By Kristina Mejo

In this projectized world, having a committed donor to make plans with this February 14th, St. Valentine’s Day, is something we all aspire to. But should the donor of your dreams not materialize this time, don’t drown in your sorrows. Better to focus on how to hone your skills, so that come this time next year, you’re sure to have a line-up of suitors for your projects.

Here’s the thing: Donors are increasingly conscious of the pennies they spend, and competition for resources is high. This appears even more so, as the overall number of organizations vying for donors’ funds are growing in scope.  As a result, it is even more important that our interventions are targeted ones. Before we develop a successful proposal, there are many considerations which come into play, even prior to opening up your proposal template, many of which, include preparations, discussions with potential donors and building up of relations ahead of time. It is important for us to not only present ourselves and be in contact with donors during times for calls for proposals, but ahead of time… even to the point that they are the ones that call us when there is an upcoming call for proposals, tender or “ideas” they just want to discuss. The age old saying, “you get out what you put in” may actually be correct here.

Tip One: Know your target. Look at donor websites to see what THEIR priorities are. Their strategies. Their plans, as they align with country strategies, MDG goals, etc. Check out the global donor profiles, or donor profiles from the region, which can help give you a better glimpse and overview of their funding mechanisms, region and country interests. 

Tip Two: Start afresh. Donors, like everyone else, want something fresh and relevant that has been contextualized to the current concerns on the ground, and timely response.

Tip Three: Know your donors. Visit them. Make sure they know you are there, and they can call upon you when they have questions, queries, or need urgent information.

Tip Four: Avoid duplication. One thing to know and be conscious of is - what are others doing? It’s important that as on the ground, and working in the respective country contexts, you are not only aware of our good work that is ongoing, but also, of who are the other players, whether they be big or small, civil society, NGOs, academia, research institutes, other IOs/UN, on the ground. What are they doing? Are we participating in thematic meetings? UNDAF meetings? Donors like to fund innovative creations. What’s more, they like their logo to be on them, to give them positive visibility. We can help them do just that.

Tip Five:  Create Partnerships.  Partnerships demonstrate that we are working well, and with others. This shows us as a dependable organization, that is not only the can-do organization, that works and coordinates well with others, and knows how to take the lead, but also when to partner with others, when it is their turn to take the lead. 

Tip Six:  Communicate. Donors like to be informed. They like to be ‘in the know.’ Share with them updates on relevant issues/new topics that may render them even more ‘informed’ and enable to further update their colleagues and capitals.  This shows us as taking the lead, providing key and relevant information.

Tip Seven: It’s all about timing. Timing, like in many parts of life, is everything. The same goes for communication with a donor. In many ways, once you have established a positive and frequent channel for information sharing on important/relevant information on issues/trends, current developments on the ground, statistics, etc., this demonstrates our comparative advantage.  Consequently, once the ‘time is right,’ you can share with the donor your killer project proposal, request for appeal, co-funding requirement, or potentially in kind donation, such as in the case of non-traditional donors.

Tip Eight: Be reliable. Once you have agreed to share your concept note or proposal with a donor, make sure that you deliver on time. Show the donor that you have discussed with them, recognized the importance of the mutual agreed time frame, and keep to it. This is even more important, once funding is received, and in reporting.  Keep up the frequent and informed communication.  And, if it’s absolutely unavoidable, and you know you are going to be late, give them a heads up. This keeps them both, in the know, as well as tells them, that you haven’t forgotten them.

Tip Nine: Thank your donor. People appreciate recognition of good work done. This is no different for donors. It is important to demonstrate that their role is key in bringing much needed assistance/technical assistance or relief. This is even further more so when at the time of report writing. This can again show the donors’ impact, as well as results achieved.

Tip Ten: Last, but certainly not least, build momentum. Donor visits and engagement don’t happen in isolation. It may take one visit, it may take multiple visits, discussions, emails, briefings, in country, at the regional level, headquarters, and in capital cities.

The most important is that you are consistent, reliable and steadfast in your work, approach, and sooner, if not later, donors recognize this, and see you present in various settings and around the table on the hot issues. Thus, the more we are present, the more we engage our donors, the more we create this successful momentum.

For more information on donor liaison and fundraising, please see the IOM Project Handbook (pp 67-71).