In this article, the author highlights the importance of well-written and researched funding proposals. She has seen too many badly constructed proposals – peppered with irrelevant information and project budgets that could leave potential donors doubting the ability of organisations to use scarce financial resources.
I am very privileged to consult, train and mentor to a variety of nonprofit organisations (NPOs) and community-based organisations (CBOs) in South Africa. Most of these organisations do the most astonishing and brave work and are addressing the very tough and uncomfortable social ills we face daily. However, they do it with extraordinary pride and dedication. For these organisations and many like them, the driving force is the welfare and protection of their beneficiaries.
As we are well aware, the current financial crisis facing the sector is unprecedented and disturbing – and we must use all the skills at our disposal to merely survive. One method of securing funding is to submit funding proposals and many organisations have already asked me to edit their proposals. Despite the time and effort put into their work, the material I receive does not reflect the outstanding work done – the facts are jumbled and/or irrelevant, the document is just too long and the project budget bears little or no valuable information. Let us use a well-written funding proposal to convey what we do and why our needs are urgent.
Are you securing the funds needed to continue the vital and important work you do?
Let us use the power of words to tell our stories, engage our donors and increase our funding. One of the most critical factors hampering our efforts to assist beneficiaries, retain staff, and have an impact on communities - is our inability to secure funding.
So when writing a proposal, remember:
- Most of the time our donors cannot be where your organisation is working - to see for themselves the good work you do;
- We need to take the reader there in words and pictures, to paint images of our work so successfully in their minds will be like the donor is almost there in person;
- Never be dull, bland or unmoving;
- Communicate with passion. We have the best stories in the world to tell, the best reasons for telling them, and donors love heroes;
- People give to people, not to plans, projects, organisations, mission statements or strategies;
- Fundraising is all about people giving something of what they have to help another in need;
- It is about necessary work that urgently needs doing. Fundraising is about meeting needs; and
- Offer a clear, direct proposition – a unique selling proposition.
A well-written, well-researched funding proposal could be the solution.
The NPO sector is experiencing tough times and securing the funding we need to continue our important and vital projects is proving difficult.
Many of you do not have the time to compile funding proposals or you are not sure which words work and why. A good funding proposal is one that answers the following questions:
- What is the background information to your organisation?
- What is the need/problem statement?
- What is the description of the project/programme and objectives?
- How many beneficiaries will be reached?
- What evidence is there that the need is urgent and pressing?
- Is your NPO uniquely qualified to tackle this need?
- What exactly are you applying for?
- Is your budget easy to understand?
- Is the sum for money being asked for realistic?
- Has sufficient time being spent on line items and needs?
- Does your budget have any correlation to your organisational budget and audited financial statements?
What should a proposal include and what is the ideal length?
- Title page, index, covering letter, executive summary, main proposal, budget and enclosures;
- A funding proposal should be a minimum of four pages and a maximum of six pages (unless otherwise stipulated by the potential donor).
Sandra Millar is the founder of NPO Development and Training. She facilities workshops throughout South Africa as well as Southern African Development Community countries.
NPO Development and Training is aware of the constraints on your time and resources and for this reason has designed a package to elevate this problem – by writing your funding proposals. It has written proposals on behalf of clients for:
CSI funding; socio-economic funding; economic development funding; funding from international and national trusts, foundations and agencies for organisations such as Badisa, Cancer Association of South Africa, Child Welfare South Africa, I Care Foundation, Mpumalanga Mental Health, CMR, Restorative Justice Centre, Khulisa Social Services, Autism South Africa, Auksano, University of Johannesburg and would be happy to assist your organisation.