To ensure that applications have a good chance of receiving funding, applicants can take the following considerations into account.
In order to succeed in accessing funds in general, a good understanding of the rules and procedures of the calls (as well as the guidelines and evaluation criteria) are crucial. The main mistakes met by evaluation committees are that goals and related activities are too general and that projects have not been prepared in detail.
- Small administrative mistakes, such as submission after the deadline or missing documents will lead to immediate rejection.
- Most donors have a prescribed format for proposals to which applicants must adhere. It is critical that all required sections are included and are within page limitations. When page limitations are not provided, the length of each section should reflect the scoring weight indicated in the guidelines.
- Project objectives should directly address the key objectives and cross-cutting issues mentioned.
- Ensure that objectives are realistic and clearly linked to the activities. Avoid having long lists of objectives or expected results (otherwise reporting will be very difficult)
- Do not assume that the reader is intimately familiar with what you are writing: Avoid jargon, explain concepts, spell out acronyms, etc.
- Evaluation committees don't have a lot of time to spend on each proposal. Make the document easy to skim: Use headings, good topic sentences, etc. These can be important "road signs" for the reader.
- Include citations and sources whenever using statistics or referring to research done by others - avoid unsupported subjective arguments
- When it comes to the justification for a project, ensure that there is an accurate analysis of the time, resources and the budget needed to perform the project. Evaluation committees tend to pay close attention to the budgets, therefore proposals should balance the funds budgeted for operational costs and supporting costs.
It is useful to have an understanding of the donor’s development cooperation policies, strategies, and mechanisms before preparing a proposal1. Donors may prefer to fund projects in countries where their development cooperation is already well-established, both in the interests of funding and sustainability. Other times, donors may prefer that proposals are articulated and aligned with the instruments used by the donor’s development cooperation; for instance, where mechanisms such as Sector-Wide Approaches or budget support are used, projects should be coordinated with those instruments, or otherwise be very well justified. Applicants should read the relevant policy papers and refer to them, when appropriate.
Follow-up with the donor about the status, evaluation, and outcome of your proposal after it is submitted. Request feedback about your proposal's strengths and weaknesses (whether it is successful or unsuccessful) and use this information as a basis for future proposals.
As discussed above, partnerships with local organisations are not always required but can be advantageous both in proposal development and eventual implementation of a project. To meet a donor’s criteria for grant-making, applicants are sometimes encouraged to contact donor offices or other stakeholders in the field in the very early stages of the identification process in order to ensure that the programme design is aligned and harmonised with local priorities, with other stakeholders’ interventions, and that it responds to the needs of final beneficiaries.
When included, local partners should participate and lead the identification process to ensure alignment with local priorities, and to provide the necessary ownership to assure long-term sustainability of the intervention.
In some cases, an organisation can only submit one grant application per round to a donor; or only one grant is awarded per organisation, whether it is a lead or an independent applicant. However, an organisation can be represented as a co-applicant in more than one consortium for which another organisation is submitting the application. This is one useful strategy for increasing the chances of a successful application.
NGOs with little experience in applying for funding should consider participating in other NGO’s projects funded by the same donor first. As a junior partner, organisations can build their capacity and get acquainted with the donor’s requirements without taking full responsibility for the project.
1 The Donor Profiles section of this Guide is intended to offer a good introduction of each European Donor's development cooperation policies and programmes.