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Bid writing: Do's and don'ts

Bid writing: Do's and don'ts

How to get really good at fundraising for your project

We’ve looked at how to prepare a funding application, and how to write one. On this page, Lia and Kiiza share tips that will help you grow more successful with each bid you submit.

This is Part 3 of a three-part resource on bid writing. In Part 1, Preparing your funding proposal, Kiiza and Lia talk about contacts, networks and research. In Part 2 they offer help on Writing your funding proposal. 


...keep helpful resources

Any resources you have, keep in a special folder on your computer, or in a file in your house, or even on a spreadsheet.

“I’ve stockpiled my own library over time,” says Lia, “Everything I would suggest that is very specific to what I do and what I have been working in.”

She adds, “I have bookmarks on my internet browser for what I work in which is more climate change related. So, really good data sources and things to cite. Any articles and resources to help writing, like vocab libraries. A thesaurus is great as well when you just really want to frame things well, especially for short and impactful things like your project goals and your objectives."

Kiiza has two favourite online resources for bid-writing that he regularly uses. The first is from the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).

“They have all these online courses which are free and they cover many areas that interest me. They have free materials and research data.”

The other one is Funds for NGOS which has a lot of free resources but also runs a premium service that Kiiza subscribes to.

“If you don’t want to subscribe, you still get access to those calls and the guidance and tips on how to write winning proposals and grants.”

computer screens and smartphone

...have an online presence

Lia says that this has become increasingly important.

“There’s a due diligence process, which you as an applicant wouldn’t even know about,” she explains.

In the final round of the application process, donors want to check that you’re a real person, belonging to a creditable organisation. The first place they look is the internet.

“What is your online presence? Just googling your organisation’s name, your project – and if nothing comes up? Then, to me that would raise a bit of a red flag.

recycling triangle

...demonstrate the sustainability of your project

Lia explains that funders want to contribute “to a cause that is greater and is going to get different sources of funding”.

As an evaluator, she says, “you’re looking for sustainability even in non-profit initiatives. Some kind of grant-to-grant thing”.

Funders can be put off if they think they’re providing the only source of income to a project or organisation.

“Otherwise the whole thing comes to a standstill and you’ve basically invested in this project that is no longer working,” she says.

So you need to demonstrate “some kind of innovation or creativity for the project  and vision”.

Part of what makes a project sustainable, is the team behind it. So show off your team, demonstrate the organisational structure, introduce colleagues to potential funders.

The three fundamental things you need to demonstrate, says Lia are, “the team behind the project, the vision for achieving an impact, and that it’s really a good fit – it’s not being made packaged for a call for proposals”.

Which brings us to the first “don’t”!


...apply for funding on the off chance

Lia says, "The ones that you just blind send an application for are almost not worth it to be honest."

From the evaluator’s point of view, Lia says, “You want to see that what you’re approving is aligned with your goals and it’s not been kind of packaged for it. So it’s more like you’re contributing to a cause that is greater and is going to get different sources of funding.”

dollar bills floating against a black background someone else to write your bid

Unless of course, your project or organisation has become so successful you can really afford to and you are very confident of this person's abilities. Many big non-governmental organisations do employ fundraisers. But if you haven't got much cash, you are very likely better off writing the proposal yourself.

Kiiza reflects on a time when a funding application had just failed. “We thought of employing someone who is good at writing proposals.”

A professional bid writer was referred by a friend to Young Africa Leaders Talk and Action on Climate Change. Because the team didn’t have funding, they paid the bid writer from their own pockets. “But guess what? It never worked out! He took our money and never gave us good content that could really make us win.”

It was that experience which inspired Kiiza to study the art of bid writing by looking at all available resources in the American Embassy library. 

...give up

Lia says, “It’s a long process. It can be a difficult process, but it’s an important skill to get down.”

chalk board saying Never Give Up

Kiiza has some wise words for anyone feeling disheartened by repeated failure to win grants.

“Funding sometimes can be a little bit disappointing in terms of when you fail to win once, twice, thrice. And may be you feel you’re not good enough, or you’re not lucky. But when you get that one funding it makes you forget all these troubles.

“Anyone applying for anything shouldn’t just focus on that one they have lost, but think of what they have gained in terms of experience, networks and knowledge while they were writing those proposals.”

In this way, he says you lose nothing by applying for funds, adding, “If you never apply for it, it can never come to you.”

Part 1, Preparing your funding proposal

Part 2, Writing your funding proposal