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Preparing Proposals for Delivery Success

Why a proposal should be built with the program’s delivery defined and sustainability the focus

Deliverable: A completed process, product, or learning experience or other entity specifically promised or strongly implied by a project's award agreement to satisfy the purpose of a grant.

A deliverable is any tangible outcome that is produced by the project. These can be documents, plans, computer systems, financial systems, service delivery systems, policies, etc. A project has a specific begin date and end date, specific objectives and specific resources assigned to perform the work.

It is far better to promise less and exceed your goals than to over-promise and under-deliver.

Tip 1: Think like a reviewer when you are discussing the impact of your proposed project.

Tip 2: Make your discussion of impact and outcomes as concrete as possible.

Sometimes using concrete language will mean getting specific about the number of beneficiaries that the project will be designed to reach – say, 150 young people in a disadvantaged community, or 23 rural hospitals. Sometimes grant writers will need to provide a target statistic – for example, “a pollutant will be decreased by 10 to 15 parts per million.”

Tip 3: Be realistic when discussing impact.

One of the most important parts of the grant proposal structure is the problem statement.

Also known as the “needs statement” or “statement of need“, this is the place where you explain why your community has a problem and how you can provide the solution.

You may need to do extensive research on the history of the underlying problem, previous solutions that were implemented and potentially failed, and explain why your solution will make a difference.

In a winning grant proposal, the problem statement will heavily rely on quantitative data and clearly display how your organization answers a need.


  • Use comparable data: Rely on the results of other communities that already implemented your solution and got satisfactory outcomes.

  • Highlight urgency: Underline that it’s essential this project is started now rather than later.

  • Focus on the main problem: Try not to get sidetracked by other phenomena that are contributing to the key problem you’re addressing.


  • Make it about you: It’s not your organization that needs the grant funding, it’s the community.

  • Use circular reasoning: Don’t formulate the problem as “The city doesn’t have a youth center –> We can build a youth center”. Why does the city need a youth center in the first place? That should be the thought behind your writing process.

Another important part of the grant proposal process is clearly stating your goals and objectives. In fact, a lot of proposals fail because they forget or mishandle this step so all their hard work goes to waste!

Write details about the desired outcome and how success will be measured. This section is key to providing information on the benefits that the grantee, community, government, or client will see for their investment.

And, although they sound similar, goals and objectives should be separated. Think of goals as broad statements and Objectives as more specific statements of intention with measurable outcomes and a time frame.


  • State objectives as outcomes: An objective is something you want to achieve, not do.

  • Make your objectives SMART: You can’t really track your progress if your objectives aren’t SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

  • Connect goals and objectives to the audience: The final result of your project should always be the betterment of your community expressed in a measurable way.


  • Be too ambitious: Make sure your goals are attainable and don’t get too ahead of yourself.

  • Mistake goals for processes: Goals are always stated as results and measurable outcomes with a deadline, not as processes.

The sustainability plan spells out how your project will survive in the long term. It makes sure that resources spent on the project are not lost. It gives you and the donor reassurance that the grant is well spent and will have a long-lasting impact, even once the support runs out.

One of the most neglected aspects of any grant proposal — federal, state, or foundation — is the sustainability section. Funders often ask how your organization plans to sustain its activities. They want to see you'll survive after their investment period has ended, after you've cashed their check

If you don’t pay close attention to this section and develop a good plan, it will be a major red flag against funding your proposal. Raising more money — rather through grants or individual donations or events — is a good starting point, but consider some other avenues, such as:


This can be strengthened if you build a membership program that obtains recurring donations — however small — from loyal donors.


Show you are building a pool of major gift donors that will help infuse significant cash into your budget.


List partnerships with companies and corporations that sponsor events and/or provide in-kind services.


Get creative with your fundraising strategies. Diversify your approach. That means never, ever rely solely on grant writing. And, be thorough when describing your fundraising efforts long-term. Taking the time to really flesh out the sustainability section will help put funders’ minds at ease. Then, they’ll be more likely to chip in with a grant.

Funds for Looking at the perspective of donors and NGOs, sustainability of a project simply implies the continuation of project activities and sustenance of project outcomes after the initial/primary grant expires. Most donors are concerned about the sustainability aspect of a project and often fund projects which have a well defined sustainability plan in place. It is a challenge for NGOs to ensure a steady flow of funds for executing their projects and programs. Integrating sustainability principles in their ongoing projects can be an effective way to ensure long term impact.

One has to understand that sustainability requires long term planning to facilitate diverse donor engagement and for improving institutional capacity of the target population. Sustainability planning is an important step for nonprofits as it prepares an organization to deliver positive outcome in the absence of primary funding.

There are different aspects of sustainability that are to be considered while writing the sustainability plan for your organization. As an NGO you should think about Financial sustainability, Organizational stability and Programmatic sustainability of the organization. Before we discuss about the steps involved in writing the sustainability plan let us understand the types of sustainability:

  1. Financial sustainability: It refers to ensuring a steady flow of funds and generating revenue for maintaining and continuing the organizations work.

  2. Institutional Sustainability/Organizational: It refers to ensuring proper working of your organization and institutions that were developed as part of the project.

  3. Programmatic Sustainability: It means to continue the organization's projects and programs in the absence of donor support.

  4. Long term vision: You should know where you see your organization after a period of 5 or 10 years. If you have thoroughly thought of how and what you will do in the long run, half your work is done. Once you know the long term vision of your NGO, you can easily draft the various things required to achieve it. With the use of data and facts, you can explain to the donor about your long term goal and the processes, resources required to ensure success.

  5. Integrate sustainability in all your projects: It is always advisable to integrate sustainability aspects in your project right from the beginning. This would help you to develop partnerships and relations with relevant stakeholders at an early stage of project development. This would also ensure that once the primary funding terminates you have strong support to continue your project.

  6. Communication and Outreach: Develop a strong communication strategy so that your project results can be shared with a large audience. Well documented project results can help you in getting support from a range of stakeholders and donors. A well thought communication strategy can avoid last minute rush of donor search.

  7. Involve key stakeholders: Another major step to ensure sustainability is the involvement and participation of key stakeholders in program development. As part of the project activities you can initiate multi-stakeholder dialogue workshops to involve relevant people in your project.

  8. Diversify funding sources: The most important aspect of sustainability is to diversify your donor base and to develop long term partnerships with donors to support you in your endeavor. Do not just look at the traditional donor agencies but explore new opportunities as well.

  9. Create inventory of resources: Create an inventory of all physical resources that your organization can keep after a project ends. Some devices and equipment purchased during a project can be used in future eg. Training modules, camera, recorder, furniture for a school etc. can be used even after the grant expires.

  10. Use your donor database: You can enlist a few donors from your donor database who are likely to fund your project. Keep in touch with such agencies so that they are aware about your project.

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