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This lesson deals with the project description section of the proposal. This section carries a lot of weight with grant-makers and it typically contains a lot of information.

The project description should contain at least the five subsections presented below (objectives, methods, staffing/administration, evaluation and monitoring, and sustainability). As you learned in Lesson 3, the precise title of each subsection should conform to the instructions given in the RFP. As a result, the grant-maker may use a different title for a particular subsection, but the content should be as described below.

Objectives

These are the measurable outcomes of the program you are proposing and will define your methods. In order for your objectives to be effective, they must be tangible, specific, concrete, measurable, and achievable within the “project period” (the duration of time allotted by the terms of the grant).

When formulating objectives, there are several types you could consider:

  1. Behavioral – This refers to some type of human action or reaction that is anticipated.
  2. Performance – This conveys that a particular situation or result is expected to occur within a specific time frame.
  3. Process – This is the manner in which something occurs.
  4. Product – This refers to a tangible item that will be produced or used.

Whether you engage one or more of these objectives will depend solely on your project. To help your objectives stand out on the written page, consider using bullet points to delineate them.

It is best to articulate objectives thoroughly to improve your chances of getting your project proposal approved; however, you should avoid objectives that are beyond your capacity to realistically produce, or to achieve during the specified project period. Almost all funders will want periodic or final reports describing how the grant money was used to accomplish all of the objectives you listed.

When developing objectives, grant-writers often confuse them with goals or activities; both of these are incorrect. Goals are more conceptual and often more abstract or task-oriented. Activities are just that the activities your program intends to conduct. (Activities should be described in the “Methods” subsection, which is discussed below.) As stated above, objectives should be the specific outcomes you expect your program will produce.

Some grant-writers also have difficulty developing objectives that are measurable. The best way to accomplish this is to make use of numbers and/or percentages. For example, “The objective of our afterschool program is to increase students’ reading scores by 3% within one calendar year of their enrollment.”

Method(s)

In this section, you will describe the specific activities that will take place to achieve your objectives. It is best when writing the method section to think of it in components of how, when, and why. This will help ensure that you include the key elements in detail separately and that they make sense.

How: This is the detailed description of what is expected to occur between the time your project begins and when it is completed.

When: This is where you list the order and timing of each task involved. You may want to include a timetable here to provide the funder with an easy-to-follow visual. This will make it much easier for the funder to know what you plan to do and when you propose to do it.

Why: In this part, you will explain your rationale for choosing the particular methods you are proposing. This is important, especially given that the funder may or may not have an expert level of understanding about the problems or issues your project addresses.

When developing the method section, you should take an objective look at your project to determine whether or not it is replicable in other words, whether it could be used by you or others as a model for future projects. If you determine that it can be used in this way, the method section should address what you intend to do to document activities or best practices that can make it easier for others to replicate your project. But be careful here. Not all projects are, or should be – replicable. If the project will not work as a model, don’t force it; otherwise, the funder may expect you to replicate it in the future.

In summary, the method section lets the funder visually “see” the project at various steps of its implementation, which will help them gain a much better understanding of how your proposed solutions will address the problems or issues you have described in your proposal. This will add credibility to you and your organization and can go a long way toward helping the funder realize you know what you are doing.

Staffing/Administration

Your proposal must discuss the number of staff you will need to implement the project, as well as each person’s qualifications and the specific roles that each will undertake. Staffing could be anyone you employ directly or indirectly. This means volunteers, consultants, or employees. Describing each staff member, and that individual’s involvement in the project, will help the funder better understand the scope of your project and why you need the funds.

When writing this subsection, you need to disclose any others (including other organizations) with whom you intend to partner to implement the project, including the names of their direct or indirect employees that will play key roles, as well as what those roles are. You must make clear who is going to be responsible for all functions, including financial management, project outcomes, and reporting.

Evaluation and Monitoring

Grant-makers expect results and, therefore, the way in which you propose to evaluate and monitor your project’s actual performance against its objectives is of significant importance to them and must be included in the proposal.

There are many ways to conduct a formal evaluation. One method might be designed to measure the product, while another will analyze the process, and yet another will evaluate the impact the project will have on the market you serve (in other words, your customers). You can choose whichever method works for you; however, whatever you choose, you must describe the manner in which the evaluation information will be collected, how the data will be analyzed and how often you intend to analyze it. You should also describe how you will address any performance that is falling short of expectation and might therefore prevent you from achieving your objectives. If you intend to evaluate performance elements that are in addition to the objectives you have established, this information also needs to be included in this subsection.

A well-planned evaluation and monitoring strategy can show the funder that you take the objectives of your project seriously and that you care how well you are progressing as it pertains to achieving those objectives. A well-planned evaluation and monitoring strategy will also help you refine and improve your program, while helping employees and others learn from you and enhance their professional skills.

Sustainability

In most cases, funders will not want their grant to be a permanent funding solution and will, instead, want you to demonstrate that your project is finite, or that it will help your organization maintain a period of sustained growth. When you are writing your proposal, you must include information that will indicate to the funder – in very direct ways – the long-term financial viability of the project to be funded, as well as of your organization. To accomplish this, you should describe other funding or revenue your organization receives (or has reason to seriously rely upon receiving). Demonstrating sustainability can help your proposal receive more serious consideration than one that either cannot demonstrate it or failed to include this type of information. For this reason, you need to be very specific about current and projected funding streams, both earned income and fundraised, and about the base of financial support for your nonprofit.

As you can no doubt see from this lesson, every part of the project description is important and must be addressed. If you need additional guidance with developing this section of the proposal, you can find an example of a grant proposal in the appendix.

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Assignment

For this assignment you will do the following exercise:

  1. Complete your project description. As with previous assignments, do not worry about whether it is correct. You will have a chance to edit it later. At this point, you should only be concerned with developing comfort and familiarity with writing the project description.

Test

Read over the following questions and provide the best answer possible.

  1. The project description carries a lot of weight with grant-makers.
    1. True
    2. False
  2. The project description should contain at least five subsections. These include objectives, methods, staffing/administration, evaluation and what else?
    1. Sustainability
    2. Methods
    3. Objectives
    4. None of the above
  3. Four potential objectives are behavioral, performance, product, and what else?
    1. Process
    2. Procedure
    3. Purpose
    4. None of the above
  4. When developing the methods section you should separate it into why, how, and when?
    1. True
    2. False

 

Lesson 6 >

Want to Go to College?
$3 Billion in Pell Grants are Unclaimed Every Year by Eligible Students

Grant Funding and Assistance
Billions of dollars are now easily available to many Americans