Writing a successful grant application: tips for grassroots groups

Haddy Jonga (left), Programme officer at Think Young Women, with Fatima Gomez, one of the 60 mentees currently in Think Young Women’s ongoing Girls' Mentorship Programme. Think Young Women is a member of Girls Not Brides and a grantee of AmplifyChange. Photo credit: Think Young Women

This blog is the second in a fundraising series for Girls Not Brides members and grassroots organisations with limited access to funding. Read the previous blogHere, Suzanne Walker of AmplifyChange – a multi-donor fund that supports civil society advocacy for sexual and reproductive health and rights – shares her tips to make your grant application stand out.  

When AmplifyChange launched a call for grants to address child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) and Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) in June 2016, we wanted to reach grassroots groups with limited access to funding, in countries where girls and young women are most at risk.

We received a huge response! It’s encouraging that so many organisations are interested in addressing these harmful practices. However, this also meant that competition was extremely high, as we could only fund about 1 in 8 applications.

What made certain applications successful? Here are a few of my top tips.

Tip 1: Carefully read the guidelines

Are you specifically eligible and suitable for this funding round? If so, explain why your organisation is a good fit.

AmplifyChange prioritised groups with a track record of working on CEFM and FGM/C and who focused on these issues in their organisational objectives. We wanted applicants that were committed to long-term action, and building on previous learning.

We also prioritised smaller grassroots and community groups, particularly youth and women-led. Larger and more experienced organisations should perhaps consider one of our other grants, such as our Network Grant call.

Tip 2: Trust your local knowledge and explain why child marriage continues in your context

Effective initiatives are rooted in a strong understanding of the local causes and drivers of child marriage and/or FGM/C.

Consider collecting quantitative and qualitative data as part of your project design, and include them in your application.

With their local knowledge, community-based organisations can ensure interventions are relevant and appropriate. Applicants that showed this local understanding were more successful, as we could clearly see they knew how to make change happen.

Tip 3: Clearly define the changes you hope to achieve, and how your project will bring about these changes

Successful applicants showed they could achieve meaningful change for women and girls. They clearly explained why they had chosen their approach, and included examples of past successes and lessons learned.

Applications that included ‘one off’ or vague awareness-raising activities without a clear strategy for following up were rarely successful.

Tip 4: Ensure that your project is achievable within the timeframe and resources available

Often small organisations can produce over-ambitious projects and budgets for what they are trying to achieve. We looked for initiatives with well thought-out and clear objectives and activities that were feasible within the timeframe and budget.

Tip 5: Highlight why your approach is innovative and will lead to a meaningful impact

Think about what makes your project unique.

Are you engaging particular groups? For example, initiating dialogue with medical professionals, the police or parliamentarians; using sport with youth; working with the media; or bringing on board men and boys as champions. We value applicants who include a thoughtful analysis of influential stakeholders, and a clear strategy for how to work with them.

Are you implementing something that’s never been done before? We are keen to support new ideas if supported by a clear rationale, and learning activities such as exchange visits.

Tip 6: Be creative!

There is a high level of competition for funding. Think about how to make your application stand out. For instance, including videos about your organisation can help reviewers visualise the potential of your project.

Tip 7: Mention your membership of any networks, coalitions or working groups

In AmplifyChange, we very much believe in the importance of working in collaboration to achieve transformative and lasting change.

Don’t forget to note your membership of Girls Not Brides, as the opportunities this provides for sharing learning and enhancing collaboration are an added value! We look to support vibrant and inclusive movements that are working towards a common goal.

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We are very excited to have now selected 35 additional passionate and enthusiastic grantees addressing FGM/C and CEFM. For more information about the organisations and projects that we fund, in addition to our priorities and future funding opportunities, visit www.AmplifyChange.org.

We welcome your feedback, suggestions and ideas – please send them on to amplifychange@manniondaniels.com.