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University Development Office

Proposal Writing Tips

A proposal does not stand alone; it's part of a process that includes research on, outreach to, and cultivation of potential foundation donors. It's often the only opportunity to communicate with a foundation, so your proposal needs to educate the grantmaker about your project and Purdue University and motivate the prospective grantmaker to make a gift.

Download a letter of inquiry template (Adobe Reader required)

Preparing a Successful Proposal

  • Organize your thoughts.
  • Be clear, concise, and compelling.
  • Avoid jargon, acronyms, and adjectives and use facts backed up by sources to support your work. Instead of, “The exciting CAM project will allow CoT’s BCTM to pursue necessary STEM initiatives,” write, “This project will serve the state with the most reliance on manufacturing jobs. Source: US Department of Labor.”
  • Answer who, what, when, where, why, and how in the overview.
  • Break up narratives with bullets, lists, outlines, diagrams, and tables.
  • Follow guidelines. Match headings in the proposal to headings in the guidelines so the reader doesn't have to hunt for needed information.
  • Build in evaluation, sustainability, and dissemination plans.
  • Budgets: Note who else will support the project. Foundations like to see funding from other foundations.
  • Ask someone unfamiliar with your field and your project to read the draft.
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