Proposal Purposes & Types

Proposal Purposes

A proposal is a special type of professional report with two distinct purposes:

  1. to persuade your reader to agree with your recommendations about how to address a problem or issue
  2. to get your reader to act on your recommendations

Just as with other persuasive messages, proposals apply the AIDEA approach overall, capturing your audience’s attention and developing their interest by presenting a problem that needs to be solved or an issue that needs to be addressed. However, proposals are more detailed than brief persuasive messages.  Because most proposed actions require a monetary and/or time cost to the organization, all proposals use a problem-solution approach which includes specific, concrete evidence as reasoning behind the solution.  Proposals focus more fully on logical evidence, as opposed to emotional appeals, in order to get your reader to act.

You may encounter many situations for which you need to write proposals: to get a new client, to get a grant or additional funding for a project, to implement a new procedure, to adopt an internal structural change in your organization, to troubleshoot a problem in your organization, to provide a service, to sell a product, and more.  A proposal tries to convince its reader that the proposed plan or project is worth doing – that it’s worth the time, energy, and expense necessary to see it through; that you represent the best candidate for implementing the idea; and that the recommended action will result in tangible benefits.

Proposal Types

Proposals may be internal or external, solicited or unsolicited.

Internal Proposals

Internal proposals are written by and for someone within the same organization. Since both the writer and reader share the same workplace context, these proposals usually address some way to improve a work-related situation (productivity, efficiency, profit, etc.).

External Proposals

External proposals are sent outside of the writer’s organization to a separate entity (often to solicit business, or to respond to another organization’s request for proposals). Since these are external documents, they are usually formal in nature and may be introduced by a letter of transmittal.

Solicited Proposals

You may write a solicited proposal if an organization identifies a situation it wants to improve or a problem that it wants to solve.  A department or an organization may issue a request for proposals (RFP), asking for proposals on how to address the situation or issue. The requesting department or organization will evaluate proposals and choose the most convincing one, often using a detailed scoring rubric or weighted objectives to determine which proposal best responds to the request and addresses the organization’s needs.

Unsolicited Proposals

You may initiate a proposal yourself if you see a problem or an opportunity to make a beneficial change.  With unsolicited proposals within an organization, you need to identify your audience very carefully in order to get your ideas to the right audience, either an individual or group with decision-making responsibility, or a supervisor who can support the proposal and move it to a higher decision-making level.  Always consider your organization’s environment, internal politics, and how your proposal potentially may be received.  For unsolicited proposals outside of your organization, make sure that you clearly create a need for your audience to convince that audience to read and respond. Unsolicited external proposals are often the most difficult kind of proposal to get approved.

The following video introduces types of proposals, proposal purposes, and characteristics of successful proposals, focusing on internal, unsolicited proposals.