The thought of writing a proposal overwhelms many people, but the task does not have to be daunting. Informal proposals are written when people need to ask permission to make a purchase, undertake a project, or write a paper; this type of proposal is a way of persuasively putting forth an idea and asking for action to be taken on that idea. When writing a proposal, consider who will read the proposal and what that person may or may not already know about what you are proposing.
Below we provide an example of an informal written proposal and an editable PDF to help you create your own.
Follow these steps when writing a proposal:
- State your purpose. Do this clearly and concisely so that the reader knows immediately why you are writing.
- Give some background information. Explain why you are proposing your suggestion so that the reader has a better understanding of the problem.
- State a solution to the problem. This is where you give specifics about your suggestion.
- Show costs. Lay out any costs that will be involved.
- Conclusion. Wrap it up by restating the problem and the proposed solution.
For a general overview of how to ensure your purpose is clear, check out What Is Effective Written Communication. In it, we discuss how to write clearly, choose the right tone, and make sure that your message is heard.
Below you will find an example of an informal written proposal asking for new pencil sharpeners for a small private grade school. For each section, we've provided some commentary to explain how that section works as part of a proposal.
Like nearly any official letter, an informal proposal should start with basic information in the header about who it's for, who wrote it, when it was written, and what it is about.
To: Rev. Mark Smith
From: Nicole Johnson
Date: March 10, 2011
Subject: A proposal to purchase new pencil sharpeners for the classrooms of St. Mary's School
Because the audience is the pastor of a church that has a grade school, and because the pastor is not using the classrooms in the school every day, he may not know how bad the pencil sharpeners are. Thus, the problem is stated clearly at the beginning of the purpose section of the proposal.
I am writing this letter to propose a solution to a recurring problem at St. Mary's School. The problem is that the pencil sharpeners in the classrooms are very old and do not work effectively anymore. Students and teachers continually become frustrated because it is difficult to sharpen a pencil with the current sharpeners, and pencils that are sharp are crucial for effective learning.
I suggest that we order new pencil sharpeners for each classroom so that the students will have pencils that work well and will therefore be able to write without the frustration of worn down pencil points.
In this section, the proposal gives more detail and background information about the kinds of problems caused by not having effective pencil sharpeners. The hope is that the pastor will recognize the degree to which the poor sharpeners detract from student learning.
There are 217 students enrolled in kindergarten through 8th grade at St. Mary's School. These students occupy 12 classrooms each day. None of these classrooms has a pencil sharpener that works well; it takes several minutes to sharpen just one pencil.
This means that if all of the students need to sharpen their pencils once a day (depending on how much writing is being done, a pencil may need sharpened more than once a day), it could take an average of 30 minutes to sharpen them all before the students can sit down to their desks and start learning the day's lessons. Thirty minutes of time spent sharpening pencils takes away a great deal from instructional time.
However, not all the students need to sharpen their pencils at the same time. This need arises at various times throughout the day, often at the beginning of a test or a new lesson.
Because of the length of time it takes to sharpen a pencil, the teachers have continuous interruptions in their lessons throughout the day. Almost everything done in a classroom requires a pencil, especially as students get older, and it is difficult to get anything done without this basic tool.
The current pencil sharpeners have been in the classrooms as long as Mrs. Morris has taught here, and that is over 30 years. They do not work well because they have been in use for so long. Even after sharpening for several minutes, the pencil points are still not as sharp as they should be, and the points break off easily, causing them to need to be sharpened yet again.
The goal of this section is to convince the pastor that acting on the proposed solution will reap immediate benefits in the classroom. The proposal is specific in the solution; it does not suggest purchasing just any pencil sharpeners, but specific ones that have been researched. It also includes the recommendation of a friend who is a principal at another school to show that other people say this solution works well for them.
I propose that we purchase electric pencil sharpeners for each classroom. These work quickly and effectively, and take only a few seconds to sharpen a pencil.
Office World carries several pencil sharpeners designed specifically for schools and the high volume of use sharpeners get in classrooms.
I propose we purchase 12 of the Used-All-Day Pro Student Electric Pencil Sharpeners. These sharpeners have received strong reviews on the Office World website. In addition, Central Elementary School purchased these for all their classrooms four years ago, and their principal has told me how well they still work.
In this section, the proposal shows exactly how much the purchase will cost. It also shows how the writer has not chosen the most or least expensive sharpener, but one that is priced in the middle. The writer also spells out any additional financial benefits the school will receive by making this purchase.
The Used-All-Day Pro Student Electric Pencil Sharpeners cost $42.29 each. However, Office World gives a discount if purchasing 10 or more, reducing the cost to $35.29 each. Because we are a member of the Office World Schools frequent shopper program, we will receive 2% of our purchase back at the end of the school year. This makes the total cost of the purchase $415.01.
Several electric sharpeners exist that cost more and less than this one, but because of the recommendations of others, I believe that purchasing a middle-priced sharpener will be a wise choice for St. Mary's School. Because Office World offers free shipping for purchases over $50, we will not have any shipping costs.
The conclusion restates the problem and the proposed solution and ends on a positive note encouraging the reader to act on the proposal.
In conclusion, I think purchasing new electric pencil sharpeners for each classroom would be of tremendous benefit to St. Mary's School. It would put an end to the constant frustration of students never being able to find sharp pencils, and of losing instructional time because of the length of time it takes to use our current sharpeners.
Thank you for considering making this purchase for our teachers and students!
This may seem like a lot of work for what's considered an informal proposal. What must be involved in a formal proposal? Believe it or not, they're a lot more work. Formal proposals require a title page (or cover memo), an executive summary, a table of contents, introduction, reference list, appendices, a glossary, and more.
Informal proposals may just have a few sections, as we've seen above, and don't necessarily need to bring a multitude of facts and evidence to the table (although they can). In a way, informal proposals are more related to memos.
There's also a difference in tone. Any time you're submitting a request to someone in a managerial position or an outside party, you want to write in a professional tone. Informal proposals allow for a little more leniency.
For more on the different types of proposals, check out How to Write a Proposal. It'll help you with any of your more formal endeavors.
Have you ever heard, "Don't take no for an answer"? Well, sometimes we have to. But, when it comes to proposals, you can put your best foot forward and propose your wildest dreams.
Our final piece of advice is to write in the active voice. To ensure you're on the right track, check out these Active Writing Tips. They'll help you add impact to your writing and write in the clearest tones possible. When there's no room for confusion, there's a greater chance you'll receive that fateful "yes."