7 Steps to Write an Exceptional Project Proposal

A project will not start if it is not approved or funded. Writing an exceptional project proposal is essential to outline the plan that you are trying to achieve. Every project is specific, and you must aim to create a project proposal unique to that project. The outline may always be the same, but it can be a winning one if you effectively structure your document.

Always remember “you” are not writing the project proposal alone. You want to ensure that the plan get’s developed with stakeholder input. Your project proposal can be refined by actively lobbying and seeking feedback from decision-makers to hone understanding in the document.

It will only take five seconds to determine whether the document kills or thrills your audience. 

Decision-makers are looking for a killer project proposal that creates a significant impact. Start with these seven steps:


This section should draw a picture of the organization’s problem and depict how it is solved with the project as the solution. You may provide a specific example(s) where opportunities have been missed and how they would have been achieved if the project solution was in place. Avoid showing efficiency gains or general skills uplift when looking for a problem benefit as it will not strike a core to the decision-makers.


The vision should tie your project to a long-range strategy or a long-term goal. The vision should fit what the company is doing.


This section should provide measurable things that can be delivered within the project. This should be concise and specific.


These are the artifacts that key stakeholders can expect from your project, including how they will be delivered.

Success Criteria

Critical to be outlined in a project proposal. Use the S.M.A.R.T. acronym for success criteria of your project: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. Once these are met, stakeholders have 100% confidence that your project will be successful.

Deadlines / Plan / Approach – This section should have a clear picture of your process. Deadlines should be listed, Project Plans come together, and what approach you’re going to use (methodologies, external/internal staff) for the deliverables to be produced.

Cost / Budget – This section should show the funding plan for your project and how it’s going to achieve the deadline. It should also show the dollar value of the completed project’s benefits to the organization.

Take time and consolidate Problem, Vision, and Benefits in an executive summary as decision-makers will take 5 minutes looking at your proposal to determine whether or not they will fund it. Remember the flow as if you are telling a story or painting a picture with a caption, from showcasing the problem to the discussion of the budget. Do not introduce any new topics or approaches as everything should coordinate with each other. Once you’ve done this, you can be sure that you’ll get your exceptional project proposal approved.