38 What is a Proposal?

A proposal is one type of argument. Because an integral part of a non-profit is determining the best way to solve a problem, learning more about proposals is important.

Proposals are vital to our lives. They give us an effective way to address the problems affecting us every day. Over the past several weeks, you have been writing about a non-profit organization that you care about. Your organization is addressing a problem in your community, and this paper is an opportunity to help them do something to solve that problem by sharing with others who they are and what they do.

Writing a solid proposal requires a critical questioning attitude. To solve a problem, you need to see it anew, to look at it from new perspectives and in new contexts. A proposal tries to convince readers that its way of analyzing and creatively solving the problem makes sense. The writer must be sensitive to reader’s needs and different perspectives.

Components of a Proposal

A proposal includes the following elements:

  1. Introducing the problem: Whether you are reminding your readers of a problem that they are well aware of or illuminating a problem they may not know exists, you should provide a clear description of the problem. You must both show that the problem exists and that it is worthy of attention. For example, if you are writing about Habitat for Humanity, you want to show readers that there are people who desperately need this organization. Convince your readers that this is a problem that needs solving.
  2. Presenting the Proposed Solution: Your goal here is to convince readers that supporting the organization you’re discussing is the best way to solve the problem you’ve described. Give readers some background information about the organization and tell them about the organization’s mission.
  3. Arguing Directly for the Proposed Solution: Here your goal is to show readers both that the organization will effectively address the need/solve the problem, and that it’s workable for them to support the organization (cost-effective, feasible, and more promising than the alternatives). So, not only are you showing readers conclusively that this organization is solving the problem, you are showing them how they can become involved in that solution.
  4. Counterarguing: As you write your proposal, you should be continually aware of readers’ possible objections, questions, and ideas for alternative solutions. You may either accommodate these objections by modifying your own argument OR refute the objections. You may also want to acknowledge other solutions–this shows your knowledge of the situation and adds to your credibility.


Content created by Dr. Karen Palmer. Last edited 5/30/2020. Licensed under CC BY NC.


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