Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Grant Writing at Eastern University!: Components of the Common Proposal

A resources to help students, staff & faculty in their grant writing endeavors

Components of the Common Proposal

Funders each have specific requests for their proposal process. Be sure to carefully review their prompts and checklists. However, in the event that your funder’s guidelines are vague or too broad, below is what foundations are typically looking for.

Keep in mind there may be differing terms used for the same concept. We have included the most widely used terms. This page will get you started, but every proposal is different and funder guidelines vary. We strongly encourage you to work with the Grants office to develop the strongest proposal for your project.


A brief (usually one page) overview of what is contained in the grant proposal. It should be written last, after all the other parts of the grant proposal are assembled. This page should succinctly explain the problem, your proposal’s solution, the total project budget and your request amount, and explain who you are and who Eastern is.


A lead-in paragraph that tells the who, what, where, when, and why of the proposal.

You may include Eastern University’s history (see above) and a brief background of your department.

This should include a 1-2 sentence summary of the request. For example, “Eastern University requests $20,000 to support the education of economically disadvantaged students.”


Some foundations use this to indicate the place where you include your full proposal. If the sections are not delineated, break out into your own subsections so the reader can clearly find the needs statement, sustainability, program plan, project personnel, objectives, and evaluation.  This portion of the grant proposal may include Eastern University's mission (see below document). It should include:

  • The specific purpose of the request. For example, a project or a program or a scholarship.
  • The problem or need being addressed: use big picture terms that illustrate why funding is necessary and how you will address the identified problem or need. (This does not need to be included in the narrative if there is a specific statement of need section requested by the foundation).
  • A description of the population or community served by your organization.
  • A description of how the grant money will be used.
  • How your project or program will promote long-term change.
  • If there is not a specific section for personnel, include in this section.
  • Reminder: this is a walk through of your project so that even a stranger could use your proposal to implement it. 

Statement of Need

This is the heart of the grant proposal; it is where one explains the dire need for funding to address problem X. You should be able to illustrate the severity of the problem from current research and/or qualitative evidence. Research into the problem—how you know it exists.

It should include:

  • The purpose for developing the proposal—the ‘problem’ being solved or addressed (provide hard evidence, such as statistics).
  • The beneficiaries—who are they and how will they benefit.
  • The larger impact. Be specific—to society? To a specific community?
  • How the applicant organization came to realize the problem exists, and what is currently being done about the problem—are there any similar programs that meet this need in other areas? Are they successful?
  • Most importantly, the specific manner through which problems might be solved. Review the resources needed, considering how they will be used and to what end.

Plan for Sustainability

Explain how the project will be continued or have a lasting impact after grant funding ends.

Program Plan

Step by step progress of how you will address/explore/solve the indentified “problem.” This may not be a section to itself. It is sometimes included in the statement of need/narrative/methods section/ or in a separate chart of Project Goals and Objectives. This section should provide a road map that would enable the reader to complete your proposal if s/he tried.

See supplemental material (at top of box) to help you complete this section.

Project Personnel

Identify project staff members, consultants, and lead scholars. State their qualifications and define their responsibilities within the grant proposal. Describe how participating partners will be selected (if applicable), and what contributions they will make. Include hours or percent of time devoted to the project, and double check whether the funder wants CVs attached.

  • All salaries/wage must be consistent with institutional guidelines


Refers to the macro level/big picture of what you want to accomplish.

For example: “Address the problem of low achievement by community high school students by providing after school enrichment.”


Objectives are tied to outcomes; specific results that can be measured. There are two types that should be included whenever possible:

  • Process Objectives: These are part of  your “now I will solve the problem.” They are a vehicle for measurable objectives that proves you have solved the problem. These are often achieved by virtue of completion. For example, “provide care for 25 students.” If you have 25 students in the after school enrichment program from 4-6pm, you have met your goal.  A good proposal will have more than just process objectives.
  • Outcome Objectives: These are results that will show that you have addressed the problem. They are measurable and quantifiable. For example, “90% of the students in our after school program will demonstrate improvement of two letter grades in reading within one year of program enrollment.” These results are also reasonable and based on research or experience. Expecting 100% success rate or to move students from a “D” average to a “A” average in one semester is not wise.


Tells how you know the project was successful and describes the methods used for measuring your objectives. For example:

  • Will you track students’ grades from beginning to end?
  • Will you use surveys (pre/post)? How will we know the data collected is credible?
  • Will you hire someone to evaluate your results?


Your budget needs to tell the same story as your narrative. Everything listed in the budget should be presented in text of the proposal. Use given grant instructions or templates to complete budget requirements. If not provided with a template, use the template provided at the top of this box. The budget section usually separates the administrative from operational costs.

Be sure to check guidelines for caps on allowable amounts of salary, administration, equipment, etc.

The bulk of the costs should correspond to the bulk of the proposal narrative. For example, if you are asking for $15,000 for an after school program, including $12,000 in your budget for a database system is misleading unless your proposal focused heavily on the need for the database system.

There should be no surprises in your budget that have not been discussed in the rest of your proposal.

It may include:

  • Calculations and rational for each given cost—i.e. why did you need to purchase computers? how did you arrive at the amount needed for printing and mailing? Why is the amount for salaries appropriate?
  • Utilities
  • Buildings and equipment rental
  • Personnel salary including any annual increases, benefits (if applicable)
  • Telephones
  • Insurance
  • Transportation
  • External audits (if listed as part of the evaluation process)
  • Any in-kind money where possible and any commitments from other projects

Unless the grant specifies otherwise, Eastern University’s policy is to include an indirect rate of 10%


Use appendices to provide supplementary but essential materials if they will better illustrate your request. Remember to check the guidelines of the grant to see if providing these is appropriate. 

Possible samples of added material would be Eastern University’s Annual Report, a departmental news update, a screenshot of a model database, a flow chart of the design or process you are describing, faculty résumé, or press release of your project.


Submission dates for applications are generally not negotiable. They are usually associated with strict timetables for agency review. Some programs have more than one application deadline during the fiscal year. Applicants should plan proposal development around the established deadlines.  

The Grants Office policy is to have a proposal completed and submitted 48 hours in advance of the deadline.

Contact Information

Contact Info:

Advancement Office of Eastern University
1300 Eagle Rd.
Ott Hall
St. Davids, PA 19087


Ingrid Cooper
Title V Project Director/Director of Foundations, Grants, and Government Relations