A proposal is a persuasive message in which a writer analyses a problem and recommends a solution. The problem may be a need for equipment, services, research, a plan of action, or the other things. The recommended solution may be products, personnel, a business study, a description of work to be performed, or any of several other outcomes. Proposals are common in business and it is important that they be clear, be concise and meet readers’ expectations.
Business people look for initiative. They welcome suggestions about how to change things for the better. Customers and suppliers want to receive proposals that will benefit them and you. Successful organisations depend on the creation of ideas that will improve productivity and profitability.
Proposals are gambles. They take time to develop and are often rejected. Some proposal developers believe that they are doing well if they win acceptance of one of every ten proposals. Effective proposal writers are risk takers; they assess the probability of success and then decide whether to proceed.
Types of Proposals
1. External Proposals
- Proposals that go outside an organisation to current or prospective customers, government agencies, or to private agencies. These messages include proposals to supply products at given prices to build roads, or to perform audits. This category also encompasses request for grants of money or goods to support the work of non-profit agencies or other groups hoping to meet some societal or humanitarian need. Such requests are submitted to foundations established solely for the purpose of funding projects in areas such as the arts, education, environment, or human services. Receiving approval of external proposals is essential to the success of many profit and non-profit organisations.
2. Internal Proposal
- Proposals sent to others within an organisation are internal proposals. These can be proposals to solve problems or to meet needs by improving procedures, changing products, adding personnel, reorganising departments, expanding facilities, reducing budgets, or making other changes. Ideas for internal improvement, creativity developed and effectively presented, are the lifeblood of organisations.
3. A Solicited Proposal
- A solicited proposal is prepared in response to a request for proposal (RFP). The solicitation may be made face-to-face, by telephone, or in writing. Solicited proposals are generally submitted externally. When responding to solicitations for proposals, writers must provide all the requested information and use the specified format. Failure to do so may eliminate the proposal from consideration.
4. An Unsolicited Proposal
- Proposals prepared at the writer’s initiative rather than in response to an RFP. These proposals represent an independent analysis of problems faced by others or needs and the creation of possible solutions. Unsolicited proposals may be internal or external. When submitting proposals to foundations or government agencies, writers must watch the goals of the writer’s organisation to those of the foundation or agency.
5. Informal Proposal
- Informal proposals generally take the form of letters (external) or memos (internal). Some foundations, corporations, and government agencies encourage or require proposal writers to submit pre-proposals or letters of inquiry. These documents, which are submitted without attachments, provide a succinct description of the project. After review, the funding agency either rejects the proposal or directs the writer to submit a full proposal.
Qualities of a Successful Proposal
Although success sometimes depends on factors such as luck, politics timing and reputation, most proposals must have excellent content and be clearly presented to be accepted. The following qualities usually are required for a successful proposal:
· The purpose of the proposal is stated clearly;
· The problem or need is understood and defined clearly;
· The solution is innovative and presented convincingly;
· The benefits outweigh the costs;
· The personnel implementing the solution are qualified;
· The solution can be achieved on a timely basis;
· The proposal is honest, factual, realistic, and objective; and
· The presentation is professional and attractive.
To convey these qualities in the proposal, the writer must carefully analyse the situation and the receivers, use the you-viewpoint, and apply the principles of business communication.
The proposal should be a powerful, persuasive message. The receivers are going to be looking for the benefits to them their department, the company, the community, the society, or some other group to which they belong. The proposal should get the receivers’ attention, clearly show the benefits of accepting the proposal, give proof of those benefits and motivate favourable action.