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Writing Winning Proposals: Get an Agreement First!

By Martha Lasley
Coaching for Transformation
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Originally Published in Facilitating with Heart

I’ve written way too many proposals. Over the years, I’ve learned never to write a proposal until we already have an oral agreement. The proposal merely validates the agreement.

When someone in an organization asks for a proposal, I used to think that meant they were ready to move forward. It doesn’t. It means they are fishing or blowing me off or considering someone else and using me to show they’ve done their due diligence. I can spend a lot of time writing a great proposal, but unless I have the agreement first, I’m wasting my time. I assert that after you make a strong connection, get in touch with their pain, offer a program that will relieve that pain, and come to an agreement about money and logistics, then you’re ready for the proposal.

Most of my proposals depend heavily on using the client’s language and have several sections that include:

  • Situation Summary – the needs of the organization
  • Desired Outcomes – the results they want, measures of success
  • Recommendations – description of the program, methodology
  • Value and Investment – costs and what they pay for
  • Timing and Scope of Project – logistics
  • Acceptance – authorization to proceed

If you want to know how to write a great proposal, I recommend Robert Middleton’s online book, The Marketing Guru,1 which is full of useful marketing information.

I am thrilled that I get to work with a lot of social activists in nonprofits, who are serious about human evolution. I also love working with the cut and thrust, masculine energy of corporations. I feel at home in that environment, but part of what I love is that I get to impact the softening of the work place and bring in some balance with nurturing, compassionate energy.

I like working with people who can see beyond the evil empire stereotypes and truly enjoy working with organizations. Business drives the economy and has incredible power to mobilize resources for personal development and social change. Organizations provide jobs that sustain people and offer products and services that make life easier.

That doesn’t mean I endorse the dark side or the atrocities committed in the name of business. Despite deep despair about how some businesses operate, I have great hope that infusing compassion in the business world has the power to unite us, offering global communion that crosses ethnic and political boundaries. I get to partner with a cadre of sensitive, vulnerable, visionary leaders who embrace the business and nonprofit world and choose to serve by helping them evolve.

1 Robert Middleton. The Marketing Guru. http://www.actionplan.com/


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