Abya Yala Fund

For Indigenous Self-Development in South & Meso America

Proposal writing guidelines

Good proposals are not just about good writing, they are the result of creative, practical and thorough planning. The following guidelines are designed to help with the conceptualizing and organizing of a funding proposal -- it is not a replacement for the group discussions and planning that must come first.

I. Summary

Do this last. One page or less -- the summary is a synthesis of ALL key elements of the proposal and should flow in the same order, (i.e. introduction, statement of need, what the organization. proposes to do to address need, and what the outcomes of that change will be, as well as answers the broader questions of why this work is important to society in general.)

The summary should answer the questions that funders are asking themselves as they consider the proposal, e.g. "Why should I care? What difference will this REALLY make?" Therefore, explain the broad mission and then talk about the specific goals and objectives of tile proposal (for example: improve access to information and facilitate networking with allies by purchasing two computer systems with modems and training ten community members in computer literacy.)

Remember, the summary may be the only thing the potential funder reads, so it needs to be a concise, compelling mini-proposal.

II. Introduction

When, where, how did your organization start?

What has your organization accomplished so far (especially successes that relate to the current proposal)?

What are your organization's affiliations (e.g. who do you associate and collaborate with on programs such as this; who are your allies?)

Show how your organization complements work of other organizations, (i.e. show that your work does not duplicate existing efforts and add,; new important characteristics, activities, perspective, etc.) Explain its unique niche.

Establish your organization's credibility for addressing the challenges before you.. Establish your organization's expert status. Answer the question, "Why are we the best organization/people to do the work we propose to do?"

III. Rationale or Statement of need

What is the problem in society/the world that your organization hopes to help solve?

Don't try to describe the whole problem, only the key aspects that relate to the mission of your organization. If possible, include interesting and dramatic facts/statistics to enhance the description and demonstrate your expertise/knowledge of the issues.

IV. Vision/Mission (optional)

What kind of world do you envision, as contrasted with the world you just described? Vision statements should be a positive, long-term statement of what you are working towards.

V. Goals

What are the overarching, long-term goals that you aim to realize with your program?

Concisely describe several goals that state what will have changed after your successful project (and, perhaps, follow-up projects) is completed. What do you plan to have accomplished after a year, and after three or five years?

VI. Objectives

Assuming you will receive the money you need (based on realistic expectations about what will come in), what are your objectives for the first one or two years?

These are achievements that bring you closer to your goals. As opposed to goals, which can be qualitative, objectives should ideally have a quantitative measurable nature.

For example:

  1. Triple the number of seed varieties produced locally;
  2. Train nine community members about seed storage and preservation techniques during the first three months.
  3. Create and cultivate three I 00 square meter community demonstration gardens during the first year.
  4. Publicize and hold two demonstration and community harvest festival days for 1 00 people each including nearby communities members.

VII. Plan of Action

How are you going to do each objective? Explain your methodology in sufficient detail for an outrider to understand the process.


You can do this by using the objectives in your objectives section as your guide. For example, in this section, you would start with-

(1) Triple the number of seed varieties produced locally.

a. Project participants agree at the beginning of the growing season to save eight kilograms of corn, beans and one kilogram of pumpkin seeds.

b. The sustainable agriculture committee pays each farmer for the seeds at the local market price.

c. Newly-trained "popular agronomists" prepare seeds and storage areas, and ensure their safe storage until the following growing season.


You can include this kind of detail in the objectives section following each objective.

VIII. Evaluation

One part (program evaluation) is to explain how you will measure the results (i.e. what happened to each one of the objectives above) of the program/project.

The other part (process evaluation) is to explain how you will evaluate whether the execution of the project went as planned,,

These evaluations will become the basis for follow-up planning and for your project report to the funders.

IX. Budget

List your expected sources of income.  (e.g. $4,000 a piece from X and Y Foundations, 1,000 from individual donors, $1,800 from seed and produce sales, etc.)

You can also include the hours of labor contributed by the community agronomists, committee, treasurer, participants, time tending gardens, and so on. Calculate community contribution according to the average hourly wage.

List your costs.

(Look carefully at your plan of action one-by-one and think about everything you need. It is preferable to do this according to the project areas of your organization, e.g. all costs of building your seed store house (wood, nails, fan, wiring, carpenter's labor, etc.); all the various costs of training the "popular agronomists"; equipment (farming implements, computer, whatever), transportation, etc.; all the costs of the two day-long festivals; supplies, calculator and telephone, etc.)

X. List and brief bios of key people; other appendices

List of board of directors (if you have one); key staff or project participant biographies/resumes; financial statements from previous year. Letters of support from well-respected people.

Articles or related documentation produced by your organization or participant, Articles written by others about your organization and/or its projects?

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(1) How do you coordinate your activities within your organization and with outside groups? Please explain in detail.

(2) If you are an NGO, please explain what kinds of communities you work with. How many communities, people, associations and other organizations do you directly work with? What are your relations like with groups in the area that are doing similar work?  

(3) What are the educational and political situations in the communities? Does your work address economic, social and political issues?

(4) If this project involves organizational development, what is the current organizational situation - for example, in regards to organizational structure, accounting practices and administration?

(5) What material, equipment and capital resources does the organization have now?  

(6) If this applies, explain how you intend to increase the effectiveness of the organization, internally and in regards to inter-institutional relations and influence on events.

(7) In specific term, please explain the current situation in regards to communication and information flows, internally and externally, and what are the plans to improve these things?

(8) If the project includes training, who will be implementing the training?  Please explain your choice in trainers and their qualifications.  

(9) What are the other sources of revenue with which the organization functions? What expectations of funding do you have for the following year?  

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ABYA YALA FUND for Indigenous Self-Development in South & Meso America
P.O. Box 28386
Oakland, CA 94604
Phone (510) 763-6553
Fax (510) 763-6588
E-mail: abyayala@earthlink.net

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