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What you need to know about any prospective donor

Nonprofits are ever in need of more and more funds. These funds are useful to meet the lofty goals and aims of the organization. Because nonprofits are usually not required to make money like businesses, they depend heavily on donors for funding. Thus, they have to constantly meet the donor’s needs to sustain the partnership.

Who Is a donor?

The Donor Agency is the source of funds for implementing projects. The role of the donor is so important that they figure the rhythm and tune of any proposal. Like the proverbial king who pays the piper; the donor always dictates the tune. It is important to take inputs from the donor when and where possible.


Donors often publish formal invitations for proposals depending on their funding programs. Funding policies differ from one donor to the other. This makes it imperative to study each relevant donor carefully to ascertain that there is a good fit between the aims of both organizations. If a donor is identified, the next step is to gather enough information about your donor. Primary information to learn about any donor include:


  • Aid priorities and issues of the donor
  • Proposal Guidelines
  • Previously funded projects and programs


One common mistake project planners make is to assume that one proposal is good enough for every donor. We made reference to this in our article on Tips to write great project proposals. To avoid that, project planners must know the target. Study the donor and what they put their money into. This is because corporate bodies and governments have policies that guide what they spend on like health, education, technology, etc. Some donor agencies fund projects in some areas and not others. If you have a good knowledge of what your prospective donor has interests in, then you can write convincingly. It may not matter if you have proficient writing skills when you write to the wrong donor. Thousands of proposals are not funded based on this point alone. The first pass mark is choosing the right donor.


Here are some points to consider before in choosing the right donor

To reiterate what I said earlier; keep in mind that in writing a good proposal the most important thing is getting the money. Bear in mind that funds available are limited and projects must compete for the more. So write convincingly and in line with the donor’s interests. To help you do that, here are a few things to consider in choosing who to write to:


Study Donor’s Aid Priorities:

All donor agencies do not fund all kinds of projects. For every kind of project, there is always a donor agency that has the required funds and is willing to give support. It is wise to only apply to organizations that are disposed to fund your project. Some priority areas for funding include:

  • Basic Education;
  • Primary Health Care;
  • Water/Sanitation;
  • Rural Development;
  • Urban Community Development;
  • Income Generation/Livelihoods;
  • Human Rights;
  • Environment.


The above is not comprehensive. There are subdivisions in each category for instance, a donor might be particularly interested in LGBTI rights advocacy, gender rights, Reproductive and Sexual rights, etc but not other human rights. Similarly, some donors may be interested in girl child education. Be careful to identify the specific funding priorities of the prospective donor. If your project and their priorities are related, then that’s another good sign.


Understand Proposal Guidelines:

proposal guidelines differ from donor to donor. They indicate the way proposals ought to be organized and submitted. The key features of a typical proposal guideline include:

  • Grant levels: Grant schemes may be for single year or multi-annual grants. There may also be various grant levels capped at certain amounts such as £5000, $100,000 or €1,000,000. Each grant scheme has a deadline for submission.  Learn these facts and try to tailor you proposal to fit as perfectly as possible.


  • Formats and instructions: This is the systematic approach in completing a grant application required of all applicants. This makes it easy to read through proposals. Formats are usually forms or a set of guiding questions that applicants are required to respond to. The forms often come with instructions. Note that many donors now utilize online application platforms where e-forms are completed and submitted. Applicants are expected to register in the platforms. This system makes it easier for applicants to write, review and save their application till they are ready to submit. The forms are often smart and ensure that instructions such as word/character are filled. It also makes it easy for donors to quickly track and screen off poorly prepared proposals.
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Donor’s Strategic Focus:

Every donor agency has a strategic plan that outlines the possible projects they can fund. Irrespective of their nature (governmental or nongovernmental, they have priorities and standard interventions that suite them. This information can be found on the organization’s website. The importance of knowing the donor’s strategic focus is that the mode of operation is clear. Do not confuse this with funding priority. Strategy is how they do things while priority is what they do. For instance, An organization prioritizing gender rights might have women empowerment as their key strategy and not advocacy. If you design a good advocacy project, they may not fund it. Many donor agencies fund advocacy projects but not welfare projects. It might also be important to review previously funded projects; they can tell a lot about what an organization is all about.


If you bear in mind the three points to know concerning any donor, chances of getting funding will surely increase. Funding priorities, strategic focus and proposal guidelines are some important information you should know about any donor. So, have you had any experiences writing proposals to donors? Did you know the above? Did applying these points help you win grants? Tell us about it in the Comment section.

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