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6 Ways You Can Win More Grant Funding and Startup Investments

By Wayan Vota on May 30, 2022

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At the Global Digital Development Forum, I led a discussion on how we can fund locally-led digital development organizations. Our goal was to explore questions like:

  • Who is funding locally-led digital development organizations?
  • What are their goals and objectives?
  • How can organizations access their funding and support?
  • What are the barriers and challenges?

We heard about innovative efforts that are creating new investments in digitally-powered solutions to development challenges. We learned about their programs, who they’ve funded, and the results they are seeing in communities around the world.

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From our lively discussion (watch the session recording here), we heard that upwards of 80% of submissions that donors and investment firms receive are not compliant with their application rules. That means hundreds, if not thousands of applicants wasted their time and resources developing useless proposals.

How to Win More Grants & Investments

How can you improve your application and have a greater chance to win more grant funding and startup investments? Here are six ways you can increase your proposal win rate when you are responding to a request for proposal (RFP) from a donor or an investment request from an investor.

1. Read the Request for Proposal

This may seem obvious, but all the donors and investors were adamant that many proposers did not read the RFP. Proposers would send an obviously generic application that was not compliant with the RFP. Hence, the first and most important guidance is to read the call for proposals and the organization’s Terms & Conditions in detail.

Ask yourself if you really want to apply and if you qualify. Some go/no go answers should be easy:

  • Does your country qualify?
  • Is it focused on your sector?
  • Can your type of organization apply?

You should also look at past investments and grants to see if they fund similar organizations or efforts.

2. Know Your Organization

What stage is your solution or organization? If you have just an idea, then focus on entrepreneurship training, not startup funding. If you are a startup with a proof of concept, you’ll not get funded by an effort focused on scaling proven solutions. And if your organization is already generating revenue in the marketplace, then don’t apply for entrepreneurship training.

Also know where your organization can have an impact. If you are working in agriculture, do not apply to an education program. If you are supporting elementary schools, don’t apply for secondary school capacity grants. Finally, if you are focused on teacher training, stay true to your mission. Don’t apply for an ebook grant.

3. Only Apply When You Match the RFP

Hope springs eternal. Every entrepreneur wants more funding, and will often apply on hope alone. However, hope is not a strategy. Applying for funding outside your scope or capacity costs your organization directly.

Applications that are not relevant incur opportunity costs for you. You could’ve been working on something more productive. They also incur a physiological cost. You will have false hopes that will disappoint. Finally, applying to irrelevant opportunities will drive down your overall win rate, making your organization look less successful than it should.

You may also be wasting your chance to make a good impression. If you pitch an investor with the wrong proposal, they may not listen to you when you do have the right idea for their investment.

4. Write to the Request for Proposal

Now that you’ve read the RFP and FAQ in detail. You’ve confirmed this opportunity is a good fit for your organization and solution, it is time to write your proposal. Write to what the funder wants, not what you want.

For example, if the investment RFP focuses on supporting teacher training through online curriculum development, your proposal should speak to how you are supporting teachers with online curriculum development. Better yet, show the reader your capacity through real interventions.

If you are not working on teacher training through online curriculum development, then don’t lie and don’t apply. The funder will see through your ruse if you do.

5. Follow the RFP Guidelines Exactly

It is crucial that you write to the exact requirements of the RFP for your proposal to be considered. These four rules may seem obvious, but we heard that too many proposals fail to follow these simple tips and are discarded:

  • Clearly follow directions on every section of the RFP.
  • Answer all the questions fully and honestly.
  • Do not add in content that is extraneous.
  • Keep to page or word count requirements.
  • Develop an honest budget with clear expenses.
  • Submit your proposal by the deadline.

One key point is to ask for funding that is in line with the request. Asking for too much is just as bad as asking for too little, as the investor or donor wants to see a certain level of scale and usually has a hard cap on their funding amount.

6. Get Help with Free Resources

If all these guidelines are confusing, don’t worry. There are many free resources to help you prepare better proposals. This includes Startup Academy and Mentorship Marketplace where entrepreneurs can get further guidance and support so you can come back 6 months from now with a winning proposition.

More Grant Funding Opportunities

Do you want to get advice on how to apply for USAID grants for humanitarian aid projects or get startup investments for technology entrepreneurs Then please sign up now to get our email updates. We are constantly publishing new funding opportunities like these:

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of his employer, any of its entities, or any ICTWorks sponsor.
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