Building capacity for grant proposal writing in Nepal

By Sudeep Uprety

Writing comes naturally to some while others think it is a struggle for them. As development communicator, I was frequently consulted by students and early career development professionals to help them in developing grant proposals to raise funds for their organisations and business ventures. This led to the birth of Grant Proposal Writing Training Series, initiated by Nepal Institute of Research and Communications (NIRC), a research and communications training institute. Through this initiative, we have successfully completed five batches of training to over 100 participants since September, 2018 in Kathmandu, with the last training held in January 19-20, 2019.

Our two-day training programme has been designed with a mix of both conceptual and practical sessions. Our sessions comprise of introduction to grant proposal writing; key elements of a bid document and things to consider before preparing for bid development; components of a Technical Proposal (such as background, understanding of the context and Terms of Reference, study design, implementation plan, team composition and project governance, quality assurance mechanism, risk assessment and mitigation strategies, monitoring and evaluation framework and annexes); and Financial Proposal (such as implementation budget, human resource budget, budget summary and financial justifications).

We also had practical sessions for participants about developing conceptual framework about the scope of work, developing project implementation plan and human resource mobilisation plan, risk assessment and mitigation strategies.

Likewise, understanding that calls for proposals not just limit to developing technical and financial proposals, we also oriented the participants briefly about the styles and samples of developing responses to Expression of Interest (EoI) and Concept Note.

Finally, we also discussed with the participants about effective bid packaging – reminding minute details such as submission formats, deadlines, writing in Plain English, email etiquette and file size limitations for online submission, proper addressing in the cover letter, among others.

Apart from our flagship training programme, we have also provided proposal writing trainings for other organizations such as World Vision International, Mercy Corps and Kamal Rural Municipality in Province 1.

Based on our experience of developing grant proposals for different agencies, some of the top tips:

Do’s

  • Digest the call for proposal properly – understand the objectives; scope of work; expectations from the funding agency; scope of work; deliverables; evaluation criteria and administrative requirements (technical and financial proposal guidelines; submission format and deadline, documents to submit)
  • Identify your team members – who could contribute to proposal development relevant to the nature and subject matter of the call for proposal
  • Develop a proposal plan – devise a strategy to engage your team members to contribute in developing the proposal and provide them a deadline well ahead of the final submission deadline leaving enough time for compilation and review
  • Develop a review team comprised of subject matter and language experts to polish the proposal
  • Have a check list to ensure that all required documents are completed before submission
  • Submit the proposal in time in order to avoid any last minute accidents (such as problems in uploading large files and no/weak internet connection)

Don’ts

  • Apply a blanket approach – explaining similar sort of competencies in all kinds of calls
  • Have a massive team – having a lot of discussion and very less time to come up with a unified strategy
  • Have many writers – making many people write will make it difficult to compile the write-up and ensure coherence of ideas; also makes it difficult to standardise the language
  • Start writing before having a clarity of ideas – writing while you are confused makes your strategy weak and does not convince the funding agencies that you are well prepared to carry out the task
  • Submit in haste – submitting well ahead of the deadline doesn’t give an edge over the other applicants and moreover increases your chances of missing some important points that you would have wanted to include

Easier said than done, writing a successful grant proposal requires clarity of thoughts in terms of proposed strategies; dedicated team; and the sensibility to understand the priorities and expectations of the funding agency. Our experience of conducting these workshops have also been documented in a short video.

Sudeep Uprety is a development communications professional and is Co-Founder and CEO at NIRC. Tweets @UpretySudeep

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