it is necessary to understand that project fundraising for NGOs is not a document, it is a complex process, and a grant application is not only a business plan, it is a very serious and very large document with its own rules of drafting, positioning and filing. Today we will tell you about it.
Stages of fundraising
With a professional approach, fundraising is not a search for the right fund at all, writing an application and waiting. The stages should be as follows
very deep research
the actual filing of applications
receiving funds and getting started,
management and monitoring
closing the project.
Yes, if you are aiming not just to get the funds and disappear from the sight of the grantors and the public forever, then the stages will be just that. And now let’s deal with this in more detail.
Why do you need fundraising
So you are planning to apply for a grant. Many people refer to this process as a way to make money quickly. To do this, applicants try to make the expenditure part of the maximum, think through all sorts of ways to avoid strict accountability and do not think at all about the results of the project. It is fundamentally wrong, moreover, a dangerous approach. Never do that.
Starting to look for funds, ask yourself the question: for what purpose are they needed. At this stage, we assume that you have already decided on the mission and vision of the project, and understand what benefits it should bring to people and what their problem to solve. Formulate the answers to these questions should be as clearly as possible and preferably in one phrase. The mission of any non-commercial project is always to be formulated precisely from the standpoint of the presence of an important life problem in a certain social group.
If this group is small, difficult to identify, or the problem is actually absent, such a project will never receive funding. The easiest way to determine this before investing enormous resources in an event is to talk with representatives of the target audience. What worries them? How exactly does it bother them? What would they like to get as a solution. Answers to these questions are vital to you. And you should receive them from these people, do not be lazy. You can assume that this or that problem exists, and people in fact are absolutely not interested in it. This means that there is no problem, or it is incorrectly formulated.
So, in your application for a grant, the problem should be clearly formulated and the social group for which it is relevant should be defined. Do not forget that you need to measure the size of this group. The donor always cares about the size of the audience he influences.
Directions of financing
Now answer the question what exactly needs to be financed:
the whole project or program
improving the financial sustainability of the organization / project,
scholarship or internship program
separate event, conference, meeting?
Answer clearly: why and why you need money. As a rule, applicants like to handle the grant that finances the project entirely. This is quite acceptable, but donors still prefer projects that have a certain stage of implementation and a certain share of funding. You will be much more profitable to look if you show that you have funds for capital investments, moreover, the project has already passed this stage with certain results, but operating activities for the coming year need to be covered.
Even higher level: your project is quite capable of existing independently, however there are risks of decreasing financial stability. For example, you have noticed that year by year there is revenue volatility, some of your clients are at risk, you have donors who may refuse to finance you for the next year. In this situation, you, as a rule, can already show serious results of the project and financial documents. Nobody ever expects profitability and annual growth from non-commercial projects, but the ability to self-finance and let alone pay off at least 50% makes you a very likely winner of the competition.
Conscious understanding of the goals is very important when requesting funding and raises you in the eyes of the grantor a step up. Believe me, every day they receive a lot of requests to provide several million to solve a socially significant problem as a whole. The lack of specifics is the right way to the urn near the grantor’s table.
So, in your application for a grant should be clearly defined for what purpose you are asking for funding and what is the stage of the project.
Focus groups and polls
Ideally, if you show the donor the results of the work of your focus group, research, survey, which will demonstrate that the problem has been formulated absolutely correctly. Of course, you can take a third-party study that you trust. However, it is difficult to find ideally suitable materials, and it is very necessary to back them up with a self-conducted survey. By this you show that you have gone deep into the problem and you know about it not from the news.
Of course, it may be very expensive to conduct a survey for 600-1000 people (although if you have such an opportunity, use it). Therefore, you can limit yourself to a focus group of people who are knowledgeable about the problem and are bright representatives of your target audience. It’s ideal to start by filling out a short questionnaire (Google Forms is a great tool for this), and then spend a 1-2 hour interview with the group.
There should be several blocks in your survey:
Basic information about the respondent. Gather about him the necessary social and other information that, in your opinion, characterizes him as a representative of the target audience. Gender, age, education, income level – the minimum standard set. But in your case, you will need other characteristics, because you need to select a narrow target group.
Issues revealing a problem. Ask a maximum of questions about the problem and life situations that may be associated with it. It is very important to be able to separate the real problem from the factors that influence it. Try to model for the respondent a hypothetical situation in which these factors do not exist, and ask him to answer questions about the problem again.
Questions highlighting the importance of the problem. Let the respondent compare this problem with his or her potential others. What place will it be on?
So, in your application for a grant should be a thorough study of the target group, showing not only the relevance of the problem, but also its priority.
In your application for a grant, it is vital to reflect your ability to manage a project. Order a good business plan and bring it to the fund can very many. How many people can fully implement the project and actually get the stated results? Units That’s what the donor wants to find.
Reflect in the application for a grant, how you have areas of responsibility between project participants, what is the decision-making system in the organization, how the informational and documentary exchange is established, what technical means you use for this, what is the priority system, how do you motivate people and struggle with them emotional burnout (for financially not always stable non-commercial projects, this is a very topical issue). Each of these questions should be given at least a paragraph. Projects that work on the principle of “We are very friendly and do everything together as needed” never really work. By showing that you understand in project management, you inspire confidence. And subsequently, only with such an approach you will be able to implement the project. A short paragraph dedicate the history of your organization.
So, in your application for a grant there should be a full-fledged section devoted to all aspects of project management.
There is no more capacious and important term for any non-commercial project. Are you planning to help people with disabilities? Children suffering from addiction? Remarkable goal, but in this form it will not work. Even if your goal is purely humanitarian, it should be measured by certain key indicators (KPI). This item must be given the closest attention. Thousands of non-profit organizations and researchers around the world are tormented by the question of how to properly evaluate the impact of projects. And only by demonstrating to the donor your full readiness not to report to multi-page optimistic manuscripts about your achievements, and to show him regularly a capacious and understandable table of measured indicators reflecting the dynamics of the project, you will make him want to finance you.
Practice shows the following. Key indicators should be a bit. If there are 20 of them, you will not be able to keep track of them. A good number is 3-10. Ideally, they should characterize the solution of the problem from different sides. For example, if we are talking about urban transportation of people with disabilities, it is not a bad idea to evaluate their level of satisfaction, the number of trips in dynamics and the involvement of people with disabilities in the social life of a city.
In order to build a quality scorecard, you must first determine the hypotheses of your social project. A hypothesis is some postulate that can either be confirmed or disproved during the implementation of your activities. If you have confirmed the hypothesis, it means that your project is useful and successful from a public point of view. In the example of disabled people, there may be three hypotheses: “Accessible transport system makes disabled people happier,” “Disabled people need affordable transport,” “Accessible transportation system involves people with disabilities in the social life of the city.”
It would seem similar and quite obvious things. In real social projects, things can be much less obvious and predictable. For example, after a certain period of project implementation it may hypothetically turn out that people with disabilities are involved in the social life of the city, but this does not make them happier, and in fact the transport system is not in great demand by them, and they need much more medicine.
Project hypotheses should be no more than 2-3. Each hypothesis can have 1-3 measurable indicators. Do not use commonly used indices and statistics as indicators. It is extremely difficult to influence them, and it is even more difficult to prove that you did it. Use your KPI. You can only mention that with a certain scale of the project, your KPI will correlate with the general index in the country, and prove mathematically why.
At the very beginning of the project, you should clearly define for yourself how the values of your indicators signal the need to confirm or refute the hypothesis. Strong recommendation: never promise to anyone the transcendental results of your project. The likelihood that this will happen is close to zero. If, however, this happens, let it greatly please everyone. But be real. Many people write in their applications that they plan to increase the project’s revenues by 1,500% per year and overcome all corruption in the country. This immediately gives out a newcomer who does not know how difficult it is to reduce corruption by at least 1%.
For example, if you launched a project and in our hypothetical example, disabled people began to move around the city 30% more (in kilometers or hours or number of trips), then obviously you are in demand. However, if the dynamics was only 0.5%, then either the project is implemented poorly or it is not needed. You could not confirm the hypothesis. These criteria must be formulated unambiguously and in numbers.
Of course, many subjective indicators, such as satisfaction, are difficult to measure. But the questionnaires and focus groups are good for this again. For the purity of the experiment, interview a group of people who participated in your project and a group that did not participate. Comparing the results will show you the net effect of your project. This approach makes it possible to screen out external factors and show what impact you had on the problem.
Be sure to reflect how and how often you will collect data to measure your indicators, how you will process them, and how often you will report them to the donor.
So, your grant application must have a table of hypotheses and KPIs associated with them, as well as information on how often and how you plan to measure them, what data sources you will use, and what results you plan to consider successful. Do not overdo the measurement frequency, but show the donor that you plan to keep him constantly informed on the progress of implementation. And most importantly, really send him a completed table at the promised time. Even if something goes wrong, and this is expected in non-commercial projects, you will retain trust and be able to make adjustments together.
Project Implementation Plan
And one more very important point. Prioritize your performance. It may happen that you do not implement them all. Which of them is more important to determine the success of the project? And which of them will you spend your strength on first?
And now write a plan of measures: what will you specifically do to realize these indicators? A very convenient format in the form of a tree: you first define one or three large events for each quarter. Remember the indicators and associate each event with the achievement of specific KPIs. Then in more detail you paint 1-3 tasks for each of them for each month. The donor does not need more detail, but you can plan for yourself both weekly and weekly. It is also ideal to provide the donor with a Gantt chart of project implementation.
If part of the project is already implemented, be sure to report on the results as detailed as possible. Tell us about the available financing and success of repayment. Show audit reports.
So, in your application for a grant there should be a quarterly and monthly plan of activities, as well as a Gantt chart.
Values and fears
It is obvious that in any application for funding it is customary to indicate information about the project team and give a brief summary of the participants: their education, scientific and public achievements, experience of participation in such projects, reputation. However, non-commercial projects are characterized by great emotionality, the presence of ideas, energy. This means that you must reflect three more important aspects.
Show the donor what the strengths of your team and your organization are. It should be three short points. Show the donor your values. This is what you do not betray, even if the financial plan is not implemented. Financing non-profit activities does not imply a return on investment and profits, it implies social effects. This means that even if you test a hypothesis and disprove it, your investor can always say that he financed a project that showed demand or lack of demand for a particular service, such and such social problems and always adhered to certain values. And for you the most important thing is to convince that by funding you, the donor gets a positive reputational effect.
Be honest with the donor and tell him about the three most important fears and challenges. This will show that you do not overestimate yourself and are realistic. This will justify you in case of failures. It will show you living people who can doubt, fear and worry about the result. Do not try to convince the donor that you are absolutely confident in the victory over the entire planet next year. He knows that is not true.
Reflect the risks of the project. Ask yourself the question: what can go wrong with our project? And what will we do in this case? What is plan B? This is very important to reflect in the application so that the donor sees that you are realistic and have a plan for B. Do not write that the project has no risks or their probability is minimal. It is not true. Always write about the alternative plan.
So, your values for a grant should reflect your values, as well as your three fears or challenges, three super powers and risks with an alternative plan to overcome them.
Communication is everything in every country. The donor understands this. Reflect with which partners, clients, contractors you plan to work in the project. It is important not just to list the list of partners, as many do, but to show what agreements, contracts, real relationships you have with them, what they can give you and what they will ask in return.
This section should have several points:
Customers With which clients have you talked about your project and revealed the demand? Which customers will come to you absolutely for sure? Who have you signed a contract with? If your project has a place of commercialization, you need to show the structure of the client audience. You must have anchor customers: very reliable, solvent, generating a constant good income. But you should not depend on them more than 50%. One casual quarrel with their leader will lead you to serious difficulties. Therefore, you must have a circle of other clients with growth potential.
State structures. It is very important. The donor should clearly understand whether you have support from the state or, on the contrary, it may be opposed to you. The presence of such support is an absolute plus, however, the donor understands that not everyone has it.
Universities, the scientific community. A good non-commercial project involves a large number of studies and publications. Research is needed at the stage of assessing the audience, studying the effects, identifying external factors and so on. If you have access to scientific services and the publication of scientific materials, this is very good.
Media and opinion leaders. Any project needs to be written about it. This is a wide free promotion, this is reputation and PR. Needless to say, the donor needs it.
Contractors Your application will look much more serious if you show that you have already established contacts with landlords, main contractors, and you don’t come to the donor in a month complaining that prices have risen and the budget expenditure is bursting at the seams. The donor must understand that the numbers are not taken from the ceiling.
Funds, banks, sponsors. If you have the opportunity to attract financing somewhere else, it means that you are considered reliable and the project is interesting.
So, in your application for a grant, your public and government relations must be reflected.
Forget about sending a standard grant application to the database of addresses of all donors from the catalog. Forget it forever. It never works.
Each donor needs to be studied and as detailed as possible. What you need to know about each donor before you send him a request:
The exact name
Type of donor (corporate fund, family, private, public, associated with a specific community)
Mission, Vision, Policy and Goals
Amounts of funding
List of programs
Deadline and application forms
A list of what the fund never finances
Leadership, Founders, Key Figures
The main events of last year
Projects funded in the last 2 years, especially close to your
If the fund finances the development of Jewish communities in the CIS countries at around 2 million rubles a year, accepting applications every year until February 1, then there is no point in sending an application for funding an orphan assistance project in the amount of 5 million rubles in April. At best, you will waste your time, and if you make an application according to the rules and seriously, then you will not have it. At worst, they will no longer take you seriously, because donors communicate with each other. Concentrate on 2-3 donors that you are ideally suited for.
Your project should ideally coincide with the goals of the foundation. One hundred percent. The study of this issue should devote a maximum of time. Meet the staff, and better the founders and managers of the fund. Examine their news feed, the tape in social networks, publication in the media about them. Understand their basic connections: who supports them, who finances them, who writes about them, who implements projects with them, and who, on the contrary, competes and tries to harm (this also happens). Visit several of their events, visit their office. Imagine that you got a job with them and want to become their best employee. Feel what the organization breathes, what its problems are, the key indicators that it focuses on, the tasks for the coming year. One thing can be written on their website, but the real motivation, problematics, and areas of work may be somewhat more specific. It is best to send an employee there for an internship or as a volunteer.
Needless to say that the application must be filed in accordance with all the requirements of this particular fund. It is important not only to observe these rules very formally, but also to understand what the emphasis should be on. If it is a private or family foundation, show what you are willing to do for the reputation and name of these people. If the fund is corporate, answer them to the question of how their investments will pay off in terms of marketing. If the state, then how your project correlates with the current policy of the authorities. Show what return the fund can expect from its investments. Do not write that they are ready to mention the foundation everywhere on your website and in social networks. Believe me, the donor has completely different goals, and you should know them.
The degree of formality of your application for different funds may also differ. For the state fund it is important to fully meet all the stated criteria. For private foundations, personal stories and emotions are good. Include in the application success-story. But you should save jokes and creativity for those cases when you are absolutely sure of their success.
So, study thoroughly a potential donor and write an application in his language. Match to 100%. Draw him a picture of the future.
Monitoring and reporting
Fundraising does not end with the approval of your application. After all, the donor has the right to terminate the contract. On the other hand, because you probably want to get another grant. Be very careful with the documents. Give the donor everything you need on time. Notify all changes in a timely manner.
And most importantly: report honestly and carefully. If the donor did not stipulate the procedure for reporting for the grant in his competition, then register it yourself in your application. Show your willingness to report. On the day of the report, provide a detailed estimate and all source documents, as well as a table with your KPI with detailed comments. Devote a separate unit to a report on the implementation of a previously submitted plan as you move through it. If some of its parts are not completed, tell in detail why and how you plan to solve the problem. Also in your report should be a block dedicated to risks and their analysis. Remember that they can change. Your report must fully comply with your stated goals, mission, values and plan. It is important.
Do not send a standard report donor in which you change a couple of lines. Especially if the fund is not a state. Be as detailed and open as possible. This will cause maximum trust and understanding and forgive you many failures. Try to be open not only to the donor, but also to the public. Put your reports in a readable form on the site. Distribute them to the media. All but confidential information, of course. Speak openly not only about successes, but also about risks and failures. If you are ready to submit Plan B, they will be forgiven, but your reputation will be flawless.
So, report in as much detail as possible to the donor and to the public.
So in conclusion a few words about the design. These are quite obvious things, but still. Use tables of contents, links, headings, small font, lists. Be sure to make an introduction and conclusion on one page. There should be reflected: mission, objectives, key indicators and planned results, briefly management and team. Maximum 500 words, 12-14 font. These two blocks should be worked out as much as possible, because sometimes they are only read. Use as much as possible clear tables, graphs, images. Visual information is perceived better. Remember the important rule: after each heading in the first paragraph there should be a short succinct answer to the question, the most important information. All details below. Do not repeat and be short. Use abbreviations and special terms carefully. Avoid factual and spelling and punctuation errors.
For private foundations, focus on stories, emotions, and reputational effects. The corporate fund is more interested in return on investment and marketing. State for political purposes. In case of failure, try to analyze the results, and it is better to get feedback. Feel free to submit the application with corrections again.
As you can see, this work is very big. But doing it correctly, you will receive funding for a year or more. And before sending it is better to show your application to a specialist. His feedback and help can bring you money.