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Growing the Business – How to Secure Funds to Expand your Reach

Scott Poynton's picture

Now that your project is a success, you’re going to want to do more of it to impact more people in more and different contexts. How do you do it?
The first thing you have to think about is a Communications Strategy. Funders will not give money to someone they’ve never heard of and you telling the funder you’re a good guy or a good organization only carries so much weight – of course you’re going to say that! So your communications strategy should revolve around getting others to visit your project – preferably journalists - and then write about it. We were able to attract BBC and Reuters to visit our project and we got international coverage. This helped enormously when we were submitting proposals to expand our work as we were able to give web links to articles written about our work or to TV news pieces so people could see it in action. Now not everyone is going to be able to attract such folk but there are many NGOs that will be interested in what you’re doing so approach them and ask them to come and appraise your work. When they come, make sure they take lots of photos and even ask them to do a video. They MUST provide you with a written report of their visit with conclusions about your work. You have to tell them in advance how you want to use this report i.e. to go to new donors. Explain to them in advance that you want their unbiased opinion but that you also want to make it public in the form of a Press Release that will hopefully get picked up and posted on someone’s website – make sure you put it on your own website of course. If you have the cash, recruit a good communications specialist – we did – to advise you and help entice journalists. They’re not cheap but if they do a good job and you get interest from folk like BBC and Reuters, your investment will be massively repaid by new donor funds coming to help you expand.
So now you’ve got some good comms to share with donors, you have to prepare your ideas. Don’t just go to them with the same idea as you used to win the WB DM; you’ll have learned some lessons so refer to them and explain how you’ve changed and developed your thinking through project implementation and that here is your new plan. It should be ambitious and significantly scaled up from your WB DM idea. Share it with the DM Team, they’ll help you.
Choose your donor carefully – no shotgun approaches! Speak to the donor, don’t just send them an email with a proposal attached, they need to get to know you, trust you and respect your work. This initial ‘getting to know’ you phase is where your comms work will be invaluable because they’ll see that others think you’re doing good things. Go to meet them if you can – this is not always possible of course if you’re a small organization operating in remote parts with budget problems. But do go to see them if you can or - and this is where you should remember your partners and that includes the DM Team – see if you can get them to visit and speak on your behalf.
Prepare a good and strong proposal – you’ve got experience of this of course as you did this to win the DM grant – and then follow up to  make sure they’ve received it. Don’t pester your donor once they’ve told you when it will be discussed internally – be patient and wait but also be ready to rapidly supply more information if requested.
Lastly, if the donor says no and you think they haven’t fully understood what you’re proposing (our work is complex and so this can be a problem), then gently push back offering more information to improve clarity. Don’t take no for the answer immediately, try to stay engaged but if they clearly do get it but still say no, then you’ve got the wrong donor. This can be frustrating as it may have taken a lot of time and resources to get to this point, but that only highlights the need to choose your donor targets very carefully from the outset.
We worked through a process like this and have converted our US$150,000 DM grant into grants of over US$1.4 million to significantly scale up our work and we’re still working with other donors to increase that and expand further.
I hope you can do it too – good luck!

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