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 Bernd Papenkort on December 11, 2011 at 5:30am

Dear Dr. Zelizer,

thank you for posting such blogs which offer concrete advice and not only opinions. I am impressed by your work and hope to deepen links on subjects of mutual interest. 

Comment by Dr Bishnu Raj Upreti on December 11, 2011 at 2:58am

Dear Craig, I extend my sincere gratitude to your for your constant efforts to develop this network. It is really useful for people of South like me.

Comment by Odwe Dennis on December 11, 2011 at 2:06am

this is a very good literature.

surely it works and it worked for me

Comment by Dharm Joshi on December 10, 2011 at 11:14pm

Thank you very much Dr. Craig for forwarding the useful guidelines. I think these guidelines will be of tremendous help to tailor peace process. As we are in aftermath of decade long people's war and extreme transition in Nepal we have many things that are unaccustomed to us to do. So this guideline will be very helpful to obtain help from around the world.

Thanks agin.

Comment by Julius Atanawhemera on October 26, 2011 at 5:40am

This is an extreme resource guide! Million Thanks Dr Craig

Comment by Grace John kenyi on July 21, 2011 at 5:00am

Thanks for your useful guidelines.I hope we in the Republic of south sudan are looking for such help because we have just achieved our independeance and our newly born nation needs alot of things.


Comment by Hellen Mghoi Mshilla on September 9, 2010 at 3:24pm
Thanks a lot. This has been very helpful
Comment by dorothy massa on August 16, 2010 at 5:01pm
Thank you for these guidelines, I have found them useful.
Comment by Luis Antonio Ordonez on October 24, 2009 at 8:57pm
Hi Craig,

Thanks a lot for these suggestions. We know that each proposal is tailored considering the type of organization, project, region among many other variables, but based on my experience, these are my two cents:

1. Show concrete results/impacts in previous projects. We need to show that we have the expertise to "guarantee" the success of the initiative we intend to implement.
2. What is our added value? What makes us different from other organizations? How can we show that we are the go-to organization regarding this particular initiative?
3. Show matching funds capability. Show that for each dollar the organization will receive, 1/2/3 dollars (cash - in kind) will be leveraged from public, private sectors, individual donors etc.
4. One good way to show self support of the organization might be through a strong volunteer force.
5. Some proposals include the testimonial of some beneficiaries. If allowed, add one or two lines max on the top or bottom of the pages of the proposal, stating how previous projects have impacted their lives, or how that proposal will help to improve the current situation of the region. Those will need to be compelling.

As stated, every proposal is unique, and it is required to "work the system" when submitting them, but I think it is a priority to be honest in our capacity, on how we can achieve concrete results, and on showing how those can be better achieved if we are awarded.

Thanks, Luis

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