Teaming Up to Tackle a Proposal

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When it’s time to write the winning proposal, it can turn into a scene from a bad movie: the writer, alone at a cubicle, staring down the guidelines, cramming thousands of words into tiny boxes, gulping black coffee and heart racing to the beat of a merciless clock on the wall.


It doesn’t have to be that way. Proposal writers might want to consider ways to engage colleagues in a collaborative proposal development process. The “team approach” has its own challenges but there are some ways to make it work better.


Teams work best when each individual is in position to do what she or he does best. A data cruncher? Ask that colleague to work over the budget. An experienced counselor? Ask that person to interview clients and collect great stories. A longtime resident of the target community? Ask that person to help you build a before-during-after timeline of your project and its place in local progress.


Teams also need a game plan. This is the overall strategy for compiling information, setting deadlines, “practice” before the big game. In a proposal development process, this might mean a Google Doc or other shared folder so everyone can record their ideas and narrative. It might mean a big, bold calendar on the wall so everyone sees the intermediate and ultimate deadlines. It might mean more frequent (even if they’re brief) meetings and calls to make sure everyone is on target and has what they need to do their part.


Finally, a successful team needs a captain, or a point guard to call plays, or a manager to hold everyone’s attention on the prize, the goal, the finish line. This is the role a proposal writer can play IF THEY BELIEVE that the end product will be stronger than if it’s done solo. With that belief, teamwork is not only possible but effective and productive. Without it, get ready for that frenzied, frantic last-minute movie scene.


Thomas Boyd is Chief Editorial Consultant for The Grantsmanship Center
and an independent consultant to nonprofit organizations.

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