Planning Tools and 10 Things Funders Look for

Ten Things Funders Look for (NCVO-  National Council for Voluntary Organisations)

According to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) writing a successful bid requires the following:
  1. Evidence of need –  undertake a full Needs Analysis to justify your project and to explain why it is needed. This requires evidence including relevant and current policy statements.
  2. Clarity of purpose – Having clear aims and goals, and objectives that are SMART.
  3. Measure success –  How do you measure Impact. Maybe include the methods described previously.
  4. Realistic budget – work it out using a spreadsheet beforehand.
  5. Prove competence and capacity – includes personnel, expertise, skills etc.
  6. Acknowledge potential problems (Risk Assessment and Management) – identifying risk and their mitigation is an important element of a bid or tender.
  7. Vision (passion) –  the reason ‘Why’ …. Or rather…. your reason why!
  8. Flexibility.
  9. Exit Strategy –  formative and summative evaluation strategies with KPIs identified. How is the project disseminated? The outputs exploited and the partnership, network, web presence continued after the end of funding?
  10. Attention to detail –  including action plans, work packages, clearly defined deliverables, outputs and outcomes.

Treat a bid like a project! Be clear on the Inputs, the key activities, Outputs, Outcomes and anticipated Impact. What is Planned and what is Intended? What can be controlled throughout the project?


The Rumsfeld Matrix - Some Perspective!

The terms “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns” as used famously by Donald Rumsfeld are often used in project management and strategic planning circles. Known unknowns refers to “risks you are aware of, such as cancelled flights, risks of time slippage….” Unknown unknowns are risks that come from situations that are so unexpected that they would not be considered. Covid-19 may have been an unknown unknown to begin with. Known unknowns, on the other hand, are risks we are aware of, but cannot quantify such as personnel disputes or time slippage. Known knowns are what we hopefully use as the basis of our bid or tender but the ‘unknowns’ are those factors we need to include in a risk management strategy.

Inputs, actions and outputs can be planned and can be controlled. Outputs (usually in the form of deliverables) can be intended and controlled to some extent.  Any bid or tender should clearly identify achievements that be controlled throughout the project and how time slippage can be prevented and/ or managed (this is presented in the form of a risk assessment). Outcomes and impacts are less controllable but can certainly be influenced by the project activities and actions and should be monitored throughout.

Planning Tools

It is advisable to treat a bid like a project! Use the DPIE (Define, Plan, Implement, Evaluate) and  PDCA (Plan, Do, Correct, Act) project cycles as planning tools. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is an Australian Government agency responsible for scientific research and a diagram from a publication of theirs explains a project framework and the relationship between the inputs (the resources necessary for the project), the key activities (action plan), and the resultant outputs, outcomes and anticipated Impact.


Top Tips for Writing a Bid

The Mid-Sussex Voluntary Action (MSVA) is an umbrella organisation for social enterprises based in the South of England. They have suggested the following shopping list for bid writing:

  • Target your funder
  • Planning – bids take a long time!
  • Be realistic (1) – Scope your proposal
  • Read carefully!
  • KISS – Keep It Short and simple (don’t waffle!)
  • Be realistic (2)- The Funder has finite resources
  • Put yourself in the funder’s shoes
  • Always provide a clear summary
  • Avoid jargon, acronyms, exaggerations and confusing statements
  • Feedback is important – even if you fail you can learn for the next time!
  • Keep notes of your bids – use a spreadsheet

7 Common Mistakes when Submitting a Bid or Tender

Here is a list of seven common mistakes when submitting a bid or tender:
  1. Non- compliance (not following the guidelines or instructions – Why would you do that!)
  2. Not using the specification – links to point 1!
  3. Do not use ‘we’ (used too often)
  4. Failing to add value –  there is no ‘point’ to your proposal
  5. Copy and paste –  DON’T DO IT!!……. Really!! That’s how mistakes happen and inconsistencies in the narrative are caused!
  6. Not reviewing the submission…. Get someone else to read it!
  7. Feedback is important whether the bid/ tender is successful or not!

If you want to learn more about common mistakes, you can find additional links below. Here you can find more informatio on:

  • How to apply for funding (guide) and
  • Applying for a grant