Use this template to start a new project –outline project goals, deliverables, timelines, resources and budget. Then, let everyone know what problem your project solves… putting you that much closer to approval and kickoff! Download your template now and start your project off right.
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Why You Need a Project Proposal
What is a project proposal? In short, it’s a request for buy-in and support, usually in the form of financial assistance, to start a project. It outlines the plan and organization of that project in detail.
You can think of a project proposal as the vehicle in which you deliver the rationale for your project. It’s a formal communications document that exists to convince your sponsor or boss that the project has a good reason for existing, in that it addresses a specific problem or exploits a unique opportunity.
The project proposal is created to kick-off a new project. In it, you’ll collect details about what you need and why you need it in order to successfully initiate and execute the project. It must be in-depth, but clear as to convince the sponsor of its value. The whole project literally rests on this document, because after reviewing it, the sponsor will either approve or pass on the project.
Related: Project Planning Software
A project proposal is necessary when coordinating resources, tasks, equipment and materials within a timeframe in order to reach a business objective. It helps you structure the project so that it remains on track with your goals and objectives. This focus is what leads to a successful project.
The proposal should be authored by the project manager, though that is not always the case. Sometimes a project manager will come on board a project after the proposal has been approved, and they’ll inherit the document and be expected to carry it out.
Either way, when a proposal has been approved, the next step is writing a business case. That is a document in which the financial requirements are outlined and explained. Also, you’ll have to write a project charter to scope out the project and make sure that all parties involved know what is required.
Project proposal templates can help save time during the busy project kickoff phase. A project proposal is involved enough that you don’t want to also be generating a new outline every time you start a different project.
How to Write a Project Proposal
Writing a project proposal varies depending on the project, but the planning of any project shares foundational parts. Some of those pieces of the project proposal that are universal, no matter what you’re working on, are defining your audience. You have to know who you’re talking to or there is no direction to your project.
Another fundamental is identifying a problem and explaining how the project plan is the solution to that problem. Projects aren’t initiated for the fun of it. There must be a purpose and that has to be clearly defined in the project proposal.
All projects require research. Whether that’s going back to historical data or market research or tapping the experience of experts, the project needs to provide the due diligence of stating what the issue is and what the potential solutions are. Then the project must be tethered to the organization. It must adhere to the strategic goals of the organization, of course. But the plan must also act as a means to further the organization’s success. This must be clear.
Every plan must also have a timeline over which the project will run its course. Resources must be noted – what type and how much – as they’re the material with which you build your project. With all these pillars in place, you can now start your project proposal template.
While some people use an Excel project proposal template, we’ve provided a Word template to help you with the actual document creation step-by-step, so all you have to do is fill in each step with the pertinent project information. So, now, how do you use this free project proposal template?
How to Use ProjectManager.com’s Project Proposal Template
We’ve outlined below all the steps you need to take to create your project proposal. Each section of the document template is described in full to help you know what data or information you need to include in each area of the project proposal template.
First, you have to write what is called an executive summary of the project. Think of it as an overview to the project in which the entire project is noted within the history, vision, goals and timeframe of the job. This is like your elevator pitch, where you want to capture the audience with a vivid picture of the project as a whole. After your summary, which sketches out each of the sections of the project, the sponsor should already be sold on the idea.
This is the section in which you provide a history of the company, which puts the project in context. Describe all the relevant history that has happened in the company up until the date of the proposed project. If there have been any previous projects that through their experience will help or hinder the project, note them. Don’t leave anything out, because if you do the sponsor may come back with questions and request more information, which will delay the start of the new project.
At this point in the proposal go into great detail about the business problem the project solves or the opportunity it is taking advantage of. If it’s a problem, what type of problem is it? What are the features of the problem that the company is directly experiencing? If you’re addressing an opportunity, then what is the environment for that opportunity? Is there a timeframe in which it can be taken advantage of?
Now the important piece of the proposal puzzle: How do you plan to solve this problem? Write what that solution is, then explain the scope of the solution and the way in which it’ll be delivered. Don’t get off-track. Your project is about this solution and only this solution. The more narrowly focused you are, the more likely you’ll communicate your idea and it will succeed.
You’ve got your background done, and you’ve put this new project in context. Now you need to describe the new project.
What’s Your Vision and Your Goal?
Be clear and state the vision of the project and its goals. You must be specific and the goals must be measurable. Think: action-oriented, realistic and based in time. This is not a place for broad strokes, but rather concise and exact results you expect to achieve. Have the goals listed out to add clarity.
What Are the Deliverables?
Whatever the project, there are going to be deliverables throughout its lifecycle. These are crucial to the project’s success and need to be detailed.
What Is the Timeframe?
A project isn’t a project if it doesn’t end, so every project is subject to its timeframe, and this is where you detail yours. What is the amount of time you need to complete the goals of the project? Specify that here.
What Are the Resources?
A project needs resources to get it done, and this is the section you will detail those you need to complete your project. List the type of resource, the quantity and then add notes as needed to clarify.
What Is the Budget?
Resources cost money, and that financial obligation is estimated here. This is an important part of the budget for the sponsor, as they are going to pay for it and you have to show them a return on that investment.
Who Owns the Project
Here you outline the people responsible for the project, the target of the project and the person the project is being executed for. Who is the project sponsor, customer, project manager, et al.
How Will the Project Be Reported On?
If the sponsor approves the project, they are going to want a progress report. What the frequency of those reports will be is determined here. Also, how will the reports be distributed and who will get them. You can also put in the amount of team meetings you intend to have over the lifecycle of the project.
What Are the Risks and Issues?
Risks are what might happen. You need to write them down, how they may occur and what to do if they do. Issues are something that has happened. While there are unlikely to be many before the launch of the project, if anything is going to stop deliverables from being delivered, this is where you want to collect them.
What Are the Implications for the Project?
This is the part when you explain what would happen if the sponsor chooses not to accept the project. What will the implications be? Make it clear that the cost to the business of not taking on the project is higher than if they approve it.
What Is the Success Criteria?
How do you define success in the context of this project? This is the section in which you get to note what that is. Be careful and specific in rendering these details. It’s helpful to list five key success criteria against which the project will be measured.
Someone is going to have to authorize the project throughout its lifecycle, and this is the section in which you determine who those people are.
Document the supporting papers that underlie your project here.
Best Practices When Writing a Project Proposal
Something to remember when creating a project proposal is that the cover letter or executive summary is often the only thing they read. If you don’t wow them from the get-go then they might get going and there goes your project.
Along the same lines, you must show throughout the proposal that you understand the needs of your client, stakeholder and/or end-user. This is why research is so important. You can’t be expected to know everything about everything, but you should do the work to be intimately familiar with whatever venture you’re proposing.
While you should have spent a good amount of time on the scope and budget of the project, you might not have given the proposal a final read. Editing is important. It looks bad if there are typos or if your tone and style are diametrically opposed to the organization.
Give the proposal a rest, get some coffee or lunch, then go back to it with fresh eyes. You’d be surprised what you find. Or, better still, get someone else to edit the proposal. You can never have too many eyes on a piece of writing.
Project Proposal Checklist
Before you finish your project proposal, go over this checklist to make sure that you’ve included everything you need to win the project.
- Cover letter
- Executive Summary
- Initial Consultation
- Costs (project manager, consultation, project plan, etc.)
- Additional Costs (travel and expenses)
- Terms and Conditions
- Acceptance Letter
ProjectManager.com is not only an award-winning project management software, it’s a hub for experienced project managers. It’s also great for those new to leading projects. ProjectManager.com is your one-stop shop to learn the fundamentals of the profession with informative articles, videos and guidebooks that are regularly published on the site. Here are a few that related to proposals.
ProjectManager.com is online project management software that provides tools to address every aspect of managing a project, from beginning to end. Once you’ve used the free project proposal template and you’re ready to take your project to the next level, with real-time scheduling, reporting, and tracking, visit ProjectManager.com and take our free 30-day trial.
(This post was updated in December 2019)