It's the Outline, Stupid

Effective written material is always the result of a process which began with an outline. Proposal evaluators want concise, easy-to-read information free of fluff and sales pitches. In order to be brief and concise, one must start with a detailed proposal outline from the outset. The outline provides the unifying structure needed when multiple staff persons are writing pieces of a federal proposal. Without it, your staff is likely to be faced with chaotic, late-night writing exercises and lost weekends before a proposal is due. Not to mention the fact that you are trying to coordinate pieces of a proposal which are written by different individuals - all of whom have different writing styles.

Federal Requests for Proposal (RFPs) have a number of common elements. The element which may vary by RFP is the work requirements' section of the proposal. The other chapters of federal proposals are basically the same regardless of the RFP (although the chapter titles may differ somewhat). A generic proposal outline, which is based on common elements found in most RFPs, can be used to begin the writing process and every company writing federal proposals should have one.

The benefits of having an outline at the project's inception are as follows:

  1. An outline saves drafting, editing and rewriting time. With this extra time, your staff is free to develop creative content and customer-centric solutions
  2. An outline provides writers with a detailed description of what needs to be drafted and how content should be written.
  3. Proposals prepared with an outline are almost universally more concise and consistent.

We have numerous clients who, in their past professional lives, have evaluated proposals for a living. Without fail, these clients report that evaluators can spot a proposal with a logical structure from a mile away. Such proposals simplify the evaluator's job, make your business seem superior to your competitors, and end up in the right pile after the first round of evaluations. After all, most evaluators don't like evaluating proposals any more than you like writing them.

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