Tips for Creating a Boldly Creative Proposal

  1. Do your homework. Carefully review the expectations and aims of the Boldly Creative initiative, the mission of Miami University, and the new strategic planning recommendations.  Analyze the type of projects that have already been funded.  Ask prior recipients who were awarded significant funding, if they are willing to share their successful applications with you—to give you a sense of the scope and depth of a successful project plan. 

  2. Form a diverse team to develop the proposal. Once you have a general idea of the theme or direction of your project, seek out other individuals with needed expertise.  Typically, good teams draw from multiple disciplines, fields, departments and divisions and involve strong external partners.  They also involve persons who are committed to the project and willing to invest the necessary time to create the proposal and carry out the project, if funded.  Weak proposals include team members from diverse areas but it is clear that only one or two persons are truly committed.

  3. Begin by investing significant time on the abstract and aims, even before you have decided upon the research or data-gathering method you will use. Why is this important?  First, this section will be included in your initial letter of intent and pre-proposal and thus be the first thing that reviewers read.  Reviewers will quickly form judgements based upon the message conveyed in this section.  Second, if your letter of intent and pre-proposal are accepted, a well-crafted abstract and aims section will assist you in deciding what research you will need to conduct.  You should continue to revise and hone the abstract and aims as you gather research and gain new insights.

  4. Gather pertinent data, and match your methods with your aims. Because a key aim of the Boldly Creative Initiative is to create projects that will be self-sustaining and/or yield net new revenues, it is critical that you leverage accurate and appropriate data to guide the development of your proposal. Additionally, it is essential to include methods in the proposal that relate directly to the aims of your project. Identify and utilize the expertise of key offices on campus that can assist you, such as the Office of Institutional Research or the budget managers within academic divisions.  You will want to consider and deploy quantitative and/or qualitative measures to address such questions as: What will be the student demand for this project?  What are the employment opportunities?  Is this project a good fit for Miami in terms of its mission and current resources? What will be the competition from other universities and colleges?  Strong proposals include multiple and credible sources of data that are directly tied to the specific project aims.  Less strong proposals promise to conduct research after receiving the first round of funding, and weak proposals do not include a thoughtful research plan.

  5. Divide up tasks and create an aggressive timeline of action steps. Appoint a leader for the team who will agree to schedule meetings and keep members on task.  Create a list of needed action steps.  Have a candid discussion with your team to identify which team members have the strengths, experience and time to carry out the different tasks.  Some successful teams have designated one person to serve as the proposal writer.  As team members gather information, that person works to consolidate ideas and develop the narrative.  Sometimes, it can be more efficient to develop a skeletal draft of the proposal early in the proposal and continuously enhance and develop it as the work continues, rather than scramble at the end to put together the narrative.

  6. Be mindful of your intended audience. Be sure that the proposal can be easily read and understood by readers (i.e., members of the Board of Trustees) who may not have much experience or expertise in the theme of the project.  Well-designed and purposeful figures or tables are often easier to grasp and take up less space than dense text.

  7. Seek external reviews prior to submission. Ask knowledgeable persons on and off campus to read a complete draft of your proposal and offer feedback.  Outside readers can often identify gaps in reasoning or even simple proofreading errors that are missed by the authors who are immersed in the project.