Beginning to Write the Proposal

Having a fundraising plan is the first step to success (See Developing a Fundraising Plan). Following the development of the fundraising plan you will need to develop a fundraising proposal. But first it will be important to determination the appropriate target audience for your proposal.

The following table demonstrates potential donors you could pitch your fundraising plan to:

Type of AgencyAdvantagesDisadvantages
GovernmentUseful on policy issues

Funding may be larger

Broader impact

Bureaucratic process possible

Payment delays

Complex requirements

Corporate Funding

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Corporate Social Investment (CSI)

Large Sums to distribute

Professional staff

Clear objectives

Priorities change

Possible Board Involvement

Sensitive to stakeholders

Corporate Funding


Informal approach

Interested in local projects

Personal connections helpful

Clear agenda

Limited funds

Narrow interests

Funding linked to personal ties

Large Foundations


Large Sums to distribute

Professional staff

Clear guidelines

Shared experience

Lengthy process

Complex requirements

Priorities change

Small Foundations


Close relationships

Flexible format/process

Open agenda

Staff may be less professional

Smaller amounts of money

Personal contacts both positive and negative

Religious InstitutionsShared social/ethical agenda


Reliance on own constituency

Allocations that change

Once you have determined who your audience will be, the next step is actually writing the proposal. Many organizations have developed materials to guide nonprofits through this challenging process. Civicus presents an easy-to-use toolkit, entitled Writing a Funding Proposal by Janet Shapiro. This free toolkit helps organizations through each step of the fundraising proposal development process.

The Resource Alliance is another good source of information on writing proposals. One of the best overall resources is The Worldwide Fundraiser’s Handbook: A guide for fundraising for Southern NGOs and Voluntary Organizations. Using case studies and best practices, the handbook offers guidance on establishing effective local fundraising.  

The Resource Alliance website also offers many opportunities for self-guided training. Using the Fundraisers Handbook excerpts online, will identify key points to follow to enable a proposal writer to produce a proposal which matches the requirements of a potential funder. The document covers:

Planning the approach

Targeting the proposal

Determining the content 

Funding levels/budgeting