Proposal Component Details

The following paragraphs describe in more detail what is generally expected in grant proposals.  For information on proposal components not addressed here, please contact Devon Murphy Stein at x5578 or at

Executive Summary. The Executive Summary clearly and concisely outlines the essence of your project, including the need you are addressing, the project’s objectives, methods for achieving your proposed outcomes, and the amount of grant funding requested. There are often specific word or page limits that specify how long the executive summary (or project summary) can be.

Proposal Narrative. Use this section to outline the who, what, when, where, why, and how of your project. Describe the role you (as project director) and each project participant will play, and highlight the professional experience and research interests that qualify each person for their role. Clearly state the general need your project addresses, and describe both your project goals and your objectives for achieving those goals. Provide a detailed description of your methodology and a time line of project activities. You should also include plans for evaluating your project’s success at the end of the grant term. As you begin to write your proposal narrative, use your funder’s guidelines to shape and organize the content. Include the specific information they request – in the order they suggest (or list) – and use their section “headings” and numbering system.

Project Background or History. This section should be directly connected to the broader field in which you are working. This is where you put your project into context. What aspects of the problem have already been addressed by others (cite their work)? What do you plan to contribute to the area of knowledge? Describe what makes your project unique and the steps you plan to take to address the problem identified.

Budget Narrative. In this section, you should lay out precisely which resources you will need to complete your project and why. Describe your project costs in detail and outline how grant resources provided by the funding agency will be used. Be sure to highlight any cost-sharing resources that will be made available for the project and the sources of those funds (University funds, other grant funds, in-kind services, etc.). Your budget narrative, combined with your budget attachments, should answer any and all questions a funder may have about your project costs and resource plans.

Cover Letter. When proposal guidelines allow, a cover letter supporting your proposal is often written by the president, dean of academic affairs, department chair, C&F director, or another representative of the University. The C&F staff can help you determine the best way to approach the cover letter.

Attachments/Appendices. These provide the funding agency with facts, figures, and other important information to support your case for grant funding. Some funding agencies have specific requirements and suggestions for attachments. Check the proposal guidelines carefully and include only those attachments that fit the funder’s criteria. In addition to a complete and accurate project budget, proposal attachments often include letters of support, documentation of the University’s IRS status, names of those on the Board of Trustees, and an updated curriculum vitae from the project director and others involved with the project.