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Proposal Writing Templates And Samples Of Successful Proposals

Can proposal writing templates and samples of successful proposals really help you? The honest answer to that question will surprise, and at the same time, reassure you.

Templates for writing proposals really can help you if you use them properly. On the other hand, they can bring you disastrous results if you don't use them the right way.

First, let's look at the main reasons why people search for proposal writing templates.

  1. They want a quick and easy way to write a proposal, not a time-consuming course that requires them to study and learn.
  2. They believe that using a template that brought someone else success will bring them success too.

These are valid reasons. Too bad they don't lead to success!

Let's look at these reasons a little more closely and then recommend the best way to acquire and use templates.

The Get Rich Quick Myth

Believing in the two reasons to use templates (quick and easy, copy the success of others) is like buying into Get Rich Quick schemes.

Just as building a legitimate business takes time and effort, so does writing a successful proposal. Filling the blanks of a template is not part of that equation, except in one specific set of circumstances that we'll mention shortly.

With regard to succeeding at sales (and by extension writing proposals), Geoffrey James of Inc. wrote, "It's not about the worksheets..." and went on to say:

"The world is inundated with sales tools: worksheets, playbooks, sales scripts, software, brochures, and so forth. But all of those sales tools put together are insignificant if you don't have the intellectual and emotional tools that truly create success."
Image of two businesswomen looking in surprise at a computer screen
Is it really that surprising that templates are not on the list of essential tools?

In his article, he went on to describe the following as the seven "real tools" you need to develop:

  1. Patience
  2. Commitment
  3. Enthusiasm
  4. Curiosity
  5. Courage
  6. Integrity
  7. Flexibility

Do you see templates anywhere in that list?

Click here for the full text of the article. It's a short read and very much worth it, especially the part on patience!

Proposal Writing Templates

Is there anything good to say about templates? Absolutely!

Proposal writing templates CAN be very helpful if you use them in these circumstances:

  1. Identical Circumstances – You're writing a proposal to the exact same recipient for exactly the same purpose.
  2. Different Circumstances – You understand how to adapt the template that worked in one set of circumstances to work in your new and different set of circumstances.

Let's look at each of these in turn.

1. Identical Circumstances

Identical here means EXACTLY the same... same recipient, same purpose. After you've done a first successful proposal, you can use it as a template for subsequent ones.

Image of Donald Coggan

Don Coggan here, with a real-life example. Some years back, a government agency had a grant program that covered most of the fees paid to a consultant hired to do an energy audit.

At the time, I had a consulting engineering firm specializing in building energy management. Our first step was to learn from the granting agency EXACTLY what it was they were looking for.

Once we knew what the agency wanted and how they evaluated proposals, we worked with a long-term client who submitted the actual grant application.

The application called for my firm to do the engineering study. Otherwise it would not have been worth it.

After the first success, we repeated the process with other clients, old and new. In less than three years we had done several studies for fees totaling in the six figures!

In the right (identical) circumstances, templates DO work.

2. Different Circumstances

What do you do if you have a template but it's not for the same circumstances? In other words, the recipient is different and/or the subject is different.

Using the example above, the granting agency was the same, as was their evaluation methodology, but the client and his needs were different. The adaptation was almost trivial.

"Trivial" may sound surprising, but it's not. This is because the key to writing a winning proposal is in responding EXACTLY to the evaluation criteria. That had not changed from client to client.

This will become second nature to you after you start using our Write Winning Proposals Toolkit.

Proposal Template Resources

The Write Winning Proposals Toolkit does not have templates per se because we want you to learn the methodology, do things right and be successful. We don't want you to blindly follow a template.

That said, we do recommend using samples as a guide. Samples imply a more thoughtful approach, whereas templates imply a mindless filling-in-the-blanks approach. So, we offer:

Although they are not proposal writing templates, the grant writing and business proposal samples we recommend CAN work for you.

If you use them in conjunction with our Write Winning Proposals Toolkit, they could end up saving you valuable time and increasing your chances of success.

Please be sure to contact us if you have any questions or comments about the content of this page.

Proposal Writing Guide
Expert Tip For November 18, 2017
Write your proposal to the funding agency, addressing the funder's specific interests and needs. Don't write to a generic audience and make your proposal sound canned.
Source: Proposal Writing Guide