379: introduction to professional writing
Some proposals are as brief as a memo; others may extend to several hundred pages. Informal proposals within an organization may be presented orally; formal proposals from a contractor to a government agency are likely to appear in a folder that is professionally printed and bound.
Whatever their details of form and presentation, all proposals share three elements:
1. Begin by identifying a need. In past semesters, students have sought funding for after-school baseball leagues, breast cancer research and a documentary film to document the threatened habitat of mountain gorillas. Give your subject careful thought, as you'll be working on this assignment on and off through the rest of the semester, and you'll do better if you like it. Be idealistic. Foundations are set up to reward idealism. If you identify a cause you believe is important (and interesting), the research and writing will be easier.
2. When you have identified a need, find an entity to represent -- c.g., a nonprofit organization that serves that need. You may find a list of nonprofits at Guidestar: the National Database of Nonprofit Organizations.
3. When you have identified a need and a nonprofit on whose behalf you are writing, you must find what is politely termed a "revenue source" -- a contracting agent or granting agency.
Perhaps the best place to begin is The Illinois Researcher Information Service (IRIS). I encourage you to spend some time exploring this site, as it offers links to a wide range of sites associated with foundations. A particularly valuable feature is the IRIS Alert Service. Sign up, and you will be alerted to funding opportunities within the area(s) you specify automatically and on a regular basis. You may find a list of foundations at The Foundation Center. You might also look at the Foundation Grants Index, which cross references foundations, recipients of grants from the previous year, and subject areas. It is available online for a fee; a bound version is available in the reference section of Du Bois Library (and, for that matter, most libraries).
Many of you may be interested in small or intermediate scale projects involving education and the arts. You would be wise to investigate funding possibilities offered by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, whose stated mission is "to promote excellence, access, education and diversity in the arts, humanities and interpretive sciences in order to improve the quality of life for all Massachusetts residents and to contribute to the economic vitality of our communities."
samples, models and guidelines
should follow the guidelines supplied by the foundation or other
agency from which you are seeking funds. Please include a copy of
those guidelines with your assignment.