Key Suggestions for Obtaining Project Funding

Obtaining funding for on the ground peace and conflict work can be a challenging undertaking. In this short guide, I will provide some suggestions of how to obtain funding and also some key resources (note if you're looking for scholarships for further study, please see the Guide to Scholarships Also please see the Guide to Key Resources Funding Peace and Conflict Work

12 Key Steps to Obtaining Funding for On the Ground Work

1) Develop a Clear and Compelling Mission and Focus to Your Work - One of the keys to obtaining funding is to ensure that the work of your organization or group is clear and focused. Make a compelling narrative about the type of work you're already doing, what change are trying to create and the impact of this type of work. Instead of speaking in overall broad terms, such as building peace in country x, try to be more specific such as the work of my organization is critical to building economic linkages between two conflicted communities which will help contribute to peace. It is important to have overall goals, but make it clear how your particular work and project contributes to a key step (in the larger context of building peace or the desired outcome).

2) Define if You're a Mission or Funding Driven Organization - If your organization has a clear and compelling mission and focus, then it often can be easier to formulate funding proposals, attract individual donors and others to support your work. However, many organizations start off with a mission and as they expand become increasingly focused with sustaining their bureaucracy and may lose site of their mission. While most organization's fall somewhere in the middle between mission and funding, it is important to develop mechanisms and reflection to examine if your organization is staying focused on the mission.

3) Do the Project Whether You Have the Funds or Not - - While all organizations need funding to support their work, many creative people and organizations (particularly those who are mission driven) are committed to doing good work regardless of funding. Thus try to begin doing work even if you may not have full funding. You can do this by starting small, trying to minimize costs, getting buy-in and support from other organizations, and many other ways.

4) Projectify Your Work- Unfortunately in the funding world, most donors want to support particular (time-limited) projects that have clear outcomes. It is essential to think break down the goals of your work in projects (that hopefully have a clear linkage to your overall goals/impact). Most funders will support projects lasting between 1-3 years (occassionally longer). Thus, you can break down the goals of your work into specific projects. This is helpful as you can also try to obtain funding from multiple donors and begin the project with partial funding.

5) Tailor Your Proposal/Language to the Funder - One of the key steps in writing a successful proposal is to ensure that you frame your proposal to be consistent with the priorities and goals of the funder. Make sure you closely read over the funding organizations goals, priorities, past grants, language, etc. In your proposal, try to demonstrate how your project fits with the funder's goals. The Global Development Network has put together a wonderful guide to writing research and funding proposals.

6) Follow Instructions - In writing a proposal, make sure that you closely adhere to the instructions from the funder. If they limit the proposal to five pages, then do not submit additional pages. Make sure that you also include all of the necessary financial forms, personal documentation and more.

7) Talk to the Funder Before Submitting a Proposal - Many donors (not all, so it is important to check) are willing to talk with you about your project ideas before you submit a proposal. Building a relationship or at least contact with a funder can be crucial in obtaining feedback if your idea is consistent with the funder's goals (and save you time if it isn't), to obtain suggestions, etc. Also many funders may request a short concept paper before inviting a submission for proposals and getting suggestions for what the funder is seeking is important.

8) Write a Clear and Compelling Proposal - Obviously one of the most important aspects of obtaining funding is making a compelling written case. Ensure that your proposal is well-structured, formatted, uses clear language (watch out for the use of acronyms), etc. While the format of a proposal varies, most donors want to see a executive summary, problem statement, program overview/goals, description of activities, timeline, evaluation and monitoring methodology, staffing, budget, organizational capacity, and more. There are some excellent free guides to proposal writing that are quite useful. For example see the guides produced by Civicus on proposal writing and other communication tools.

9) Collaborate with Others - There are many organizations in the field competing for limited funding. In submitting a proposal it is crucial that you also demonstrate that you are familiar with the existing work on the ground and explain how the unique contribution of your work. In addition, try to develop partnerships with other organizations and submit joint proposals as this can help in obtaining funding.

10) Be Creative About Your Funding Strategy - Many organizations think only of foundations, international donors and others as the primary donors who can support their work. However, there are many, many others ways to generate support for your work and being creative in how you approach funding is essential. For example, many non-profit organizations are seeking to develop self-sustaining sources of funding by providing direct services, undertaking businesses (and using the profits to support their work), selling goods, etc. Much of this work can be grouped under the term social entrepreneurship and this is a rapidly expanding area of focus in the non-profit world. There are many excellent sources of information on social entrepreneurship, such as Social Edge, and Ashoka. In addition, cultivating individual donors is one of the best ways to develop on-going sustainable sources of support for an organization (although it is very time-consuming to develop these relationships). Think of other possible sources of funding, such as approaching diaspora populations and asking them to support peacework, holding artistic fundraisers, raffles, and more.

11) If at First you Don't Succeed Try Again - Many times a funding proposal will not be successful the first time. Most funders will provide feedback on why your proposal was not supported and you can use this feedback to make future improvements and possibly submit for a future funding round. Be prepared for rejection, don't take it personally and think about how you can improve your ideas and work.

12) Be Clear About your Values - Sometimes a potential funder's values may conflict with your organization's beliefs. It is important to think about what are you core values and what type of funding you would like to solicit. For example some organizations refuse to take money from government institutions while others may avoid support from private business. Another aspect to consider is in conflict regions if you take funding from a particular donor who might this affect your relationships with local partners?

What other Suggestions do You have?Key Suggestions for Obtaining Project Funding

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Comment by Rachel Wambui Kungu on January 12, 2015 at 4:15am
Thank you for the information. It is very useful.
Comment by Botnaru Petru on July 17, 2013 at 1:09am

good luck

Comment by Rahmatullah Turk on July 28, 2012 at 3:57am

good ideas, thanks dear Craig Zelizer..... great contribution for social development


Comment by Mophat Mandela on May 30, 2012 at 4:23am


Am heading a community based organisation and would like to seek funding a project that aims at supporting orphans and vulnerable children. The project, which being implemented by the local resources of the CBO is challenged by lack of funds and a large number of beneficiaries.Any funding would would be of great help in shaping the lives of this young ones.

Comment by Vosita Lenisaurua on December 27, 2011 at 8:22am

thank you for this information it is very useful.

I wish to seek funding assistance on a project using music and arts as a medium for story telling in Restorative Justice and Dialogue. The team consisting of three people including me have trailed this out on a very small budget and we have found that it has potential for greater impact for individuals and groups, victims and offenders in Fiji. I have worked on writing to seek funding assistance this information will be very helpful

Comment by Jennifer Lentfer on December 14, 2011 at 12:21pm

Thanks - I've added this post to the list of fundraising resources I've compiled for community-based organizations, which you can find here:

Comment by Shafqat Ali Khan on December 12, 2011 at 7:03am

Excellent guidance for obtaining Funding. 

Comment by Olusesan Olukoya on December 11, 2011 at 7:36pm

The Key Suggestions for Obtaining Project Funding has been so timely and direct to the points but funding is no more easy to access as it used to be. The crisis in global funding is the issue now.

Comment by Craig Zelizer on December 11, 2011 at 5:54pm

Thanks. I do think there is a crisis in global funding and support for peace and development work that will likely get worse as the economic challenges deepen in the next few years. This will likely lead to a period of consolidation in the field, and of course to quite a few organizations unfortunately failing.  Perhaps we will do a post on this on PCDN in the Resource guide, but would also be great if anyone has concrete research or numbers regarding the tends. The OECD DAC Committee is one useful resource.

Comment by Janine Rauch on December 11, 2011 at 5:48am

It would be helpful if we in the SOuth could find out what is really happening with government donor aid in Europe and north America as a result of the economic crisis: we hear that the Dutch government is reducing their donor aid, that bilateral EU aid is likely to be reduced before their aid to multilaterals, that the British aid money is secure for a few more years... but there doesnt seem to be any formal information ? In parts of Africa, CSO's and NGO's are struggling to find funding these days, a combination of the 'economic crisis = cuts' and the shift of donor interest to the Middle East North Africa region. Many organisations have been forced to close. Hence the need for accurate info about donor aid to enable us to plan...

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