Budget and Design Elements in a Proposal Budget and Design Elements in a Proposal “Like it or not, budgets are often one of the most important parts of any proposal or grant” (Johnson-Sheehan, 2008, p. 141). A project budget is an estimated financial plan for any project that may require funding. The budget is a financial snapshot of a project. An effective budget will outline specific costs that will be incurred in the performance of a project during a specific time period. Budgets that are thoughtfully constructed and well presented can be crucial to the funder’s proper understanding of your project.
The form the budget will take will be determined by the complexity of the funder’s guidelines. For simple projects a single page outline of expected expenses may be enough. For more complicated projects entire spreadsheets could be required to breakdown projected costs as well as to include a detailed narrative to explain items of expense or revenue. Budgets are important! After all, proposals are all about money. No matter how exciting the projected solution to a problem may sound, in the end it all comes down to how much it will cost and whether the project is affordable or not.
If not, the funder will either look to cutting the project, or worse, they will continue on to the next proposal. When a budget the writer constructs as budget, he or she will be expected to use the language of accounting. Terms such as itemized and nonitemized, and fixed and flexible, now take on meanings not commonly found in everyday speech. If the proposal writer is not familiar with these terms, or the correct way to use them, they would be well advised to enlist the help of someone who understands this terminology.
Assembling a team of people experienced in the major aspects of the project will prove useful when estimating costs realistically. This paper will suggest that a non-itemized budget would be the appropriate model for a training program proposal. Fixed Costs The choice of the type of budget to prepare will depend on the type of project involved. For a training program the budget will be composed of both fixed and variable costs. The outline could follow a “fixed cost” non-itemized model of expenses and income. This type of budget can represent a summary of costs in a clear and easy-to-follow format.
The major costs involved are fixed costs such as Management and Labor, facilities and equipment, and as such, extensive breakdowns are not generally required. Major Fixed Costs Salaries Staff salaries and benefits are generally the most expensive fixed cost. Employee’s time can be itemized according to the percentage of time spent on the project. Depending on the curriculum, it may also prove necessary to hire specialized trainers on a per-diem or contract basis. In this event industry rates can be used to estimate these charges. The budget summary should detail how many people will be assigned and describe their roles in the project.
Equipment and Facilities Much of the equipment used is equipment that is already owned. For companies specializing in training most of the equipment is already on-hand. These would include items such as computers, copiers, projectors, whiteboards, and any other machinery that is routinely used either in the administrative offices or in the classroom. Provision should be made for maintenance and upkeep as replacements can be expensive. A good way to estimate these costs is to track past replacement costs and to budget accordingly. Overhead is a fixed cost that includes rent, office supplies and paper, and utilities.
These costs can be allocated by percentage use. The other fixed costs are the programs planned for the participants. If the plan calls for 10 people in a leadership development program, planning for the necessary subcontractor and any materials can be readily estimated. Variable Costs Variable costs can be more difficult to estimate. Examples may include bandwidth or online fee per user. Reviewing the previous year’s usage can be helpful in determining how these costs could fluctuate. Material costs can vary as well depending on the types of programs required. Other variable costs would include travel, communications, and printing.
The Summary Budget The summary budget can be attached to the proposal as an appendix with the bottom-line number used in the body of the proposal. A brief summary reinforcing the qualifications of the proposal writer also can be included in this section. Design of the Proposal Presentation, whether it be of a meal or a proposal is a sensory experience. A proposal writer can create a feeling and a mood to a proposal through the use of effective design techniques. The most effective proposals follow the four principles of design: balance, alignment, grouping, and consistency.
Balance An interesting analogy for balance is a see saw. Children of equal weight will balance each other and will be in balance. Visually balance can be affected not only by the size of the blocks of text or graphics laid out on a page, but also by their value, or visual weight. If there is one large block of text on one side, it can be balanced by several smaller items on the other side. Grids can be used to balance the layout of a page. The proper use of balance in a document can convey the impression of stability and competence. Alignment Alignment is the use of vertical white space to help the readers identify the various levels of information in a proposal” (Johnson-Sheehan, 2008, p. 189). Alignment is used to organize the visual appearance of a document. Blocks of text can line up either on their centers, or along their edges. The lines are normally horizontal, whereas the letters form lines along their bases. One of the most useful of shapes is the rectangle that can be used to enclose either pictures or blocks of text either with borders or through the spacing of the letters in blocks of text. The two major types of alignment are edge and center.
Grouping “The principal of grouping is based on the assumption that readers comprehend better when information is divided into smaller chunks” (Johnson-Sheehan, 2008, p. 191). Paragraphing is the most effective way to group text visually. Effective use of headings and selective use of text will help to ensure that all graphic elements work together to create an effective presentation. For this training presentation this writer would use an eye-catching first page and would lay out the body of the proposal in two columns on a three column grid format. The use of photographs could enhance the visual appeal.
Conclusion At the end of the day a proposal is a sale. The proposal writer hopes to win a contract from a funding source to provide a service in response to a need. In many instances the grantor will structure a format for the proposal writer to follow. When no format is indicated it is up to the writer to research the subject thoroughly, to gather an effective team together, and develop a proposal that is both visually appealing and which solves a problem and provides an answer to a need. References Johnson-Sheehan, R (2008) Writing Proposals Second Edition. Longman