Sometimes, all a great idea needs to turn into a project is funding - which happens to be one of the biggest challenges faced by creatives. The Africa No Filter Masterclass: Grant Writing for Creatives is deep dive into the world of fund-raising and what creatives can do to make their grant proposals shine.
It was facilitated by Paul Nwulu, Jessica Hagan and Anthony Wafula. Nwulu is a strategic communication consultant and content creator who worked with the Ford Foundation for eight years as a grantmaker. Award-winning playwright Jessica Hagan, programme officer at Africa No Filter leading on arts and culture grants, has also worked at the British Council. Anthony Wafula is the programme development manager for Hivos, an international development organisation that supports changemakers in more than 40 countries worldwide.
Here are their top tips for creatives who are looking for funding for their projects.
- Be clear about what you are looking for funding and why
You must be able to articulate your mission and vision, your organisation or project budget, your beneficiaries, and the funding goal. Funders also want to know why you think the fund you are applying for is a good fit for your organisation or project.
- Use existing resources to identify potential funders
Researching funders or prospect research is a very time-consuming process. To increase your research efficiency, consider using a donor database to research funders and grant opportunities. You can start with www.peakproposals.com if you are in Nigeria, Kenya or South Africa.
- Partner with like-minded people and organisations
Create partnerships. This allows you access to funding that you might not be able to get on your own, and it can also help you gain experience in seeking financing and project management. Funders prefer to fund organisations they are familiar with and those with an established record of success. However, choose wisely as partnerships can make projects more complicated.
- Be detailed in your grant proposal
Make your proposal stand out by documenting an unmet need that the grant seeker can address and develop a clear plan for the project or programme. “Research funders thoroughly, build strong relationships with them, and write a concise proposal,” said Nwulu.
- Answer these questions in your proposal
The proposal should tell funders or reviewers the specific need or needs you are addressing through your project, what you want to achieve, how you are going to measure success, why you are the best organisation or individual to do the job, and how the project will sustain itself in the long run. Ensure your proposal has these elements when putting together: the executive summary, proposal narrative, budget and supporting materials.
- The executive summary
This is one of the essential parts of your proposal, as most reviewers will read this first to determine if they want to continue reading the rest of the proposal. It should have goals and objectives in one paragraph or bulleted, a project description of two to three sections, organisational information in two paragraphs, and a paragraph on budget. Even though the Executive Summary comes first in the proposal, you should write it last.
- Proposal narrative and budget
A proposal narrative comprises a statement of need, goals and objectives, project descriptions, organisational information, and a conclusion. Meanwhile, your budget should be itemised and meet all the requirements stated in the grant application or call out. You can read the dos and don’t of writing a project budget here.
- Make your application shine.
Application requirements vary, and the rule of thumb is to ensure you meet all the minimum requirements. However, remember to include other documents that will make your application stronger. These include the organisation’s registration and other legal documents, references and support letters, press mentions and board lists.
- Treat your grant proposal like a courtship and go all out to impress reviewers.
Don’t submit your application on the day that the deadline closes; stick to the minimum requirements in the call out or request a proposal and include all the necessary attachments available and in the prescribed format.
- Here’s a checklist for your technical review
When reviewing your proposal, it should have articulation (clarity of purpose), viability (ask yourself if it's practical or far from reality based on the implementation context), impact to show the Funder’s return on investment, value for money, innovation and capacity.