OverviewDo’s and don’ts
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Key steps in mobilizing institutional donor support

Last edited: January 03, 2012

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  1.  Preparing a campaign “pitch” and ensuring visibility: A short (1/2 page), enthusiastic summary of the campaign should state the name of the campaign, the issue it addresses, its message and target audiences, and what is special about the campaign (its “unique selling point” or USP). It should also include precise information on the expected results (exciting and attainable), and the indicators that will be used to monitor progress.

Donors may undertake their own research on the campaign. Effective networking, and an attractive campaign website, or presentations of the campaign on the websites of alliance members, can provide visibility even before the official campaign launch. If there are not sufficient resources to start with a full website, a page on the social web (e.g. on Facebook, Ning or Orkut) is a viable alternative.

2. Reviewing potential donors: Potential donors can be identified by looking for:

  • Organizations that members of the campaign know well, e.g. from previous cooperation
  • Organizations with local or representative offices
  • Relevant national organizations (e.g. government institutions, foundations)
  • Relevant regional and international organizations (multi- and bilateral donors, NGOs, funding networks such as GROOTS, KIVA and Global Giving).

The latter two categories can be identified by mobilizing the campaigners’ networks, and through rigorous internet search. AWID’s WITM (“Where is the Money for Women’s Rights”) initiative provides regular updates on sources of funding for women’s rights work. Institutional change campaigners may also consult the Human Rights Nexus, which provides information on grants for human rights activities in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. Typing appropriate keywords (e.g. the campaign issue, and the words “application” and “grant”) into a standard internet search engine may yield additional information.

3. Assessing donor interest: Donor websites and other publications should be scanned for any relevant work on the campaign issue or related issues, any regional focus, and ways of working. Seek direct contact with likely donors who run a representative office nearby, or with people who run initiatives supported by the donors, so as to gain a fuller understanding of their priorities and ways of working. Knowledge on donor activities should be used when approaching the donor, e.g. by pointing to potential synergy between the planned campaign and specific on-going donor activities.

4. Assessing eligibility: Most donors include eligibility criteria for grantees on their websites. Usually, criteria include formal registration of the applicant organization, a clear governance structure, a proven track record, and the ability to contribute own funding to the activity. Some donors work with calls for proposals and deadlines for application.

5. Before submitting a formal proposal, the potential donor should be approached informally with the campaign pitch to assess interest. A face-to-face meeting with a donor representative is the ideal setting for a conversation on options for funding. If that is not feasible, a combination of telephone contact and written correspondence (sending the campaign pitch) is a viable alternative.

6. Preparing the proposal: Many donors have guidelines as to what information must be contained in the funding proposal, and how it is to be presented. Ideally, the proposal should be precise, focus only on the essential information required. It is advisable to use a sober design, and crisp, clear language without jargon and that explains all acronyms used. The proposal should summarise all aspects of the campaign strategy:

  • A brief statement of the problem addressed, and its importance and urgency
  • the solution envisaged
  • the theory of change the campaign is based on
  • the target audiences and the actions the campaign will encourage them to undertake
  • the campaign message
  • key campaign tactics, tools and activities
  • key elements of the communication strategy and how its effectiveness will be ensured
  • the anticipated results
  • information on campaign monitoring and evaluation.  

7.  Following up on the proposal: Where a good rapport with the potential donor has been established, it should not be problematic to call the donor representative shortly after sending the proposal to confirm whether it has been received, and offer any additional information if needed.


 Bear in mind:

  • A diversified donor portfolio reduces dependence on a single donor and spreads risks. However, accommodating different donor requirements may swallow much staff time. Wherever possible, joint reporting formats (e.g. an annual meeting bringing together all donors, detailed annual or semi-annual campaign reports that include all activities funded by all donors) should be negotiated with the donors.
  • Donor requirements may occasionally conflict with the campaign strategy. For example, some donors have visibility guidelines that require grantees to display the donor logo at public events and on printed materials. In countries where politico-social movements demonize “Western” influences, it may be counter-productive and dangerous for VAW campaigners to display logos of “Western” donors. In such well-justified cases, most donors usually accept a waiver, i.e. an exception from the standard rules.