Developing strong proposals: Part 2

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, second in a three-part series will review the elements that make a strong proposal—specifically, developing a project description by answering who, what, when, where, why and how. Remember, all good proposals start first with a good idea!

Who and Where?

It is always good to begin your proposal with a brief overview of who you are or who you represent. In some cases, this may also include your where, especially if you are seeking funding for your farm. A history of your operation is a good way to introduce your proposal concept, and reporting past successes will strengthen your request. If applicable, list relevant partners that will help you achieve your goals. Generally, committees favor diverse, collaborative efforts. Finally, explain who or where this work will benefit. Funders appreciate projects that have beneficial reach beyond one person, organization or operation.

What and How?

These two questions are often answered together as you explain exactly what you plan to do and how you will do it. Typically, these are your project objectives and for what you are specifically seeking funding support. As obvious as it may seem, make this funding request very clear. If you are conducting on-farm research, work with specialists in the field that can help you work through the scientific process to develop your proposal. Common requests, such as ones that support equipment purchases or personnel may be more straightforward, but never assume those reviewing your proposal have any understanding of your business or industry. Concise descriptions are very helpful!


Proposals should clearly outline project start and end dates, along with a timeline of when you intend to accomplish the project deliverables (objectives). Timelines can be a very helpful way to outline your proposal and some may choose to draft this first. A well-thought-out timeline will also assist you when it is time to report your accomplishments. If you have partners listed in your proposal as helping you achieve your goals and objectives, be sure to indicate where their involvement occurs throughout the project. Displaying this information in a table format can be very helpful both in the writing process and for reviewers.


Give the funding agency a reason to want to fund you! And, “because it is a good idea” is not enough. Why is it a good idea and why should they care? Highlight the uniqueness of your project, especially if there are similar ongoing efforts. There may also be an opportunity to explain how your project complements a greater effort. After the logistical descriptions of your project, the reviewer needs to end on a positive note with a clear understanding of why they should fund you. Be concise, but do not overlook this very important part!

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:

Did you find this article useful?