In an open call for proposals where a donor invites applications from many NGOs, it may be difficult to seek inputs. Since such calls are competitive, the donor often does not want to favor any single NGO by providing feedback on the proposal. In these cases, the best strategy is to carefully review proposal guidelines, donor objectives, previously funded projects and other details. This research can provide organizations with the information needed to develop a competitive proposal.
If approaching a donor directly, then it is a good idea to try and discuss project ideas before submitting a full proposal. The donor may provide reference material, such as previously funded project documents, which can be used to create a more customized proposal.
What is the success rate of a proposal?
Many factors affect the success rate of a proposal:
- Meeting donor requirements – Almost all donors have a specific goal they want to achieve with their grants and a process with which to achieve it. Understanding what the donor wants is incredibly important in writing a successful proposal.
- Quality of the project – Proposals which clearly explain a project and prove that the idea is effective and obtainable will interest donors.
- Reputation of the applying organization – An organization with a stellar reputation, lots of experience, a history of many successful programs, experienced and connected staff, great branding, etc. will have a higher success rate than a new NGO with no track record.
- Contact with donor – Solicited applications have a higher success rate than unsolicited ones.
- Networking or having some contact with donors can build trust and provide useful information which increases the success rate. Similarly, it is always easier to receive additional funding from a past donor than to receive new funding from a new donor.
- Size of the donor – Huge global donors like Ford Foundation or the European Commission receive thousands of unsolicited applications and thus have a very low success rate despite their large resources. Smaller donors may have limited capacity, but also often receive fewer proposals.
- Scale of opportunity – Calls for proposals that are very broad or open to NGOs from all over the world receive huge numbers of applicants. However, targeted calls for proposals that are only interested in a very specific project in a certain area tend to have fewer applicants and thus higher chances of success.
- Quality of proposal – a good proposal is important, but even the best proposals will not get funded if some of the above factors are not also met.
- Many donors report very low success rates – sometimes less than 1% of unsolicited applications. However, there are many ways in which a proposal can distinguish itself from the rest and drastically increase its chances of success.