How To Connect With A Donor At The First Meeting

Donors are busy and have a dozen proposals sitting on their desks waiting to be read. As enthusiastic as you may be about your project, handing a lengthy proposal to a donor may not be the best way to start off your first meeting: It will just look like more work to them.

Something that I have found that is a good alternative is to initiate the relationship by handing them a 1½ or 2 page clearly organized document: a fact sheet. They can scan it for 30 seconds or a minute, and quickly get a good understanding of your project. We can easily look up the proper outline for a fact sheet—but how do we make it compelling?

What is compelling?

A compelling story paints a picture that makes the reader feel ‘I was there’. It can be a heart-wrenching story about an event in the day of a family suffering extreme poverty, or it can be a heart-warming story illustrating something wonderful that happened to a family as a result of your organization’s work.

The best compelling stories illustrate a single, human-centered image that supports the theme of your work: something readers can relate to with a sense of urgency and immediacy through joy or sorrow. It is the thing that pulls at a donor’s heart strings. It is why we are in development.

Examples of positive compelling story lines:

  • An illiterate farmer who hadn’t let his son attend school is invited to an NGO-led teacher-training workshop on math. Afterwards, he confided that he didn’t know what math was, but now that he sees its daily usefulness, he will encourage his son to enroll in school.
  • An illiterate family has their third grade daughter read them news and stories at night after dinner—opening a window to a new world and expanding future family opportunities through their literate nine-year-old daughter.
  • Through small but consistent earnings from NGO assisted sales of her textiles, a poor woman was able to increase family income enough to allow her to daughter attend school. Now, 16 years later, the daughter is preparing for her legal bar exams.

Writing your fact sheet

The two hardest things about writing are getting started and being too self-critical early on. When you have a first draft down on paper, read back through it and fix the obvious spelling and grammar problems. Then put it down, take a one-day break, and revisit it when you can approach it with a fresh mind.

When you are happy with the outcome, have someone else read it. Something that is clear as day to an author may not be clear to another reader. Another person’s comments can be very valuable in helping us to get our message across.

If your donors have their hearts warmed and feel that you captured the essence of their mission in your project design, you will have a greater likelihood of developing a partnership.  A donor will also be impressed with your well organized, professional presentation and sense that you will be a good organization to partner with.

What are your tips and techniques for connecting with a donor?

Please send your ideas either here to our blog, our Facebook page, or to our Development Community.

Be sure to join CSDi’s Development Community. Join 400 colleagues in sharing resources & collaborating online.

Learn how to write a compelling 2-page fact sheet.

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CBA Book Launch Community Based DRR

January 2013 CSDi Newsletter
CBA Book Launch | Community Based DRR | DRR Field Guide |
Adopt a Village | Designing & Funding Projects | Grenada | Kenya
BECOME THE SOLUTION. Are you a donor, development practitioner, or a student who wants to learn more about “what works” in development? Join students world-wide to design, fund and launch a community based project. Student projects have utilized 215 different kinds of solution-oriented activities to address community need. Scan the list to see which would work best for your project.
Courses Begin January 15

Development professionals from 450 organizations in 143 countries have used our online field courses to develop projects impacting over 275,000 people.
Worldwide over 1 billion people suffer from hunger. 2.6 billion people don’t have access to decent sanitation. 1.1 billion people don’t have access to safe drinking water. 1.3 billion people live on $1.25 a day or less.
How can you help reverse this trend? How would you like to connect with a village in a developing nation and provide meaningful support in helping them rise out of the cycle of poverty?

In our online field courses students actually develop real projects with real villages in developing nations. Adopt one of these villages by supporting development staff to help them design and launch an impact oriented project. When we match your donation to a student we will send you a their bio and information on the village and  the project. See examples of student projects.
  • Student projects, on average, impact 1,084 individuals
  • Your $100 donation for 2 scholarships will help 2,000 villagers rise out of the cycle of poverty
  • Your $50 donation will help 1,000 people in a developing nation
  • Your $25 donation: invest in a 50% share of a scholarship to help 1,000 villagers

It is estimated that over 70% of all disasters are now related to extreme weather events. Because of this, disaster risk reduction should become an integral part of adaptation projects. Community based disaster risk reduction holds the same merit that community based adaptation does: ownership and sustainability.

This past year CSDi participated in a number of DRR partner projects worldwide. We are seeing similarities between the projects: disasters caused by extreme weather events, flooding—and a lack of knowledge of effective techniques for disaster risk reduction. The disasters seen in student projects have lead to reduced harvests for smallholder farmers, reduced incomes, reduced food security, the destruction of homes and assets, and the displacement of families. See student solutions and a full course syllabus.

BOOK LAUNCH Routledge/Earthscan Release ‘A Field Guide To Community Based Adaptation’
‘Tim Magee, and his colleagues at CSDi, are to be commended for producing a book which should change the way development is practiced, and so directly contribute to the improvement of millions of lives around the world.’ – Howard White, Executive Director, 3ie, USA
‘A fascinating and informative guide to a subject of growing international importance. Tim Magee skillfully explains ways to combine external expertise and local perspectives on adaptation to climate change. This useful book should be read by development practitioners as well as students of climate change policy and international development.’ – Tim Forsyth, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK
‘This is a most-awaited book for development practitioners who are increasingly confronted with the challenge of addressing climate risks in designing and implementing programmes and projects. This book will help them to do just that in a way that places the interest of communities at the heart of the process.’ – Kareff Rafisura, Climate Risk Management Practitioner, Ghana
‘This book provides an insightful and comprehensive field guide to community-based adaptation. Magee brings together an impressive range of tools, resources and case examples in a clear and systematic step-by-step guide, while ensuring that the concerns of local people are kept at the centre of the analysis. This book is a timely and welcome addition to the literature, and will be useful to experienced practitioners as well as newcomers to CBA.’ Lars Otto Naess, Climate Change Team, Institute of Development Studies, UK
Designing and Funding Sustainable Develoment Projects

The course will lead you through the development of a real project, in real time, and leave you with the practical field tools to sustain it. Become the solution. Full Syllabus
OL 341: Community Based Adaptation to Climate Change

Over 50% of student projects in our original courses worked to solve problems linked with climate change. In response we developed 341tailored to the needs of those of you helping communities adapt to a changing climate. See a full course syllabus.

Learn to design projects and develop management and funding tools. Tim Murungi just received the go-ahead from his NGO in Liberia to begin presenting his course documents to donors this week. Martin Sishekanu in Zambia received funding for his course project this summer. Loraini Sivo in Fiji received $40,000 from the GEF for her course project.

Follow links to learn more and to download project updates and photos. 
GRENADA Climate Smart Agriculture Training Workshop: Dual Challenge—Drought and Flooding
The team developed a project outline to increase crop production, and then identified highly specific sub activities to target highly specific in-field challenges. Last month they led a CSA workshop.
“The workshop introduced six different types of agricultural techniques that would be useful for the community, based on our research of results in similar contexts. As such, the materials we have gathered so far should be enough for this introductory workshop, and we are relying on the extension agent to know all the details! We have developed a lesson plan to guide the workshop.”
KENYA Climate Smart Agriculture Practices for Extreme Weather Events and Changing Seasons
Joyce Onyango (Kenya), Aramide Adebola (Nigeria), and Natalie Macawaris (Philippines) have been working for the past year on a project in Kenya. Extreme weather events began 30 years ago in 1980 with a major drought. Recently they conducted a participatory vulnerability and capacity assessment with the community. The team  developed a project outline to increase crop production, and then identified highly specific sub activities to target highly specific in-field challenges. They held an agricultural workshop on these activities:
• Making compost for increasing soil organic matter
• Planting Napier grassfor conserving topsoil in farm fields
• Seed bed establishment
• Mulching for retaining soil moisture
Community Based Disaster Risk Reduction
Developing a DRR plan will include each of the activities in the field guide—and maintaining them in perpetuity. This will involve a plan for consciousness-raising among community members about DRR challenges, connecting with an early warning system, organizing teams, training teams in evacuation and search and rescue, and prioritizing mitigation strategies. Download.
 Frequently community members don’t have a clear picture of how and why disasters happen. They also may not know how to react when a disaster is building. Workshops and simple posters need to be developed to help them understand these concepts and to learn that there are things that they can do to reduce the risk caused by disasters, and to mitigate the severity of the disasters.
Best of January Project Resources for Community Based DRR
1. Community Based Disaster Risk Reduction – Good Practice. Mercy Corps Nepal. This handbook looks at 10 easy for communities to understand DRR field practices such as early warning systems, and evacuation and search and rescue teams.

2. Good Practices for Community Resilience. Practical Action. 2009. Comprehensive overview of building community resilience as a major component of risk reduction. Excellent graphics.
3. Flash Flood Risk Management. A Training of Trainers Manual. Very well developed professional manual.

Shresth, A. B., Chapagain, P. S., Thapa, R. International Center for Integrated Mountain Development. 2011
ADDITIONAL PROJECTS. To learn about other partner projects in real time, please visit the Adopt a Village page, our Facebook Page and visit the CSDi Development Community to see their regular postings—and join 750 colleagues in sharing resources & collaborating online.
Learn more about design and implementing Community Based Development Projects.
Would you like to subscribe to this newsletter?
The Center for Sustainable Development specializes in providing sound, evidence-based information, tools and training for humanitarian development professionals worldwide. CSDi is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

New Ebook 1st Four Best Steps To Design Fund Programs

Launch of complementary eBook on the first four steps in project design and funding.
Today, I’m launching a new, complementary, 50 page eBook: Four Powerful 1st Steps in Designing & Funding Non Profit Projects. Use it to:
  • Advance your Career, Raise Funds and Solve Non Profit Challenges
  • Design your Own Solution-Oriented Project & Attract Donors
  • Great Project Design = Extra Funding + Increased Services
Get your complementary copy of the book by filling out the subscription form at the bottom of this page.

Possibly, right now you are beginning the design of a project or program, and developing a plan for funding it.

The eBook is a compilation of four powerful techniques that will get you started.

The twelve chapters in the book provide background information and step-by-step, hands-on instructions for using these techniques.

Each section allows you to download a series of editable templates that you can use to really speed up your project development process.

Section 1. How to Conduct a Community Needs Assessment. In this section we look at how facilitating a needs assessment with your community can lead to a better understanding of needs and their underlying causes.

The example in this section is for a very simple needs assessment conducted by a food bank in Southern California. They used a participatory assessment technique called the Ten Seed Technique.

Section 2. How to Design your Project Incorporating the Results of your Needs Assessment. In this section, we look for solution oriented activities for designing programs to solve the problems uncovered during the needs assessment.

First, in this Section 2 example, we look for solution-oriented activities to each of the problems prioritized in Section 1. Our search will uncover articles, handbooks and manuals focused on your community’s challenges.

Section 3. Don’t you want your project to work? Evidence based solutions are the key. Suppose that you are a mother whose children are suffering, and an unknown organization came to you with a plan to help your children. Wouldn’t you want that plan to work?

This section is for determining through scientific research if your initial activity ideas have shown evidence of having worked to solve your community’s needs and challenges. We’re looking for evidence based best practices. We provide simple instructions for finding scientific studies online.

Section 4. Fast Logframe for Project Funding & Management. In this section we’re going to take your problem statement, project outline and goal statement developed in the first three sections, and place them in a simplified matrix: this is the first step in building a logical framework.

This will only take 30 minutes to do, but it will make your project more presentable to a donor—and also much easier to develop management documents like budgets and schedules.

Get your complementary copy of the book by filling out the subscription form at the bottom of this page.

In Summary
Facilitating a needs assessment with community members gets right to the underlying causes of the challenges they face—and develops a sense of ownership on their part.
Including solution oriented activities that have shown scientific evidence of having worked on projects similar to your project, will give you a greater likelihood of success and sustainability once the project is launched.
Using my fast log frame template will quickly get you speaking the language that donors speak—and will set you up for developing budgets, schedules, and monitoring and evaluation plans. These in turn increase your chances of receiving donations and successes in managing sustainable, impact oriented projects.

Please note: These four techniques are part of the process for developing a project design in a course I teach called OL 101: Designing and Funding International Development Projects. The first two assignments in 101 include detailed instructions for conducting a live needs assessment, an example of a completed assessment, and a project concept based upon the results. The third assignment leads you through the process of finding evidence based best practices. The fourth assignment provides simple steps to developing a logframe and presenting it to a donor.

Designing & Funding International Development Projects begins every month.


Tim Magee

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