expected to remain
active in their !elds. Writing proposals is one way to get the resources—time
and money for travel, equipment, and assistants—to carry out research.
GOODS AND SERVICES PROPOSALS
A goods and services proposal is an offer to supply a tangible product (a “eet of
automobiles), a service (building maintenance), or some combination of the
two (the construction of a building).
A vast network of goods and services contracts spans the working world.
The U.S. government, the world’s biggest customer, spends more than $300 bil-
lion per year buying military equipment from organizations that submit pro-
posals (U.S. Department of Defense, 2015). But goods and services contracts are
by no means limited to government contractors. An auto manufacturer might
buy its engines from another manufacturer; a company that makes spark
plugs might buy its steel and other raw materials from another company.
Another kind of goods and services proposal requests funding to support a
local organization. For example, a women’s shelter might receive some of its
funding from a city or county but might rely on grants from private philan-
thropies. Typically, an organization such as a shelter would apply for a grant
to fund increased demand for its services due to a natural disaster or an eco-
nomic slowdown in the community. Or it might apply for a grant to fund a
pilot program to offer job training at the shelter. Most large corporations have
philanthropic programs offering grants to help local colleges and universi-
ties, arts organizations, and social-service agencies.
For more about progress reports and
recommendation reports, see Ch. 12,
p. 324, and Ch. 13.
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The Structure of the Proposal 11
The Structure of the Proposal
Proposal structures vary greatly from one organization to another. A long,
complex proposal might have 10 or more sections, including introduction,
problem, objectives, solution, methods and resources, and management. If
the authorizing agency provides an IFB, an RFP, an RFQ, or a set of guidelines,
follow it closely. If you have no guidelines, or if you are writing an unsolicited
proposal, use the structure shown here as a starting point. Then modify it
according to your subject, your purpose, and the needs of your audience. An
example of a proposal is presented on pages 309–15.
For a proposal of more than a few pages, provide a summary. Many organiza-
tions impose a length limit—such as 250 words—and ask the writer to pre-
sent the summary, single-spaced, on the title page. The summary is crucial,
because it might be the only item that readers study in their initial review of
The summary covers the major elements of the proposal but devotes
only a few sentences to each. De!ne the problem in a sentence or two. Next,
describe the proposed program and provide a brief statement of your quali!-
cations and experience. Some organizations wish to see the completion date
and the !nal budget !gure in the summary; others prefer that this informa-
tion be presented separately on the title page along with other identifying
information about the supplier and the proposed project.
The purpose of the introduction is to help readers understand the context,
scope, and organization of the proposal.
In the section on the proposed program, sometimes called the plan of work,
explain what you want to do. Be speci!c. You won’t persuade anyone by say-
ing that you plan to “gather the data and analyze it.” How will you gather and
analyze the data? Justify your claims. Every word you say—or don’t say—will
give your readers evidence on which to base their decision.
If your project concerns a subject written about in the professional litera-
ture, show your familiarity with the scholarship by referring to the pertinent
studies. However, don’t just string together a bunch of citations. For exam-
ple, don’t write, “Carruthers (2012), Harding (2013), and Vega (2013) have all
researched the relationship between global warming and groundwater con-
tamination.” Rather, use the recent literature to sketch the necessary back-
ground and provide the justi!cation for your proposed program. For instance:
Carruthers (2012), Harding (2013), and Vega (2013) have demonstrated the
relationship between global warming and groundwater contamination. None of
For more about summaries, see
Ch. 13, p. 355.
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these studies, however, included an analysis of the long-term contamination of the
aquifer. The current study will consist of . . . .
You might include only a few references to recent research. However, if your
topic is complex, you might devote several paragraphs or even several pages
to recent scholarship.
Whether your project calls for primary research, secondary research, or
both, the proposal will be unpersuasive if you haven’t already done a sub-
stantial amount of research. For instance, say you are writing a proposal to do
research on purchasing new industrial-grade lawn mowers for your company.
Simply stating that you will visit Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, and Home Depot to see
what kinds of lawn mowers they carry would be unpersuasive for two reasons:
than others. Anticipate your readers’ questions: Why did you choose these
three retailers? Why didn’t you choose specialized dealers?
For more about researching a
subject, see Ch. 5.
Introducing a Proposal
The introduction to a proposal should answer the following seven questions:
What is the problem or opportunity? Describe the problem or opportunity in
speci!c monetary terms, because the proposal itself will include a budget, and
you want to convince your readers that spending money on what you propose is
smart. Don’t say that a design problem is slowing down production; say that it is
costing $4,500 a day in lost productivity.
What is the purpose of the proposal? The purpose of the proposal is to describe
a solution to a problem or an approach to an opportunity and propose activities
that will culminate in a deliverable. Be speci!c in explaining what you want to do.
What is the background of the problem or opportunity? Although you probably
will not be telling your readers anything they don’t already know, show them that
you understand the problem or opportunity: the circumstances that led to its
discovery, the relationships or events that will a”ect the problem and its solution,
and so on.
What are your sources of information? Review the relevant literature, ranging
from internal reports and memos to published articles or even books, so that
readers will understand the context of your work.
What is the scope of the proposal? If appropriate, indicate not only what you are
proposing to do but also what you are not proposing to do.
What is the organization of the proposal? Explain the organizational pattern you
What are the key terms that you will use in the proposal? If you will use any
specialized or unusual terms, de!ne them in the introduction.
11_MAR_03364_ch11_292_317.indd 302 9/8/15 11:09 AM
To analyze a proposal delivered as a Prezi presentation,
go to LaunchPad.
D O C U M E N T A N A LYS I S AC T I V I T Y
Marketing Proposal Presentation
Used by permission of Andrew Washuta.
lawn mowers and completed any other preliminary research. If you
haven’t done the homework, readers have no assurance that you will in
fact do it or that it will pay off. If your supervisor authorizes the project
and then you learn that none of the lawn mowers in these stores meets
your organization’s needs, you will have to go back and submit a different
proposal—an embarrassing move.
Unless you can show in your proposed program that you have done
the research—and that the research indicates that the project is likely to
succeed—the reader has no reason to authorize the project.
QUALIFICATIONS AND EXPERIENCE
After you have described how you would carry out the project, show that
you can do it. The more elaborate the proposal, the more substantial the
discussion of your quali!cations and experience has to be. For a small
project, include a few paragraphs describing your technical credentials and
those of your co-workers. For larger projects, include the résumés of the
project leader, often called the principal investigator, and the other primary
External proposals should also discuss the quali!cations of the sup-
plier’s organization, describing similar projects the supplier has completed
successfully. For example, a company bidding on a contract to build a large
suspension bridge should describe other suspension bridges it has built.
It should also focus on the equipment and facilities the company already
has and on the management structure that will ensure the project will go
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The Structure of the Proposal 11
Good ideas aren’t good unless they’re affordable. The budget section of a pro-
posal speci!es how much the proposed program will cost.
Budgets vary greatly in scope and format. For simple internal proposals,
add the budget request to the statement of the proposed program: “This
study will take me two days, at a cost of about $400” or “The variable-speed
recorder currently costs $225, with a 10 percent discount on orders of !ve or
more.” For more-complicated internal proposals and for all external propos-
als, include a more-explicit and complete budget.
Many budgets are divided into two parts: direct costs and indirect costs.
Direct costs include such expenses as salaries and fringe bene!ts of program
personnel, travel costs, and costs of necessary equipment, materials, and
supplies. Indirect costs cover expenses that are sometimes called overhead:
general secretarial and clerical expenses not devoted exclusively to any one
project, as well as operating expenses such as costs of utilities and mainte-
nance. Indirect costs are usually expressed as a percentage—ranging from
less than 20 percent to more than 100 percent—of the direct expenses.
Many types of appendixes might accompany a proposal. Most organiza-
tions have boilerplate descriptions of the organization and of the projects it
has completed. Another item commonly included in an appendix is a sup-
porting letter: a testimonial to the supplier’s skill and integrity, written by a
reputable and well-known person in the !eld. Two other kinds of appendixes
deserve special mention: the task schedule and the description of evaluation
Task Schedule A task schedule is almost always presented in one of three
graphical formats: as a table, a bar chart, or a network diagram.
Tables The simplest but least informative way to present a schedule is
in a table, as shown in Figure 11.3. As with all graphics, provide a textual
reference that introduces and, if necessary, explains the table.
Activity Start date Finish date
Design the security system 4 Oct. 15 19 Oct. 15
Research available systems 4 Oct. 15 3 Jan. 16
FIGURE 11.3 Task Schedule Presented as a Table
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