Writing a Funding Proposal

What is in this guide?

This guide will look at fundraising from donors, business or government. It contains the following sections:

  1. Introduction
  2. What goes in a proposal / plan?

2.1 Cover Page
2.2 Executive Summary
2.3 Organisational Overview
2.4 Project details
2.5 Appendices and supporting documentation

  1. Building a good relationships with Funders

  1. Introduction

Most community organisations and projects depend on donor or government funding. In this section we look at a simple way of writing a proposal or business plan for an organisation that wants to apply for funds or for contracts to do certain work. All funding proposals or business plans should be based on an organisation or project’s strategic plan.  Before you start you must be clear about the following:

  1. Be clear about the goals and purpose of the organisation and the specific objectives of the project – funding proposal must be based on strategic plan.
  2. What exact service you will provide – who is the target group/beneficiaries;
  3. What activities do you need to implement and what resources do you need

A proposal is a written way of communicating. You may not have a chance to explain anything to the reader so you must be sure you are communicating well and clearly. Most decision-makers who read proposals see hundreds of similar documents. They will want a professional looking document that is easy and quick to read. Make sure the most important things are visible and do not send proposals that are 50 pages long. You can always rather put extra information in the supporting documents at the end of a proposal.

  1. What goes in a proposal / plan?

There are three main things that must go into any proposal:

  1. Description of organisation;
  2. Management information and Constitution;
  3. Overview of how the project will be implemented.

You should always write proposals on computer and save them so that you can re-use parts of them for other proposals. For example items 1 and 2 above will stay the same for all proposals for an organisation. Proposals and business plans must be organised in a logical way.

Here is a simple structure you can follow:

  • Cover Page;
  • Executive Summary;
  • Organisational overview and management;
  • Project details, implementation plan and budget;
  • Appendices and supporting documentation.
  • We will explain exactly what goes into each of these sections.

2.1 Cover Page

The cover page should contain the title, business name, date of the proposal, business address and contact details.

2.2 Executive Summary

This is the most important part of the proposal – it has to catch the attention of the donor.  The summary is an overview of the entire plan and helps decision-makers to quickly get an overview of your proposal so they can see if they are interested. Therefore, although it is at the beginning of the document, it is usually written last to capture the essence of the plan. The summary stands alone and should not refer to other parts of your document. The executive summary should emphasise the purpose and objectives of the project.

3. Organisational Overview

Write an organisational or project profile, including the following:

  1. Indicate the legal form ( close corporation, section 21 company, voluntary association, cooperative,  etc)
  2. Information on the background of the organisation:
    • Goal, purpose and objectives of the organisation as a whole;
    • Services and products offered, target beneficiaries / communities etc
    • Achievements and track record (history);
    • Core Funders, donors, other forms of income generation (if any);
    • Contactable references.
  3. Management and staff:
    • The management information and the management structure in the organisation - include a description of the skills and experience of managers and staff;
    • Attach an organisation chart showing the functions and responsibilities of management and staff.

2.4 Project details

Aims and objectives:

  1. Overall goal - Describe the overall goal or intended outcomes of the project (e.g. the project will contribute to poverty alleviation and the empowerment of women in the Ukahlamba informal settlement);
  1. Project purpose – State clearly what the project aims to achieve (E.g. The project will produce school uniforms at affordable prices for the parents of the Ukahlamba Primary School by providing employment for four women in a sewing cooperative);
  2. Specific objectives - List the specific things that have to be done to implement the project this year. Think of things that will cost money and make sure you list them. Do not go into detail but make a broad list (E.g.: establish a cooperative, set up and equip a workshop, recruit and train workers, develop and implement a marketing strategy. Describe how the project activities would promote developmental outcomes i.e. stakeholder involvement and empowerment, sustainability etc.

Implementation plan:

  • Work plan - Write how you would run the project to achieve the specific objectives. Describe the steps you would take;
  • Risk assessment – highlight critical risk factors which may impede the project and list ways of reducing these risks;
  • Organisations and Partnerships - List of organisations which are stakeholders in the project. Describe the roles and responsibilities of each of these organisations in detail;
  • Project Communication Strategy – describe what communication strategies will be employed to facilitate ongoing communication with all project stakeholders, e.g., project team meeting, quarterly steering committee meetings, reporting, newsletters publication, press releases etc
  • Evaluation  – describing how the projects’ impact will be assessed;
  • Project Timelines – an estimate of the project timelines;
  • Budget – A budget estimate.

2.5 Appendices and supporting documentation

Remember to add in any relevant documents that will support your proposal. For example:

  1. Constitution of the Organisation;
  2. Copies of section 21company or close corporation certificates and registration documents;
  3. Articles, testimonials or letters of recommendation;
  4. Publications, pamphlets or brochures about your work;
  5. Copies of your audited financial statements if needed;
  6. Tax clearance certificate if needed.
  7. Building a good relationships with Funders

It is very important for fundraisers to understand the programmes and projects of the organisation and the benefits that the community will get from these. Make sure that you know details about the project and success stories and that you have things such as photographs, videos and newspaper articles to share with funders. It is vital to be enthusiastic and positive about your work if you want to inspire funders to support you. Most funders want to know that the money that they give will be well-used and accounted for. It is very important to build a good relationship with the individual funders and to make them feel confidence in you and your organisational structures.

There are a number of small things that you can do to make sure that your relationship with funders stays good:

  1. Remember to always thank funders when contracts, funds or agreement letters arrive.
  2. Invite them to come and visit the project and show them what their money has achieved.
  3. Ask funders for advice since they are often experts in that field of development and most of them enjoy getting closer to projects.
  4. Always send in reports and financial statements before the deadlines. The project officer who deals with your projects has their own deadlines and pressures and you should try to make their lives easy.
  5. If anything should change within your project, in terms of what you want to spend your money on, let the funders know immediately and if possible consult them before making final decisions – otherwise you may have to send their money back.
  6. Always be as honest as possible with funders. Do not hide the problems you are experiencing and rather ask for help and support if you need it. If your project is evaluated or your reports are inadequate, the funders will find out that things have gone wrong. It is better to ask them to be part of the solution, by sharing your problems with them.
  7. Make sure that your report answers all the questions and is according to the format that the funder has asked for.