Proposal Format – What to Look Out For
Many times, when you submit a proposal, the competition is fierce. Popular grants receive hundreds and hundreds of applications. That is why it is so important to make sure that your proposal is as close to perfect as possible when you submit it. We have talked a lot about the importance of proofreading, but how about formatting? Even before the donor starts to read your proposal, the first thing they will see is the look of your proposal. That is why it is of special importance to pay attention to the format of your proposal. In this article, we focus on the simple things about the proposal format that can make a big difference in the first impression of your document.
Follow the guidelines
Some donors give you very specific guidelines about the format as well as the content of the proposal. If this is the case, make sure that you adhere to them strictly. While it may seem unimportant to you to use a specific font, it can be the first criteria to sort out proposals for the donor. Before you send off your proposal, make sure someone else has a look at it and double checks if you included all instructions from the guidelines.
Make sure the font is the same size
You might think this is a no-brainer, but you would not believe how many times there are different font sizes in one document. I am not talking about a different size for headings and text – that, of course, makes sense. I am talking about different font sizes in one and the same text block. Double check if you are not sure – it looks very weird and gives the impression that you do not really care for details.
Use the same font consistently
When you chose a font, make sure that it is a font that can be easily read and looks professional. If you write your proposals in Comic Sans, you come off as unprofessional from the get-go. Good fonts for professional documents are i.e. Times New Roman, Calibri or Arial. Do not try to make it too fancy.
Once you chose your font, make sure you stick with it. Especially when you copy paste passages from different documents, make sure that everything in your final proposal is the same font – and the same size.
Pay attention to spacing
Spacing is very important, as documents that have odd spacing look weird at first sight. Make sure that spacing between the lines and to the sides is always the same. If there are no guidelines, I would recommend using a spacing of 1,15 between the lines to make it easier to read – single spaces can make the page look very full.
Especially when you work with bullet point lists, make sure that the spacing to the side is the same. If you have one list that has a side spacing of 2 cm and another that has 3 cm, the reader will be confused – does this mean one list is more important than the other or is it just a mistake?
The same goes for spacing between paragraphs and headings. Make sure it is always the same, either no space or one throughout the document. No matter which decision you take, uniformity is key.
These are a couple of simple things about formatting that you should look out for when finalizing your proposal. Make sure the person who proofreads your proposal has an eye on these things as well. Keep in mind: the format of your proposal should make it easy to read! Although this sounds very simple, you would not believe how many proposals have odd formatting and thus are not considered – no matter how great their content is. Make sure you do not make the same mistake!