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How to Write a Winning Fundraising Proposal

Product updates11 mins
Brendan Connaughton|Updated Mar 26, 2024
a group of volunteers are helping an elderly woman in a wheelchair.

Writing a winning fundraising proposal is a two-pronged challenge. Not only do you have to convince people your project is worth their money, but also that it will make a genuine difference.

And that is what this guide aims to help you do.

We break down the writing process into a series of steps where these two threads are tied together, helping you communicate your vision in a compelling fashion that does justice to your cause.

Key takeaways

  1. A winning fundraising proposal convinces donors of the project's worth and potential impact.
  2. The proposal should detail the problem, the proposed solution, and the expected positive changes.
  3. It's crucial to outline specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals and objectives.
  4. The proposal should demonstrate the organization's capability and provide a detailed budget and funding needs.
  5. A strong call to action at the end of the proposal can leave a memorable impact and prompt the audience to act.

What is a fundraising proposal?

A fundraising proposal is a document designed to persuade potential donors, sponsors, or investors to provide funding or resources for a project, cause, organization, or event. It outlines the fundraising initiative's purpose, goals, and benefits, providing detailed information on how the funds will be used and the impact they will achieve.

But there’s more to it than just asking for cash. This document makes your project come alive, showing the details of the problem, your plans to fix it, the budget that needs raising, and the positive changes you aim to bring.

A fundraising proposal aims to communicate the significance of the initiative, the need to raise funds, and the impact those funds will make.

Steps to write your fundraising proposal: Key elements to include

If you're ready to start writing fundraising proposals, here are the steps you will need to take and the key elements you need to include if you want to see your project get funded.

1. Start with a strong executive summary

When starting your fundraising proposal, make your executive summary clear, to the point, and full of energy.

Begin with introducing your fundraising project or cause. Why is it important? Why does it need not just their time here but their money, too? You're not just listing facts but sharing a story. Talk about the problem or need you're tackling, but help the reader visualize the brighter future your project promises.

Give a sneak peek of your plan to make your vision come true. Mention your solution and how you'll achieve it, but keep it broad, as you’ll provide the real details later. Highlight what makes your project special and why your team is the best to make it happen.

2. Define the problem or need

In this part of your fundraising proposal, you must discuss the issue your project is tackling in more detail.

Begin with a clear picture of what's currently happening that shouldn't be. What's going wrong, or what are we all missing out on? Use real stories, numbers, or feedback from people to bring this issue to life.

Stress that even though this issue is big, it's not too big to tackle. There is hope, and indeed, that is where they- and you- come in. Change is possible, and you are encouraging and empowering them to be a part of it.

3. Present your solution

Now that we've discussed the problem, it's time to bring your solution.

First off, explain clearly what your solution is. What's your plan to tackle the issue you've described? Get into the details here—describe the steps you'll take, the methods you'll use, and the resources you need. Keep it simple and clear.

Then, talk about why your solution is the best option. Explain why you've chosen this approach, using evidence, research, or examples of similar successful projects. This part isn't about saying other ideas are wrong but convincing others that your plan fits this problem best.

Remember to describe the significance of the impact your solution will have. Think about the broader effects. How will things look different after your solution is in place? Describe the positive changes you see in the future.

4. Outline your goals and objectives

Goals and objectives are similar but not the same. Goals are your big dreams—the major changes you want to see because of your project. Objectives are the specific actions you'll take to reach those dreams.

They should follow the SMART criteria:

  • Specific (clear about what you want to do)
  • Measurable (you can track progress)
  • Achievable (it's possible to do it)
  • Relevant (it fits with your overall mission)
  • Time-bound (has a deadline)

When discussing your goals, try to light up your readers' imaginations. For example, if your project aims to improve education in needy areas, a goal could be to better the education of 500 students in a year. Then, your objectives might detail steps like giving scholarships to 200 students, training 30 teachers in innovative teaching methods, and refreshing the curriculum by the semester's end.

5. Detail your budget and funding needs

Start by organizing your financial plan so that it's easy to keep track of. List the major areas where you'll spend money, such as personnel, supplies, and operational expenses. For each area, briefly explain why the money needs to be spent. You aren't trying to justify every little expense, but show that you have thought about what is required and how much it will cost to run.

Then, state the total amount you need to raise. Here, you add up all the costs and reiterate the overall aim of your fundraising. For example, say, "With $10,000, we can give ten students a scholarship. With $20,000, we can help 20 students and buy new learning materials." Specific figures, specific results.

6. Demonstrate your organization's capability

Showing off your organization's strength in your fundraising proposal is crucial. Here, you can show that your team has the right skills, experience, and a history of making things happen.

Begin with a quick look at your organization's history, focusing on your big wins. Talk about the projects or actions you've taken in the past that made a real difference or ongoing projects that you've seen some indications of success with. These establish your credibility and help build trust.

Then, shine a light on the people in your team. Introduce the key players, sharing what they've done before and what special talents they bring to this project.

If you work with other groups, local communities, or government bodies, talk about that, too. These partnerships show that you're not going it alone—you're part of a bigger team, all pulling in the same direction to make a real difference.

7. Include a Timeline

This is where you show how your project will unfold, step by step.
Start by listing out the big steps of your project. For each one, point out the main goals you plan to hit and give a rough idea of when you expect to reach them. These steps might include everything from the early planning to doing the project and checking how well it worked.

Make sure your timeline shows the order of events in a way that makes sense, taking care to avoid any logistical mistakes that can damage the proposal's credibility.

When you share your timeline, keep an optimistic and forward-thinking tone. You're inviting donors to see how their support will help your project progress and achieve results with real impact.

8. Explain your sustainability plan

This explains how your project will keep doing great things long after the initial buzz and funding have died down.

Begin by sharing your strategy for keeping the project financially healthy in the future. You might talk about different ways you plan to make money, team up with other organizations, or get more funding. The main point is to show you've got an innovative plan to keep things running even when the first round of funding is all spent.

Then, discuss how you'll keep the project going operationally. This includes how you'll continue the activities, keep your team together, and manage your resources. Maybe you'll train people in the community to take over some jobs or use technology to do more with less.

9. Detail the evaluation and reporting plan

Explaining your plan for checking how well the project is doing and keeping your donors updated is essential.

First, talk about how you'll check on the project's success. What methods will you use to see how things are going and what impact you're making? Be clear about the tools and approaches you'll use to collect this information.

Then, explain how you'll tell your donors about what's happening with the project. This could be through regular emails, updates on your website, or online meetings where you share the latest news. The plan is to keep donors in the loop, ensuring they always know how their money is helping and what you've accomplished.

10. End with a strong call to action

A strong CTA leaves a memorable impact and gets your audience to act. Start by telling your readers exactly what you want them to do next. It could be donating money or setting up a meeting to talk more about the proposal.

You should also emphasize why their help is important. Refer back to your statement about how their support will lead to positive change. It's about showing them the crucial role they can play in this story.

Example of a fundraising proposal template

Having the right tools to create and distribute your fundraising proposals makes all the difference. The right tools give you and your team more time for what matters most - doing important work and attracting and retaining a healthy donor base. Qwilr's fundraising proposal template is a perfect starting point for organizations seeking to create proposals that grab attention for all the right reasons.

Here is what our fundraising project proposal template includes:

  • Introduction: Introduce what you're all about and make a connection with your reader right from the start.
  • Understanding The Problem: In this part, we detail the problem and its urgency.
  • Your Priorities: This section ties your project's goals with what's important to your donors. It's about showing that you can make awesome things happen by working together.
  • What Success Looks Like: Here, you describe what achieving your goals will mean for your project and everyone involved.
  • Our Approach: Dive into how you plan to make your vision a reality. This is where you talk about your strategy and the careful planning behind your project.
  • Our Services: Outline the specific things your project will do. This part is all about the steps you'll take to meet the needs you've talked about.
  • Our Achievements: Celebrate what you've already accomplished. It's a way to show you have a track record of making things happen and delivering on your promises.
  • Our Team: Introduce the amazing people working on your project. Highlighting the skills and passion of your team reassures donors that the project is in good hands.
  • Investment Required: Explain how much money you need and how the money will be used, showing your commitment to transparency and honesty.
  • Call to Action (CTA): This is where you encourage readers to get involved. Make it clear and easy for them to take the next step, whether donating, learning more at your crowdfunding fundraiser page, or another way to help.
  • Conclusion: End by reminding everyone of the shared vision, the impact of their support, and the difference they can make. Leave them feeling inspired and ready to join you on this journey.

Final Thoughts

Writing a great fundraising proposal requires a mix of the emotional and the practical. A strong story that compels readers to take action and make a financial contribution. This story should be supported by data, past experience, and a detailed plan to enact real change within a community.

We hope this guide has helped make this challenging but rewarding job a little bit easier for you. Qwilr’s fundraising proposal template can help here too: a dynamic, easily-customizable document that grabs (and holds) attention while you tell your story and lay out your plan. Try it today!

About the author

Brendan Connaughton, Head of Growth Marketing

Brendan Connaughton|Head of Growth Marketing

Brendan heads up growth marketing and demand generation at Qwilr, overseeing performance marketing, SEO, and lifecycle initiatives. Brendan has been instrumental in developing go-to-market functions for a number of high-growth startups and challenger brands.

Frequently asked questions

The ideal format for a funding proposal is straightforward and grabs attention. It should make a strong emotional connection and clearly show what you plan to do, how you'll do it, and the difference it will make. Make sure to include key information, such as what needs to be done, the expected results, and a clear invitation to donate or participate, all shared in a way that's easy to understand and hard to ignore.

A fundraising project proposal should be just long enough to include all important details but keep the reader's attention. Typically, this means keeping it between 5 to 10 pages, depending on how complex your project is.

Absolutely! Adding pictures, charts, and infographics can really bring your funding proposal to life. They help make your points clearer and break up any long text sections. Just be sure any visuals are helpful and relevant.