Early in my career as a trainer, I never considered sending a proposal before starting on a project.
I felt so honored to work with these groups and make a living doing it, that I would run around serving any need I could identify.
Design another training? Great.
Need someone to pick up coffee? On it.
It came from a genuine desire to help and be to useful, but eventually, I ran into problems.
Turns out trying to be everything to everybody is a recipe for burnout.
Why You Should Always Write a Proposal
Nowadays I rarely start a project if there isn’t a clear proposal in place.
This is difficult in practice because the needs of the groups I work with are often urgent.
But if the urgency prevents a thoughtful consideration of what needs to be addressed and how we will try to address them, then I will just be redundant, at best or, at worse, adding to the problem.
Proposals are like boundaries, they help clarify expectations with as much specificity as possible, on both sides, to help improve the relationship.
These expectations might transform along the way, but having them written down makes it easier for us to notice and have communication about later.
What to Include in a Proposal
When I first started capturing expectations it would read like a scope of work.
I would include things like who will be trained, the number of trainings, and the time we will spend.
But the more elaborate projects became, the harder these were to predict.
Now I focus less on the number of trainings and meetings and more on the results that we are trying to achieve.
This allows us to include a wider range of tools than just training to accomplish these goals.
The experience the group is facing that demands for this project take place.
I usually write it addressed to “you,” being the decision-maker, or decision-makers, who have the power to approve the proposal.
Things I don’t include are the our organization’s mission, history, or the relationship between our organizations.
This saves space to talk about what’s actually important for the project at hand.
The observable results we want to achieve upon completion of the project.
This is usually quantifiable, but it doesn’t have to be.
The important thing is that we can see it happening.
If we don’t know what success looks like, it’s hard to have a successful project.
Measures of Success
The units that we can evaluate throughout or following the project to determine how successful we’ve been.
It’s similar to outcomes, but different.
To use a soccer analogy (I played in High School and not much since) the outcome would be the ball is placed in the back of the net of the opposing team and the measure would be the number of goals scored.
The steps you will take in order to achieve the desired outcomes and by when they will be complete.
The approach should include four stages:
- Needs Assessment
I usually include three different versions of how to accomplish results.
Version one might be a one-off training, but version three might involve one-on-one coaching with trainers following the session. Number two would be somewhere in-between.
There is a different level of commitment and investment for each and having three options allows the partner to choose to go deeper than they may have otherwise considered possible.
Options two and three might include some other tools, besides training, to help you accomplish the desired results.
The tangible assets that will be created by the end of the project.
For example, this could include a curriculum outline, Trainer’s Guide, or job aids.
It’s the documentation that will help learning be applied beyond the project itself.
The work that the trainer and the partner will perform throughout the course of the project.
Even just clarifying that this is a collaboration and you are not a superhero come to save the day can be an important part of a fruitful partnership.
What the partner will provide in exchange for the work detailed and other boundaries not so far mentioned.
This is where you address things like:
Will the work be performed in person or remote?
What is the expected investment/compensation for each of the options listed under the Proposed Approach?
It could also include scheduling, ownership of assets, and other details.
One thing that’s important is that the proposal is based on previous conversations with those who have a stake in this project.
Practice your listening skills and use the proposal as a chance to share back and summarize what you heard in previous conversations.
Send the proposal to your contact and ask if they have any questions.
And don’t forget to follow-up!
What do you think? Are proposals important to your work as a trainer? Let us know in the comments.