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Downes Murray International News

Proposals: there is no one-size-fits-all anymore

If you’re using a cookie cutter approach to your proposals and firing off a standard version to all funders, stop. The days of a one-size-fits-all proposal are over, says DMI Communication and Partnership Manager, Marisol Gutierrez.

Google ‘fundraising proposals’ and you can expect to see 12 500 000 results. And as the saying goes: ‘Ain’t nobody got time for that.’

Truth is, there’s as much written about proposals as there is about dieting. OK maybe not as much. But to get the real skinny on this subject, I attended Inyathelo’s write shop on the role of proposals, brilliantly presented by Gillian Mitchell.

The ‘Facts and Fallacies’ part of the write shop highlighted some of the misguided notions that we have around proposals:

Myth 1: ‘Your proposal is read from start to finish.’

If it’s an unsolicited proposal, it’s probably not going to be read at all. However, if it’s submitted in response to a specific request, the chances of it being read are good. Hundreds, if not thousands, of proposals hit funders’ desks every month. Only those that are highly relevant to their focus areas stand a chance of being looked at.

Myth 2: ‘Long proposals are more successful than short ones.’

Gillian pointed out that the length of a proposal is not as important as the information it contains. A sound plan, a need met and the impact demonstrated does not need dozens of pages. The proposal’s format must align with donor requirements.

Myth 3: ‘I only need one proposal that I can send to everyone.’

Just as every donor is different, every proposal should reflect a different donor worldview. Winning proposals support the donor’s case for giving; they’re not a ‘cut and paste’ exercise.

Myth 4: ‘Grants are awarded to those with the greatest need.’

No. They’re awarded to organisations whose work resonates with the donor – to NGOs that can deliver the services, solutions and benefits that the donor wants to achieve.

Lastly, wise words from Civicus: ‘Don’t start writing a funding proposal before you have done the necessary research, thinking and planning! If the donor can see that it’s hastily written, without careful thought and planning, the relationship may be a very short one! Rather give the impression, based on fact, that you are thorough, careful and committed to doing a good job, right from the start.’

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