Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Fundraising Tips for NGOs and CBOs

Objectives of this document are summarized as follows:

  • How to identify and research funders
  • How best to match funders with projects
  • How best to approach funders
  • How to write a proposal to a trust or foundation
  • How to maintain the relationship with your funders
Key element in fundraising?

Fundraising is not about money; it is about who the money can help.  Fundraising is a people business.  People give to people.  People relate to people.

Who are the funders?  

·         International grant aid and development funding:
o    Bilateral aid – support from o/s government programmes, DFID, USAID
o    Multilateral aid – support from international agencies, UN, World Bank, EU
o    International development agencies – raise money in North to fund dev progs in South - ActionAid, Oxfam, Care, World Vision
·         Embassies and High Commissions – small grants budgets
·         Trusts and Foundations – very large to very small; international, national, regional, local, specialist
·         Companies – international, national, local
·         Individual donors:
o    Less well off as well as the rich
o    Young through to elderly (different interests at different stages of their lives)
o    Those who are part of religious networks
o    Those who are affected by the problem
o    General public
o    Those living in particular region/city
o    Family and friends of existing supporters
·         National government (NACC, NASCOP, Ministries) – statutory funding
·         Regional or local government (PACC, CDF, LATF)
·         Community itself
·         Community groups/Membership bodies – Lions, Round Tables, WIs, service clubs, freemasons,  (encourage membership to adopt a charity)
·         Business organisations - Trade Unions/Chambers of Commerce
·         Churches and FBOs
·         Schools and young people
·         Lottery

How to find, identify and research funders?  People know people

The big question – how to identify funders?  Where to find them?

Remember that people know people.  Have to keep asking questions.   - Who do you know?  Who does your friends and family know?

We need to research funders systematically, firstly to identify them, and secondly to find out more information about them – what are their motivations, why do they give money, how do they give money, will they fund our organisation?

·         Internet – websites of funders, fundraising websites
·         networking – going to network meetings, talking to other NGOs, chambers of commerce, business organisations
·         contact community relations/public relations/marketing departments of largest companies in your area
·         telephone calls requesting information
·         letters requesting written information
·         media – cut out newspaper clippings, watch news, listen to radio, specialist magazines – learn how other NGOs are funded
·         directories – of businesses, development agencies, NGOs, telephone directories, CD ROMs
·         meetings with funders – call and ask for appointments
·         word of mouth – ask partner organisations and other NGOs
·         annual reports of NGOs
·         resource centres – KANCO, UNDP; embassy libraries, cultural institutes, international organisations
·         funder magazines, newsletters and emails – Resource Alliance, DFID, USAID
·         donor lists, Who’s Who? directories

Getting to know your funder.  Funders are people too!

You need to know your funder!  You need to develop a relationship with them, and get to know the organisation, as well as the people in the organisation.

Questions to ask:

·         In which countries does the funder operate?  (Some will only give to African countries, some to Western countries, some to particular regions within countries.)
·         Who does the funder work with?  (governments only; local organisations; Western NGOs, e.g. Comic Relief)
·         Which other organisations does the funder fund?
·         Does the funder have sectoral preferences? (education, health, HIV/AIDS)
·         Does the funder target particular groups? (women, disabled, older people)
·         Does the funder have timetables for submitting applications?
·         How long will it take for the donor to process your application and for you to get funds?
·         What are funders’ grant limits – upper and lower? (some will only deal with relatively large amounts)
·         Will they consider funds for capital equipment purchase and are there restrictions on where and how the equipment/resources can be purchased?
·         What is the process for requesting funding?  How do they like you to approach them (e.g., concept paper, application form, proposal, etc)? - mechanism
·         Do they have a deadline by which proposals should be submitted?
·         Can you get the name of a contact person to write to and with whom you can follow up progress?
·         What don’t they fund?
·         Accountability?  What reporting methods do they prefer?

Matching funders to projects.  People like people like them

People like people who are like them, or who are similar to them.  Funders want to support organisations and groups with the same values and interest as them.

1.Need to eliminate those funders whose funds you would probably have a poor chance of winning – don’t waste your time. 

Draw up a shortlist of 6-10 funders which you wish to examine in detail. 

Think “best fit”.  Check the degree of fit between possible funders and your project.  E.g., if your project is to do a community clean-up look for a funder interested in the environment.  Remember to check what the funder doesn’t fund.

It’s good to talk.  If in doubt about a funder's criteria, give them a call, or send an email for further clarification.  Avoids wasting both your time by submitting unsuitable application.

Approaching Funders.  People give to People

Once you've identified, researched and matched a funder with your project, the next step is to get in touch.

The general rule is that the more personal you can make your approach, the more effective you will be.  People give to people.

Remember that everyone is unique, so make sure you approach each funder individually. Bear in mind that funders receive thousands of requests every year, so you need to position your organisation as unique and individual too.

The following is just a guideline to approaching funders, but the best way is to listen to what funders say about how they like being approached and then do what they say. 

Where possible, getting in touch should be done in several stages. It might include the following elements:

1.  A phone call to establish contact.  This can determine who the right person is to speak to, whether there is a best time to apply, how you should go about it.

2.  A introductory letter setting out your proposal in brief detail.  Letters need to be directed to a named individual and personalised.

3.  A meeting with the representative of the funder.  This maybe at their offices.  Even better if they can visit you and see your project in action.  It’s really important to meet funders face to face wherever possible, as this tends to seal the fate of your application.

4.  A full written proposal. 

It could be that you make an initial phone call and request a meeting.  It’s always useful to meet with the funder before putting anything in writing, as this is a great opportunity to find out more about what the funder wants.

What you shouldn’t do is send out large numbers of circular appeal letters.  Unpersonalised letters written without any research or thought suffer the fate of the thousands of appeal letters a funder may receive every month.  They are put in the bin.   The same for begging phone calls.  Avoid the scattergun approach of simply approaching every funder you can think of without doing the appropriate research or matching.  This just makes you and your organisation look disorganised and unprofessional.

Other tips to bear in mind when approaching funders:

  • Who’s the best person to do the asking?  It could be that a request from someone who has already given or from someone important (e.g. business leader, expert, celebrity) can be more effective that a request from a fundraiser.

  • One problem is that often donors don’t know how much they are expected to give.  They may not want to give an enormous amount.  On the other hand, they don’t want to appear mean.  Helpful to ask for a specific amount:

    • Link it to a specific item of expenditure, e.g.. Cost for one volunteer’s training
    • Give a shopping list of different prices
    • Give examples of gifts already received

  • General PR and publicity helps make people aware of your organisation and its work, so that when you approach funders, they’ve already heard of you and understand the importance of what you’re doing. 

  • Need to sell the benefits and be clear what’s in it for the funder.

  • Follow-up applications by phone

  • Request feedback if unsuccessful

Writing a Proposal to a Trust or Foundation

Ground Rules

Before you start, a good proposal or application has to follow certain ground rules.  These are simple and all designed to help you communicate your project idea to the funder.

Rule 1 – Write your proposal in simple straightforward language – avoid jargon, explain terms, don’t use acronyms

Rule 2 – Have it typed or better word-processed on a computer.  This looks neater than handwriting and above all is easier for the funder to read and to photocopy.  Also it can make you look as if you have money to waste.

Rule 3 – Lay it out in a simple and easy-to-follow format.  The format I’m going to talk about is logical and makes sense to the reader

Rule 4 – Follow orders.  If the funder tells you to use an application form, then use it.  If they say they want information in a certain way, then give it to them that way.  Try to understand why they want the information like that, instead of reacting against it. 

Rule 5 – Avoid over-the-top packaging.  Don’t make it look too fancy, e.g., binding makes a proposal hard to photocopy.

Rule 6 – Make sure the application is neat – no coffee stains, no drips of midnight oil, no obviously changed text.  They make you look messy and disorganised.

Rule 7 – Have it proofed.  So many proposals contain appalling spelling errors and typos – computer spell check alone is not enough.  Check your budget adds up correctly.  Get someone outside of your organisation to check your proposal for mistakes. 

Finally, get the name of the funder and the contact person correct. 

Proposal Structure

1.    Project Summary

This should contain:
·         the title of your project
·         its address and location
·         the name of your organisation
·         a succinct and clear statement of the overall purpose of your project.

2.    Introduction/Background

You need to introduce your organisation or group.

Use the 5 Ws rule - Who you are, what you do, where you operate, when you were established, why you do what you do.

Key thing is to establish your credibility, so that a funder will feel comfortable and confident about funding you.  Indicate your achievements to date.  Are you registered?

3.    Problem Statement

The third step is the needs analysis or problem statement.  This is where you use the research you’ve already done when you started planning the project.  You have to describe the problems that existed which led you to realise there was a need for your project. 

What makes a good problem?  6 aspects.

1.  A good problem is not a provision problem (e.g. a lack of something); it is a people problem. 

Kibera slum has no proper water or sanitation facilities.

This is a provision problem – there is a “lack of something”.  Compare this to

Over ½ million people in Kibera have no access to clean water or proper toilets, which means they suffer from illnesses like cholera and typhoid.

You need to help the funder, so that they are more likely to understand the issue you are trying to tackle, they can more readily identify with it and they can more readily see if it is a cause they want to support.

2.  It should be demand driven.  You need to show that there is some demand to solve the problem. 

At a recent meeting, residents complained that the only water they had was contaminated

You need to gather evidence to reinforce your option, such as local statistics, surveys, published data. 

In 2003, the Ministry of Health recorded a 25% increase in the number of cholera cases in Kibera.

3. Make it concrete and not abstract by using examples from real life. 

Damaris is 6 and has lived in Kibera all her life.  She suffers from water-borne diseases almost all the time, causing her to be far under the normal body weight for her age.  Last year, her younger brother died of typhoid. 

4.  What are the bad effects of a problem?  There are likely to be several.

Children who are sick miss school which stops them getting an education.  Adults are unable to work, causing a loss of household income and increasing poverty.

5.  Your cause like many other causes needs money, so one key factor you need to communicate is that your problem is urgent and needs addressing straight away.

Cholera-related deaths among children are on the increase; if the present situation is unchanged, it is estimated that a further 2500 children will die this year.

6.  You need to demonstrate to the funder that you are able to solve this problem.

Although it is difficult to provide full sanitation facilities in Kibera, a good starting point is to treat the contaminated water itself, by using a low-cost and easily accessible solution. 

Up to now, you have summarised the nature of the task you’re going to tackle.  In the next steps, you will again make use of all the planning work you have already done.

You need to say what you are going to do about the problem you have identified – that is your aims and objectives which you have already set.

Then you need to say how you are going to tackle the problem – that is your project activities and outcomes.  You need to describe what your project will do.  What will take place in order to fulfill your objectives? 

Activities can include workshops, home visits, clinic sessions etc.  Outcomes can include the number of people trained, the number of patients visited or seen by a doctor. 

6.    Monitoring and Evaluation
The funder will want to know how their funding will make a difference, so you need to demonstrate how you will monitor what activities have taken place, what records you will keep, and how you will evaluate whether the project has met its objectives. 

7.  Sustainability
You need to tell the funder what happens next.  Funders are always concerned to know what will happen at the end of their funding.  Will you come back and ask for more?  Will the project come to an end?  Will someone else pick up the bill?  You need to show how the project will continue (if it needs to) after their funding is over.

NB not all projects need to continue, some will do a specific activity and then come to a natural close. 

8.  Budget

·         Make sure you include all your costs, including running costs.  You don’t want to find you’ve not got enough funding to run the project.

·         Get it right – make sure your budget adds up correctly

·         Don’t overbid.  Don’t fall into the trap of saying “Double the amount we need as they’ll halve it anyway.”  Don’t exaggerate your costs.  Make sure you obtain quotations for different items.
·         If possible, try and show how the funding will be matched or supported by funding from another source. This can be another funder, or even better, show that you as a group or organisation have invested some of your own money into the project. This gives the funder confidence. Mention pending proposals.

·         Often some contributions to the project are not in cash – e.g. volunteer time, gifts in kind.  These are difficult to give an exact financial value to, but it is important to record them, even if not as cash amounts.

11.   Maintaining the funder relationship.  People relate to people

Getting the funding is just the first step in building a long-term relationship with your funder.  After all, you may well want them to fund you again.  Even if a funder will only fund you once, remember that funders are people too, and funders talk to other funders. 

Ways to build a relationship with your funder.

  • Say thank you. Write a nice letter to acknowledge their funding.  Ring them up.

Saying thank you recognizes and values the funder’s generosity.  It’s also an act of enlightened self-interest, as it gets the funder feeling warm about your organisation, and more likely to give again.

  • Use money as specified

  • Send reports – in the specified format and at the right time.

  • Be honest if things don’t go according to plan

  • Acknowledge their support if required – most companies like publicity, some trusts don’t.  Include in annual report.

  • Keep in touch  - keep them involved

·         Newsletters and regular mailings
·         Share your ideas and hopes for the future
·         Telephone calls to update informally on progress
·         Christmas cards, certificates
·         Visits – lets them see the organisation at work and lets them meet some of the people they’ve been helping.
·         Meetings with staff and volunteers who are actually doing the work
·         Photos, videos, case studies
·         Celebrity events
·         Invite to events – workshops, lectures, talks, AGMs
·         Campaigning, lobbying, advocacy for you
·         Ask their opinion – questionnaires
·         Involve in planning processes like CSP
·         Get them on the Board
·         Offer volunteer opportunities
·         Listen to them

Above all, treat them as individuals.  Treat them as you’d like to be treated.


Fundraising is not about money, it’s about what the money can do and who it will help.  Fundraising is a people business.

Therefore you need to identify suitable funders and get to know them well, research them, meet with them.

You need to know your project well and have done your planning carefully, so you can match the best funders to your work.

When approaching funders, keep it personal and individual – treat them as people.

When writing a proposal, talk about the people you will help, who they are, what fproblems they are facing, what are the bad effects?

And remember that fundraising is about forming a relationship with your funder, which doesn’t stop once the money arrives. 

For more NGO funds, grants and resources always visit http://ngogrants.blogspot.com/


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