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 - I posted on these issues before - but often it’s because it’s poorly communicated.
Your explanation may be flawed because the chain of cause and effect hasn’t been adequately explained, and the reader can’t follow the logic: or it might be because it takes forever to get to the main point.
The Problem Tree tool can help here. Consult widely and establish what the Core Problem is that your project aims to solve. This has three parts:
- Target Population
Then work down into the causes of the problem asking 'why does this happen?' at each step. Describe the consequences also. Mind Mapping is a great tool for this - I promise to get some posts up about this transformational tool and how to use it at some point!
Now, when explaining the problem, never start with the causes ... yes, I know it's methodical and scientific, but it's our job to get to the main point as soon as we can. The 'whys' can come later, let's respect the reader's time and mental effort by not taking forever to state what is wrong and, consequently, what we are proposing to change.
Go straight to the Core Problem. If necessary make it stand out by letting it hang as a sentence on its own. It should be the first thing your donor sees. (At least, the first thing after any context / background.)
Then describe the consequences. Convince your donor this problem deserves attention. Here's a great example from a training participant from save the Children who attended a training on Project Planning / Proposal Writing with us in Kenya.
Very few children in Nepal are registered at birth.
From 2000-2008, only 35% of children’s births were registered nationally, and these rates are even lower in rural areas. Birth registration is one of many strategies used to protect children from violence and increase their access to basic social services. According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) children have the right to a name and legal identity.
Not knowing the exact age of a child poses many problems such as:
- Early marriage
- Underage military service / Lack of legal protection
- Lack of access to social services
Notice also the Core Problem contains the 'Three Ps' - Problem, Place and People.
Here's a short video on the Problem Tree for you from our online course Measuring for Results.