Developing strong proposals: Part 1

Although not all funding opportunities are the same, there are some basic elements to any proposal that producers must consider.

Agriculture throughout Michigan is quickly evolving as operations are looking to diversify or modify production practices. Unfortunately, capital is not always available to make these dreams a reality. In response, producers have been actively seeking grants or other funding opportunities to take the next step with their operation. A producer must develop a strong proposal in order to access these funds.

Although not all funding opportunities are the same, there are some basic elements to any proposal that producers must consider. Michigan State University Extension recommends developing a basic proposal ahead of that perfect funding opportunity, to allow for careful planning and to prepare for success. This article, first in a three-part series will review the elements that make a strong proposal—specifically establishing goals and objectives for your project. Remember, all good proposals start first with a good idea!

Goals and Objectives

Goals and objectives are often confused, but in your proposal, they should be identified and clearly stated. Goals are long-term in nature and may not even be achieved within the duration of the project you are proposing. They should encapsulate what you envision for the future of your operation. Goals should be, however, measurable, so that you can actually determine if you have reached the goal you set. In contrast, objectives are the action items that you will do to achieve your goals and should be brief and concise. Typically, these should be accomplished within the duration of the project and are often the actual things you are seeking funding for. When setting both goals and objectives, always think SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.


Goal: Double the amount of tomatoes delivered to market from my farm by 2015.


  1. Purchase a hoophouse by March to expand capacity and extend the growing season.
  2. Attend a workshop in December to educate myself on better yielding varieties.
  3. Make improvements to my cool storage by September to extend tomato shelf-life and marketability.

Once you have determined your project goals and objectives, you will want to use these as a guide to draft your project description. Within this description you will define the who, what, when, where, why and how of your proposal, which is outlined in the second article of this series.

If you have any questions on how to develop a strong proposal or need assistance locating funding opportunities, feel free to contact Ashley McFarland via e-mail at or by phone at 906-439-5176.

Other articles in this series:

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