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The vocabulary of proposal development is part of the language required for writing a winning grant proposal. This set of entries covers words and phrases from O to P (see table). Revised and expanded in early 2018, its context is the United States of America.


Outcome Plan of Action
Output Preliminary Proposal
Participant Principal Investigator
Partner Problem
Partnership Professional Development
Personnel Program Design
PESTLE Analysis


OUTCOME: The desired and intended quantitative or qualitative end result or consequence of a set of activities undertaken to achieve one or more objectives. It is often used as a measurement of effect rather than of effort. Examples: 50% reduction in long-term suspensions; 10% reduction in dropout rate; 25% increase in library holdings; 20% loss of body fat; 5% reduction in residential burglaries.


OUTPUT: A tangible or quantifiable product of an activity. It is often used as a measurement of effort rather than of effect. Examples: Four new geography units; ten bilingual education workshops; six program newsletters; 30 home visits; a new health sciences kit.


PARTICIPANT: Someone directly and actively involved in a project or initiative as one who is served by it or who otherwise benefits from it. Examples: Science teachers; juvenile delinquents; English language learners; third graders; parents of newborns; elderly residents.


PARTNER: An individual or organization that contributes resources to a grant-funded project or initiative, often by a formal and legally enforceable agreement delineating responsibilities and commitments between or among the entities involved in it.


PARTNERSHIP: Two or more individuals or organizations, working with each other under an often formal and legally enforceable agreement to accomplish the objectives and attain the goals of a grant-funded project or initiative, and often contributing cash or in-kind resources or both towards its budget.


PERSONNEL: The persons who provide the human labor to implement or support activities designed to achieve the objectives of a project or initiative. Some or many of the personnel, but seldom all, may be paid for out of grant funds. Also see: Key Personnel, Staff, and Staffing Plan.


PESTLE ANALYSIS: An analysis that examines external factors that form the context of a project or initiative. In PESTLE analysis, P = political factors, E = economic factors, S = social factors, T = technological factors, L = legal factors, and E = environmental factors. It is a useful tool for a Needs Assessment and an Evaluation Plan. Also see: SWOT Analysis.


PLAN OF ACTION: The specific series of activities or steps to be undertaken during a project or initiative, as well as the project’s or initiative’s goals, objectives, timeline, personnel, and resources. It is also called a Program Design or a Work Plan or an Action Plan.


PRELIMINARY PROPOSAL: A partial proposal, having some but not all elements of a complete proposal such as a plan of action and a budget, submitted to a grant maker for a review to determine whether it merits subsequent submission as a complete proposal; also called a Pre-Proposal. Also see: Full Proposal.


PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: The person who leads or directs a grant-funded research project, particularly in federally funded scientific or medical research grants; also known as a PI. Also see: Project Director.


PROBLEM: The specific reason for proposing a grant-funded project or initiative, which offers a promising solution to the problem. Example: A dropout rate higher than the state average. Applicants must avoid circular reasoning in defining problems. Example: A lack, an absence, a shortage, or a scarcity, in and of itself, is not a problem; however, one or more of its consequences or effects may represent one. Also see: Need.


PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: A method of continuously improving the knowledge, skills, and/or abilities of a defined group of participants; or a method of enhancing or increasing the formal qualifications or credentials of a defined group of participants. Participants in it often may include a project’s key personnel. Also may be called Training or Staff Training or Staff Development.


PROGRAM DESIGN: A time-bounded plan for implementing a project including goals, objectives, activities, timeline, and strategies. Also called an Action Plan or a Plan of Action or a Work Plan.


PROJECT: The specific proposed program or plan of action for which grant funds are being requested. A project has a definite start date and a definite end date, and it has an explicitly defined and time-bound set of desired outcomes.


PROJECT COORDINATOR: The person who manages and implements a project under the auspices or supervision of a project director or a similar administrator. Coordination is often a desirable role for personnel when a project or initiative targets multiple sites or features multiple components or involves many partners. Also see: Project Director and Principal Investigator.


PROJECT DIRECTOR: The person who leads or directs a grant-funded project and ensures that the project complies with all conditions and regulations, particularly in training, educational, and model demonstration projects. Also may be called a Project Manager. Also see: Principal investigator and Project Coordinator.


A later post will cover Dictionary entries starting with letters P to Z.





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