How to write grant proposal work plans

In addition to the ever-present requirement for a project narrative, some RFPs require a “work plan.” For many novice grant writers, confronting the work plan raises a sense of dread similar to having to prepare a logic model. Unlike logic models, which involve a one-page diagram that displays project elements in a faux flow-chart format, work plans are usually structured as multi-column tables, like the simple illustration in this PDF (or try here for the Word version).

As the attached file shows, the work plan usually contains a blank for goals, with blanks for objectives under each goal and activities for each objective. Other columns may include timeframes, responsibilities, deliverables, data to be collected, and so on.

While it’s possible to create a 10- or even 20-page work plan (the work plan is usually not not counted against the project narrative page limit), there’s little reason to do so, unless you’re required to by the RFP. Instead, one overarching goal statement is generally enough. A goal statement might be, for example:

The project goal is to improve employment and life outcomes for formerly incarcerated cyclops by providing a range of culturally and linguistically appropriate wraparound supportive services.

Use that goal to develop three or four specific and measurable objectives, along with three or four activities for each objective. This will result in a work plan ranging from one to five pages. Each additional goal will (probably pointlessly) increase the page count and the chance to create continuity errors. A compact work plan will clearly summarize why and how the project will be implemented and it will be easy for readers/scorers to understand. That’s enough for a work plan.

It’s easy to introduce continuity errors between the workplan and narrative because goals, objectives, activities, timelines, etc., may be sprinkled throughout the narrative, budget, logic model, and/or forms, depending on the RFP requirements. Details in the work plan must be precisely consistent with all other proposal components. The more you edit each proposal draft, the less you will be able to spot internal inconsistencies within the narrative or between the narrative and the work plan. Inconsistencies will, however, stand out in neon to a reviewer reading the entire proposal for the first time.

We’re experienced grant writers, so we draft work plans after the second proposal draft is completed. But novice grant writers will find it useful to draft the work plan before writing the first draft, as this will help you organize the draft. Novices should also read differences among goals, objectives and activities before tackling the work plan.

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