Monday, December 10, 2007

How to develop fundraising capacity?

"You want to build the fundraising capacity of by helping people to write proposals and documents and build donor contacts, but in practice people want you to write the proposals for them. Time constraints put you in that position too. Yet how will they deal with fundraising after I'm gone? What to do?"

Is there enough quality in the organisation to write proposals and build donor contacts? In some cases the organizations are be capable to write good quality proposals (maybe with some English editing) but have a lot of work to do and deadlines are announced or discovered only shortly before. The definition of the challenge for the advisor is how to best do capacity building, and at the same time making sure there is a good proposal to submit on time.

What exactly is the fundraising capacity that needs improvement? In most cases, organizations can improve on following donors formats, knowing and using the concepts that donors use, or being in synch with the donor's ideas. Innovation levels may be low, and proposals may be (partly) copied.

Which approach to choose? How bad is it to choose for a implementing approach (writing proposals) versus a capacity building approach? Some consideration that an advisor can make to choose between one or the other approach are is to look at the positive and negative aspects of each approach:

What are the negative aspects of writing project proposals for them?

  • There's less capacity building
  • It will take longer before they will (or will be able to) write the documents themselves.
  • It will put your colleagues in a dependent position
  • You might not be aware of any important issues that should beincluded

What are the positive aspects of writing project proposals for them?-

  • Larger chances for timely submission
  • Less working hours put into the process
  • Better use of the English language ;-)-

What are the negative aspects of denying to write documents for them and stick to a capacity building approach?

  • There might not be the desired output
  • Thus e.g. your organization might miss the opportunity forfinding funding

What are the positive aspects of denying to write documents for them and stick to a capacity building approach?

  • More capacity building?
  • Raise of awareness on responsibility
  • They might blame you for it?/ Feel it's inconsiderate?

On another level, the advisor may prepare document on donor-information needs, a planning for proposal writing, and also a donor-list, with donors possibly interested in funding.Working on improvement in the planning, monitoring and evaluation system may lead to more efficient planning of fundraising activities.

When a group of organizations have the same need you may organize a participatory training in fundraising. Participants exchange methodologies used in proposal development and facilitators make modifications to befit comtemporary approach.

An assumption at play within the organization may be that 'what capacity advisors write will be accepted by the donor'. Since the assumption may be that he/she has contacts or knowledge of the language in use. One strategy being used is to allow the organizations to work along themes as advanced by ICCO. This approach will hopefully consolidate the fragmented proposals into programs that may have larger impact.

We can view capacity building from a systems-thinking perspective, in which the different levels of capacity (institutional/contextual;organisational; individual) are interacting in a dynamic and complex way. To give an example of proposal writing, when a partner needs (wants) to develop a proposal, the success will depend on many questions and factors, eg How much information on the context is available?, Are there any partnerships/networks that we engage with that cansupport us? , What is our overall organisational strategy and how does this proposal fits in?

Following this systems-thinking approach as a capacity builder, you conduct an inquiry of the system-factors active in each case. Proposal writing is not simply the development of a group of activities with a budget. It is supposed to be part of thestrategic programming framework of an organisation. Sometimes it is not a bad idea to invest more time in ‘writing’ a proposal when this also leads to a more strategic approach to proposal development (for instance by building on best practices, aligning it to strategic framework, engaging with new partners).

Proposal writing should be in relation to a strategic plan, based upon a profound context analysis. Some advisors have reservations, as strategic plans may be donor-driven and organizations may be more opportunistic in reality while looking for resources. Organizations must learn that they can also say 'no' to a donor. In one case, an organization said no, and the donor returned with a proposal that fit the organization's priorities better.

A gradual approach may be a strategy to facilitate a process of creating awareness about sustainability in proposal writing:

  1. The first time you do the whole proposal writing process together, making sure there is substantive input from your colleague (and recognition for that).
  2. The next time, you start up together, so that it becomes very concrete and clear what needs to be done for this particular assignment. Brainstorm together, but don't write full texts. When it's finished you discuss it together.
  3. The next time, your colleagues brainstorm and you discuss the results afterwards, as well as the final text when that has been written.
  4. And finally, you will only discuss the final steps.
And finally, the advisor may need to let go, the advisor is not responsible!

(for another blogpost on fundraising go here).

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