Topic 2: Proposal process and design

Crafting a comprehensive and compelling project proposal is essential to securing support and resources. This process involves several key components, each designed to articulate the project’s purpose, goals, strategies, and anticipated outcomes. Let’s explore the fundamental elements of a project proposal and their significance in conveying a clear and persuasive vision for implementation.

  • Problem Statement: At the heart of any project proposal lies a succinct and compelling problem statement. This section identifies and articulates the specific issue or challenge that the project aims to address.
  • Project Rationale: Building upon the problem statement, the project rationale elucidates why the identified issue requires intervention and why the proposed project is the appropriate solution. This section delves into the underlying factors contributing to the problem and outlines the potential benefits and impacts of addressing it. It serves to convince stakeholders of the project’s relevance and necessity.
  • Project Goal and Objectives:The project goal articulates the overarching aim or desired outcome that the project seeks to achieve. It represents the ultimate vision for the project’s success. Complementing the goal, project objectives delineate specific, measurable targets or milestones that contribute to realising the overarching goal. These objectives serve as a roadmap, guiding the implementation and evaluation of the project.
  • Strategies and Activities: Strategies and activities outline the actionable steps and approaches that will be employed to achieve the project objectives. This section details the methods, interventions, and activities planned for implementation, providing a clear roadmap for project execution. It demonstrates how the project will translate its objectives into tangible actions and outcomes.
  • Results: Impact, Output, and Outcomes:Results delineate the anticipated impacts, outputs, and outcomes of the project. Impact refers to the broader, long-term changes or benefits resulting from the project. Outputs represent the tangible products, services, or deliverables generated by project activities. Outcomes encompass the immediate or intermediate changes in behaviour, conditions, or knowledge resulting from project interventions.
  • Budget: The budget section provides a detailed breakdown of the financial resources required to implement the project. It includes estimates for various expenses, such as personnel, equipment, supplies, and overhead costs. A well-developed budget demonstrates financial feasibility and ensures alignment with project objectives and activities.

In summary, a comprehensive project proposal integrates these essential elements to present a cohesive and persuasive case for funding and support. By effectively articulating the problem statement, rationale, goals, strategies, anticipated results, and budget, project proponents can convey a clear vision for addressing pressing challenges and achieving meaningful impact.

Challenges to proposal development

Short turn-around times and poorly written terms of reference (ToRs):Limited timeframes and ambiguous or poorly written ToRs can hinder the clarity and quality of proposal development, leading to rushed or incomplete submissions.
Programme teams don’t deliver good content:Inadequate contribution or collaboration from programme teams can result in subpar content for the proposal, affecting its comprehensiveness and persuasiveness.
Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) data not available or poor:Insufficient or low-quality M&E data can impede the ability to accurately assess project impact and outcomes, weakening the evidence base of the proposal.
Compliance documents missing/difficult to obtain:Difficulty in obtaining necessary compliance documents, such as legal certifications or permits, can delay the proposal development process and jeopardise compliance with donor requirements.
Underestimation of time needed to finalise a proposal:Failure to accurately estimate the time required for proposal development can lead to rushed or incomplete submissions, compromising the quality and effectiveness of the proposal.
Realising too late some of the ‘fineprint’ requirements:Discovery of overlooked or misunderstood donor requirements late in the proposal development process can result in last-minute revisions or rework, causing delays and potential non-compliance issues.
Too many other things to Do/No dedicated time and headspace to focus:Competing priorities and lack of dedicated time for proposal development can hinder focus and productivity, affecting the quality and timeliness of submissions.
Difficulties in understanding some of the donor requirements/asks:Complex or ambiguous donor requirements can pose challenges in interpretation and implementation, potentially leading to non-compliance or misalignment with donor expectations.

Addressing these challenges requires proactive measures, including clear communication, efficient resource allocation, and proactive planning. By acknowledging and mitigating these obstacles, project proponents can enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of proposal development processes, ultimately increasing the likelihood of project success.


After reviewing the challenges commonly encountered in proposal writing, reflect on your own experiences or potential concerns. Consider the following:

  • Have you encountered any of these challenges in your previous proposal writing efforts?
  • How have these challenges impacted the quality, timeliness, or effectiveness of your proposals?
  • What strategies could you implement to address or mitigate these challenges in future proposal development processes?
  • How might improved awareness and proactive planning contribute to overcoming these obstacles and enhancing the success of your proposals?

10 Steps  towards developing a well-designed proposal – from inception to submission