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«Ask, and it shall be given you». How to raise a necessary amount of funds for an important project

March 20, 2018

The impact of NGOs around the world is increasing every year. Activists are gaining more and more public support, and their projects are already being implemented at the global level. There is no surprise that NGO financial demands are increasing accordingly.

Fundraising, that is, the search for donors to implement non-commercial projects, can help to address this need. However, experts say that many organizations still do not know much about it.

Yuri Yorsky. Photos by Olga Gridneva

Yuri Yorsky. Photos by Olga Gridneva

In this article, Yuri Yorsky, ECOM legal expert, a member of the ECUO Regional Group, has prepared several tips for newbies who want to reach potential donors and obtain money for their initiatives.

Come up with an idea

This stage seems to be the simplest one at the first glance. Each organization has projects that it would like to implement. Therefore, often fundraisers try to address as many problems as possible in their grant application. Do not hurry, sit down and consider carefully which project you would like to implement. Try to express your grant goal in a single, maximum two or three sentences. Tell about your project to the person you trust. Let them give a feedback after an improvised “presentation”. Do not forget that your application must correspond to the activities of your organization. You would hardly deny that the project “For peace in all the world” seems at least weird. Instead, it is worth describing the goal in the most accurate and specific way.

Write carefully

There is a plenty of “life hacks” in the Internet on how to write and design a grant project. In fact, each donor evaluates the applications of fundraisers in their own way. Thus, there is no guarantee that your application will be approved. However, some basic rules for the design of projects still exist. First, you should think about a unique name. Try to ensure that your title catches the attention of donors who regularly review hundreds of similar project proposals. Second, do not forget about the brief introduction of the project, the description of the organization’s activities, the main issue to be addressed, the proposed solutions, the work plan and budget calculations. Some project managers recommend the so-called SMART-model. It will establish performance criteria and show the donor that your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. However, even the most interesting ideas will be compromised if the project contains grammatical errors. So do not be lazy to re-read the document several times and show it to employees or friends.

Boost your reputation

Let’s imagine that you clearly formulated the idea, described the ways of its implementation and found the right donor. But even the best application can be turned down if the fundraiser’s reputation is soiled. You may send dozens of grant applications, but if your organization is unknown, or tarnished, which is even worse, your applications will likely be rejected. If you have defaulted the conditions of previous grants, the risk of being considered an unreliable contractor increases. And vice versa, good reputation can help if donors found drawbacks in the application itself. If they understand that you are credible, they can be more condescending – for example, extend the time for the project finalization or provide a valuable advice. So do not hesitate to showcase yourself in the professional environment and make partnerships, sharing your successes and achievements. However, this does not mean that you need to include all your e-mail contacts in your newsletter. You are unlikely to receive a response, while the risk of being considered a spammer increases.

Are you done with your application? Send it!

If you are lucky and your application was approved, open the project plan and follow it clearly, do not forget to report regularly to the donor about the work done. But what if your idea was turned down despite your efforts? It is discouraging at the very least. Besides, you wasted time and effort. But it’s important to remember that fundraising is a big lottery. There may be plenty of reasons why the success slipped through your fingers this time. Perhaps your application was really good, it’s just that competitors were stronger. Or the donor simply did not have enough money to support your idea (yes, this also happens). In this case, it is worth holding an organizational meeting to analyze the reasons for the refusal. Do not be afraid to hear the harsh criticism of colleagues, it will not be that painful after the rejection.

Ask not only for money

When fundraisers calculate the resources for the project, they very often apply only for money. However, you should understand that the donor budgets are not infinite. Meanwhile, getting a significant amount “with a zero grant history” is not so simple. Remember that in addition to funds, donors can offer you valuable intangible resources. This can be expert support, advice on new partnerships, and any other help in implementing the idea. Do not underestimate the advice of donors – they can play a key role too. Moreover, it is not always necessary to write a serious grant project to implement your idea. Just tell us about your idea on Facebook or directly contact other organizations in your area. In XXI century the crowdfunding based on “every little helps” principle may be even more fruitful. Believe in the social mission of your organization and follow trends – then your projects will be more likely to get support. In fundraising, the main thing is to gain experience, so do not stop and believe in yourself.

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