The project rationale, also called the ‘project justification,’ ‘problem statement,’ or ‘project background’ is an argument in favor of implementing the proposed project. It gives a detailed explanation of why the project is required. In other words, it describes the issues and problems the community faces and how the organization and the proposed project will address these issues with the donor’s help.
The project rationale should:
- State the problem as clearly and precisely as possible.
- Reflect the donor goals and guidelines.
- Summarize relevant background information about the region, community and resources available.
- Include specific information regarding the focus area and beneficiaries, including input from the community.
- Refer to research data, live examples, past projects, quotes and media articles to build a case for support.
- Explain the organizational strength and capacity in addressing this problem and achieving long- term impact.
The project rationale uses all of these tools to convince the donor of just two things:
- The problem the donor is interested in exists in the NGO’s community.
- The proposed project can solve the problem the donor is interested in.
Proving the Problem
While most NGOs feel the problems and challenges they face are obvious, this is not so for donors who may live half a world away. Many donors are very knowledgeable on the issue areas they fund, but others might need to be educated on the basic problems faced by the NGO’s community. Providing relevant background information, definitions, pictures, statistics and personal testimonials can help educate the donor on the issues.
Additionally, it is not enough to just prove that the problem exists; NGOs also need to convince donors that the problem is critical and needs immediate attention. Donors have to choose between many competing proposals, so proving to the donor that one project will have the greatest impact is an important way to stand out.
Proving the problem requires good research and a good understanding of the problem at hand. Proper identification of the problem is key to finding the solution, however identification of a single problem can be difficult in real-life where multiple factors are at play.
For example, suppose there is a high child mortality rate in a community and an NGO wants to address it. The NGO cannot treat child mortality as the basic problem because child mortality is in fact a result of other problems. In this case, there could be a prevalence of diarrhea due to low hygiene standards which leads to high child mortality. Thus, the NGO may propose to solve the prevalence of diarrhea by improving knowledge in the community about proper hygiene and sanitation.
A problem can have many causes and effects. The best way to understand the cause of an issue is to ask “Why” continuously. This is a basic exercise, but often works.