The most beautiful thing that characterizes the life of proposal writers is that they expect news every morning; this news can be the acceptance of one of the projects submitted to donors during the last few months. To increase the opportunities for good news in organizations’ lives, they have to develop good proposals and send them to potential donors on an ongoing basis.
The first years in proposal writers’ lives is featured with lots of projects rejected by donors, which is an exhausting and stressful time for everyone, because it is the real learning period in which the person spends long weeks or months writing one proposal.
If we want to increase the opportunities for the proposal success, we have to review the proposal according to the following points:
- Did we define the problem and needs clearly and mention every group’s needs separately?
- Is there any correlation and match between the outcomes, outputs, activities of the proposal with the problems and needs that were stated in the needs assessment and problem analysis part?
- Are all the project objectives SMART?
- Did we have only one outcome and three outputs?
- Is the difference between the outcome and outputs clear?
- Are the indicators clear? Is the target number appropriate and does it answer every indicator?
- Is the number of beneficiaries clear and not doubled?
- Did we put activities for monitoring and evaluation orderly and did we put some of them in the main activities in the project?
- Did we review the budget with the accountant or the finance manager of our organization?
- Has the proposal’s language been reviewed along with the content by more than one person?
- Has the proposal been put in the form described in the donor’s announcement or in accordance with the donor’s instructions?
- Has the proposal been reviewed from the gender perspective?
We must ensure that the proposal is written, budgeted and reviewed, then approved by the leadership or management of the organization well in advance of the submission deadline mentioned in the donor’s announcement.
How to review the proposal?
Donors contract with a consultant or a group of consultants to review the proposals within a predetermined period and the review usually begins by ensuring that the proposals submitted comply with the following conditions:
- The proposal was submitted before the deadline.
- The proposal is consistent with the objectives of the call for proposals.
- The applicant meets the criteria required for applicants.
In case one or all of the aforementioned points are missing, the proposal is automatically rejected and its contents are not evaluated. The remaining proposals, which meet the previous conditions only, will be reviewed. Organizations expect that the donor takes sufficient time to read the project proposal that they have prepared and spent months or weeks on so they can deliver it before the submission period ends; what is happening is exactly the opposite. Through my previous work over the last ten years, I have participated in more than 10 project evaluation committees submitted by local and international organizations, so I can confirm that reviewing one proposal does not take more than 2-5 minutes.
Imagine what can be read of the proposal’s content in this very short time. It is only scanning the proposal and searching for specific sentences and things that help taking the decision by the committee members quickly. For example, the committee members in the evaluation form find a question that says: ‘Are the project objectives SMART?’ In a glimpse, everyone can confirm whether they are smart or not, then agree to put the score allocated to this question (5 out of 100 usually).
There is a specialized person whose job is to review the submitted proposals from a gender perspective. This person reviews the needs assessment part and makes sure it include the needs of women, girls, men, boys or any other groups like people with special needs. Then he moves to the activities, outputs and outcomes to make sure if it is clear how much every activity targeted men, women, boys and girls precisely. All this takes only one minute for every proposal.
The grades specified for every paragraph are collected. Then the proposals that got the highest grades are selected. The budget of all selected proposals should not exceed the total grant that has been identified in the announcement or the call for proposals. So there is nothing called a specific grade for success, because this grade differs each time. For example, a proposal may get 80 grades, but there were 7 other proposals that got higher grades and their budget total equals the total grant; in other words, this proposal will be rejected.
All this emphasizes the fact that we need to be careful not to lose any grade as a result of failing to formulate simple paragraphs like objectives and whether they are SMART or not.
An apology might be sent to those who submitted proposals that were rejected via e-mail, but mostly only those whose proposals have been accepted are contacted.
The winning of the proposal
Your day will be a happy one when you receive an e-mail or are notified by a colleague that the proposal won. At that moment, you will feel that every minute you spent on learning, collecting and analyzing information, designing the proposal and making the effort was worth it, and the efforts to review all the details have been fruitful.
Then you need to prepare for the second step, which is responding to the donor’s inquiries or dealing with all the questions and requirements received from the donor. Therefore, you may expect many paragraphs that need clarifications and amendments, the most important of which are:
- The number of beneficiaries and whether they were calculated correctly and not doubled. Therefore it is preferable to attach the beneficiaries’ calculation form in an excel file when submitting the proposal after amendments.
- Add or delete specific indicators.
- Add or clarify the risks and risk mitigation measures.
- Integrate some outputs or add specific activities concerning monitoring and evaluation.
- Modify activities according to gender perspective.
- Ask for details for activities to clarify them more.
- Revise the budget, add or delete items.
- Attach the budget details for every item or activity.
- Attach tables of quantities and associated costs in case the project includes construction or rehabilitation of buildings.
You have to expect back-and-forth action in this step, which is sometimes more stressful than writing the proposal itself. Whenever the details are clear and complete, and the attachments are available and sent with the modified proposal according to the notes, this step can be shortened significantly.
Therefore, the true happiness is when you sign the agreement with the donor, meaning the project has started and what you have imagined during writing the proposal will become a reality you live every day.
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