Writing Winning Technology Proposals

Improving Your Chances of Winning a Grant

  1. Read the application package word for word, cover to cover right away. If you have any questions, call the competition manager at the funding agency.
  2. Pay particular attention to the funding priorities. If your proposed project doesn't
  3. meet the priorities, it doesn't stand much chance of being funded, no matter how
  4. good the idea is or how great the need.
  5. Make a checklist of everything that's required in the proposal. Be sure that everyone on the proposal writing team has a copy of the list and knows who's responsible for what. Check the list every couple of days, and especially just before you assemble the final document.
  6. Do your homework. Find out how other districts have been successfully implementing similar projects. Check the U.S. Department of Education's web site to find the results of major studies on technology.
  7. If at all possible, conduct a needs assessment to help you define the problem(s) and identify potential solutions. Solicit input from project partners and constituent groups: teachers, students, parents, administrators, businesses, university partners, community groups, and so forth. Be sure to mention this multi-participant input into the project's design in your proposal.
  8. Your proposal will be stronger if you have some data showing the strength of the need or problem. On the other hand, don't take up space with irrelevant or redundant information.
  9. Consider the difference between a need and a want. Most funding agencies fund projects that will meet a particular need or solve a certain problem.
  10. The identified needs and problems should determine the project's goals. Don't assume that the reviewers will make the connection between the project's goals and the funding agency's program priorities. Explain how the project addresses the priorities. Your proposal will be more compelling if the goals focus on the improvement of teaching and learning rather than training, equipment acquisition, or infrastructure development. For example, it's better to say the goal is "for teachers to use technology skillfully and effectively in everyday classroom activities" than to say the goal is "to train teachers to use technology."  Developing and implementing training might be an objective or strategy for meeting the goal.
  11. The goals should be attainable.
  12. Each goal should have several supporting objectives. Objectives should be measurable.
  13. The objectives are the threads that connect the different components of the proposal and make it a cohesive document. They are the heart of the design; they drive the technical approach, management plan, personnel, resources, evaluation, and budget.
  14. In general, it's a good idea to have no more than three goals for a project. One or two would probably be fine.
  15. If you are looking for a model for staff development, performance-based assessment, evaluation, technology integration, or evaluation, look in the professional literature for examples that you can adopt or adapt. In addition to the ERIC databases, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), and the National School Boards Association (NSBA) have several good publications on the subjects at hand.
  16. A literature search might also help you determine outcomes and set realistic expectations for the project. In terms of expected outcomes, think beyond student scores on standardized tests to include other potential factors, such as lower dropout rates, lower absenteeism, higher quality of students' work, teacher productivity, or changes in communication patterns.
  17. Give yourself plenty of time. Proposals that are thrown together at the last minute usually look it. For some reason, it takes at least two weeks to put together a good proposal, regardless of the number of pages.
  18. Keep your eye on the prize. Remember that the goal of putting the effort into a proposal is to win funding for a project. Don't let any one person's ego get in the way; instead, capitalize on the strengths of each person on the team.
  19. If you have multiple writers for the proposal, designate your best writer as the person to put all the sections together and give you proposal one voice, i.e., make it read as if it were written by one person.
  20. When possible, use active voice rather than passive. Say, for example, "The project director will convene a meeting" instead of "A meeting will be held."
  21. Try to use the language of proposals. For example, the document you're writing is proposal, not a grant. The grant is the award you're trying to win. Also, the U.S. Department of Education is referred to as ED, not DOE. DOE is the U.S. Department of Energy.
  22. If you have boilerplate sections from prior proposals or other materials, be sure to tailor them to the project you are proposing.
  23. As you are writing, put yourself in the reviewer's shoes. Is this proposal interesting? Is it compelling? Does it have a certain quality that will make it stand out among all the others? If you don't love the project, chances are the reviewers won't either.
  24. Assume that the reviewers know nothing about your district, the problem you're addressing, the technologies you plan to use, or the strategies you plan to implement. You don't want to talk down to them, but you do want to make your narrative and charts very clear.
  25. Think about the tone you are setting, and adjust it to fit the audience. Show confidence in your ability to carry out the project, but don't be arrogant.
  26. Remember that success breeds success. If you have conducted similar projects, be sure to mention how successful they were, without bragging or going into details.
  27. Be absolutely certain that the proposal has addressed all the review criteria listed in the application package!
  28. Check the narrative to be sure that all the costs included in the budget are explained in the section where you've discussed the proposed project activities or strategies.
  29. When you have the first solid draft, ask one of your colleagues who is not involved in the project to read it to see if all the basic elements are there, the concepts are sound, the writing and charts are clear, and the various sections fit together into one cohesive project design. Tell them to be ruthless in their critique.
  30. When you have a close to final draft, have another colleague read it for editorial comments and typographical errors.
  31. Don't even think about going over the page limit or using smaller margins than specified in the application package.
  32. As you are assembling the final proposal, go through it page by page to be sure everything is there and in the right order.
  33. Think about the visual appeal of your document. Try not to have more than three consecutive pages of unbroken text. Use bullets, enumeration, charts, graphs, or side bars to make the document easier to read. Quotes in boxes add interest.
  34. Check the photocopies to make sure they are attractive, e.g., shading looks good, there are no stripes or splotches. If you can, use higher quality paper than you normally use for everyday office work - use paper that has a nice weight and shows the print well.
  35. Read the deadline to see if it's when the proposals have to be postmarked or when they must be received. If you don't follow the instructions to the letter, chances are your proposal won't even be reviewed. As a measure of safety, get written verification that you met the deadline, such as a receipt from Federal Express or registered mail.
  36. The closer the deadline gets, the higher the level of stress. Remember that you have to continue working with your colleagues, so try to remain on friendly terms with them.