Five Tough Lessons From Fundraising- On Grant Writing & Submitting Proposals

Fundraising is tough. Grant writing even harder. It is especially tricky when you are a start-up or a new project with no personnel or organisational capacity. When I started my journey in the nonprofit sector over ten years ago, I remember one of my mentors saying that every hundred grant proposals you submit, only one is accepted!

I am sharing five top lessons about fundraising I learned over time.
1- Put yourself in the donor’s shoes: Whether you are going to do a direct ask to an individual donor or apply for a grant to governments, corporations or other donor agencies, ask yourself the question: If I was a donor, would I fund this? Why should I? What is it about the idea or project that makes it more special than the other hundreds of proposals that are submitted? If you can find two or three things that make your project more worthy of the donor’s attention and money than others, make sure you out them at the top in your proposal.

2- Read the eligibility criteria very carefully: I cannot stress enough on this point. I have been involved with evaluation and selection process with a few organisations. Sometimes, an opportunity to submit requests for funding shows up, it all seems a perfect match for your organisation but you do not for example; fulfill the geographic specification for that opportunity. A lot of people still send in applications. Do not do this no matter how tempting it gets. You will come across as unprofessional and you would have wasted the time and energy of the evaluator. Do not just skim through the guidelines and eligibility criteria. Take time to read it carefully before reacting.

3- Do your homework: If you come across a funding opportunity, don’t just go to the grants and awards section on their website. Take time to browse through their past funding history, their themes, core values and principles. This will give you an overview of what things are most important to the donor and it fit with your own vision and mission. How it will help you answers they are looking for in your proposal.

4- Ask questions: When you see a call for applications open, also see if they give the option of contacting them in case you have a query. Do use that option where applicable and try and get as much information as you can because making your case. I personally, have been pleasantly surprised at the amount of feedback I get if I send in an inquiry about a proposal I am about to submit. The people involved are generally glad to help. Use it to your advantage. It also helps to familiarise yourself with the organisation before they see your proposal.

5- Learn from your mistakes: After we get a rejection letter, how many of us go back to the proposal and assess it for improvement? I know many organisations who keep submitting the same proposal application to multiple donor, without re-evaluating things. If possible, try and send a mail to the donor in question and asked them the reason for rejection of the proposal. Ask them how the proposal can be improved. You may not always get an answer as it is sometimes difficult due to the volumes of queries but if you do get a feedback in reply, it will be worth the effort. Getting the feedback directly from the donor can do wonders should you decide to incorporate it in your future proposals.

I hope this post was helpful. Let me know about your thoughts. I would love to hear from you guys about some of your experiences in fund-raising!

Happy fundraising!

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