Proposals can be rejected for a number of reasons. Over the next two posts I'm going to outline some of the key things to be aware of when seeking funding to increase your likelihood of success.
No project can be supported if the donor cannot understand why it’s necessary. Sometimes this may be because the problem actually isn’t very relevant to the donor, or they don’t see it as serious (see my next point), but often it’s because it’s poorly communicated.
"Who's Responsible For This Mess?"
I think we all heard that as children.
I doubt we often heard our parents say, "Who's responsible for this tidiness?"
Which is why a lot of people - managers and project teams - don't actually like responsibility. It's much easier - and much safer - to follow the plan, stick to the budget, and tick all the boxes. And if the project outcome isn't achieved, at least it's all tidy.
But What Is Responsibility Anyway?
Let's talk about stakeholders.
After all, they are the most important part of any project. As development workers we are service providers, and our most important stakeholders are the end users of our services - the target communities we serve, whoever they may be - mothers, IDPs, girl children ...
It's a tough environment out there.
Funding is in many areas declining, and donors are expecting more value-for-money. It's a results-focused environment, and every development dollar has to count.
So, How Do We Identify Projects That Donors Will Support?
Successful projects are focused on solving problems - and getting positive, measurable results for stakeholders.
Unfortunately, Many Organisations Seem To Be Focused On Activities Rather Than Positive Change.
Writing reports - we seem to do a lot of it.
And no-one can deny it matters - tracking outputs and progress towards higher-level results, helping management make decisions that steer projects, and of, course, accountability to our donors and other stakeholders - yes, reports do matter.
In over 20 years training people to write better, I know having an understanding of Professional Writing and following a writing process helps a great deal.
But I've Also Seen Many Humanitarian Workers - Managers Included - Don't Seem To Have A Logical Approach To Reporting.
STILL TRYING TO FINISH THAT REPORT?
As humanitarian and community development workers, we seem to do an awful lot of writing - proposals, field reports, evaluations, case studies ... reporting to donors and stakeholders on project results.
Of course, reporting is an important part of any MELS / accountability system. And while for many of us collecting and analysing the data isn't such an issue, communicating is - especially if English isn't our first language.
And are we supposed to write like those fancy UN reports we see when we are telling stories from the field?
And What Is Professional Writing Anyway?
EVER WONDERED HOW A RESULTS-BASED PROJECT DIFFERS FROM ONE FOCUSED JUST ON IMPLEMENTATION?
A couple of years ago I had back-to-back assignments on two continents. And it was interesting to see the huge difference between a project that focused on results and prioritised M&E, and one that focused on implementation.
The Irony Was That Both Projects Were Doing The Same Things.
PROJECT RESULTS MATTER
And those results - the outputs, outcomes and impact - need to be monitored and ultimately measured.
This Isn't Just To Keep Donors Happy - Although We'd All Like That.
Knowing what to expect at different points in the project leads to better data collection - and better management decisions.
But, too often, we try to collect data that isn't there (yet) - or overlook valuable insights from stakeholders that can guide the project towards successful achievement of results.
There Are Four Different Levels Of Information We Collect From End Users Throughout A Project's Life-Cycle.
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