What is Project Justification in Grant Proposals?

The project justification is one of the most crucial parts of a proposal. You can use it to convince the potential donor that your project is of ultimate importance for your community and elucidate the ways in which, by developing this project, you will consistently achieve your set goals (social, economic improvement or the resolution to a specific problem).

Research the issue your project addresses in depth. Identify the causes of the problem and, if possible, list the ways in which other projects have already successfully addressed similar issues. Once you have this material, write in simple words what your project is about and what your main goal is (remember to set achievable and realistic goals for your project!).

Convice Your Donor

Project Justification is where you convince your donor about the need for funding

List the three main factors that are causing the problem you address. Let’s say your project is about training a group of 10 unemployed young people to edit documentaries: explain that local schools and university curricula do not provide such training, that the closest training centre is two hours away, and that there are no professional video-editors in your community. Explain why you think this project is ultimately important and for whom. Remember to clarify how through the development of this project your target group could consistently improve their skills, life expectations, or quality of life. For instance, find information about the employability of video-editors in your area. Look up, in job centres or adverts, existing trends in the market and make a strong case for these trained young people to increase their possibilities of finding the job they really want.

It is important to link your project with the reality of your community. Write down how you came up with the idea by recounting facts or experiences you had that drew your attention to this problem. If possible, add other voices. For instance, and referring to the example above, if you once met a young woman who wanted to become a film-maker, but had no way of learning the basics of video-editing, briefly recall her story. In this way, the donor will get a sense of the importance of your project in the community and the extent to which its development will benefit real individuals.

Once you have all these parts, take your time to create a consistent and organic narrative. Start with a simple sentence summarising the main goal of the project. Add a paragraph about the reasons at the root of this problem. Briefly explain how is your project intervening to solve said problem. Draw on the success of similar initiatives to strengthen your own proposal and explain how this project will concretely benefit improve the life of members of your community by inserting life stories in your narrative. Remember that a successful proposal is written in a clear, simple, and engaging way. Accordingly, avoid repetition, rhetorical questions, and complex phrasing. Write simple sentences that make concrete points. This will convince the donor that your project is feasible and that it answers to specific needs of your community. Also, to set concrete goals will enable the donors to monitor the implementation process and evaluate the final results.

‘Understanding SMART Objectives’ – for Your Project Proposals

Every time we site down to write project proposals, we come across the word “SMART” while developing project objectives. All donors insist that whatever objectives we develop, they have to be SMART. What does it really mean to have SMART objectives? Learn more from this short guide.

SMART objectives are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-related.

Be specific means that you have to prepare yourself for in-depth research about the issue you want to address. Avoid general statements such as “this project will improve the employability of young people”. Rather, write what the specific context of the project is. For instance, be specific about what the unemployment rate among young people in your community is. What are the causes? What strategies have been already implemented? Evaluate what has been already done successfully and draw on the results of previous initiatives to engage with other actors and sources. Explain why other initiatives failed and how your project will avoid replicating the same mistakes. It is a good practice to list your objectives in bullet-points.

Your objectives must be measurable. Keep in mind that your donor wants to know how the success of your project can be evaluated. Therefore your objectives must enable the donor to monitor the progress of the project and assess the final results. Following up the previous example, state how many young people will be participating in the project, how many will be trained, how many will be likely to find a job within the end of the project, within 6 months, or within a year. Make reference to statistics and analyses of the local market to substantiate your claims. As good practice, write that “at least” x number people will participate, be trained, and become employed. In doing so, you will provide a minimum benchmark against which your results will be evaluated and will also give the idea that a larger number of individuals will successfully take part in the project and benefit from the organised activities.

Your objectives must be achievable and relevant. Research your community and make sure you know whether your project is likely to be welcomed or whether it is needed. Set achievable targets; do not claim that a yearlong project will produce radical change. Rather, set clear objectives that can be fulfilled. Remember that the success of the project will also determine your chances of obtaining more funding. Thus, see each project as a small contribution towards bigger ends.

Relevant means result oriented. Your project objective should be able to answer the questions like “why should this project be done?” “what impact will this project have?” Set objectives parallel to your organization’s strategic plan and mission addressing the specific needs of your target group.

Remember your objectives must be reached in a set time-frame. Draw on the results of similar projects and observe what is happening in your community in order to decide how long it will take to complete a task. Consider all the steps you intent to make. From advertising the project, gathering interested parties, negotiating your goals with those of your target group and starting the activities. Take note of other events that might become an obstacle for reaching your goals on time. If you work with young unemployed people, consider whether they will be likely to prefer an intensive training of four weeks or whether they will be more likely to commit for a longer period of time.

Finally, remember that life is unpredictable. As such, it is important that your objectives are flexible and negotiable. This does not mean that they should be vague or general. They must be extremely precise and detailed, but they must also convey the idea that, throughout the development of the project, you will constantly engage with set objectives to make necessary changes and ratification when appropriate.

The Best Proposal Writing Techniques for NGOs

A successful application depends on the design of a sound project, which addresses social, political, and economic issues of a community. In order to get funded, it is important to spell out your needs, plans, and evaluation strategies in a way that allows the potential donor to understand the importance of your project and become interested in what you are doing. The proposal you send represents your major opportunity to get funded, so it is of crucial importance to learn how to write it in a consistent and effective way.

Firstly, take time to familiarize with the vocabulary of your potential donor. Read their website carefully and their calls for proposals, taking note of the words they use to frame their values, goals, and strategies. It could be useful to create lists of phrases, concepts, and verbs that you find in the donor’s texts that could be used for your own application. To speak the ‘same language’ will immediately create a strong connection between you and your targeted funding body.

Proposal Writing TechniquesSecondly, keep in mind that the search committee will read and assess several applications. A winning proposal is the one that stands out of the crowd by being clear, precise, and engaging. Avoid rhetorical questions and complicated sentences; your style has to be fresh and your phrasing simple and accessible. Always opt for clarity, brevity, and be direct. Project proposals are normally short, so you don’t have space to elaborate much. Be committed to concision. This will involve several rounds of re-drafting your proposal, so start well in advance in order to meet the deadline.

Thirdly, always use action verbs – this will give the idea that you and your project is set to achieve results and not only to reflect about the issues at stake. Avoid vagueness and be precise. Your proposal must convey concrete ideas and paths to achieve concrete results. For instance, do not write, “a group of people will benefit from” but “10 young people will be trained to do…” such and such. Be realistic; a successful application is not a grand proposal to change the world. Rather it is a project that should achieve set goals in a set timeframe. The more precise you can be, the better it is. In fact, not only will you be more likely to achieve your targets, the donor will be able to assess the results against clear milestones and parameters.

Fourthly, be engaging. Do not over-use statistics and numbers; paint compelling portraits and captivating life-stories. This will consistently allow the donor to understand your engagement with the local community. Insert glimpses of everyday life in order to illustrate with concrete examples what problems you wish to address and who the individuals in your target group are.

Donors have websites

Most donors have websites. Check them out before writing your Proposal

Once your proposal is finished, leave it for few days and then go back to it with fresh eyes. You will find mistakes and ways of improving it by detaching yourself from the text for a short period of time. And always remember that, if you are writing in a language that is not your first language, it will be necessary to seek professional proofreading. The donor will appreciate the effort you put towards producing an error-free text.

How to conduct Stakeholder Analysis for Your Project Proposals

Stakeholders are individuals, groups of people or organizations that have direct and indirect involvement/interest with your proposed project and hence they can have positive or negative influence on the project.

There are different types of stakeholders:

(1) Stakeholders: Individuals or organizations who may directly or indirectly, positively or negatively affect or be affected by the activities of a proposed intervention package.

(2) Beneficiaries: Those who are benefited from the project either directly or indirectly.

(3) Target group(s): A group of people/organization who will be directly benefitted by the project interventions. Target group may include the implementing partner organizations at field level.

(4) Final beneficiaries: Those who benefit from the project in the long term at the level of the society or sector at large such as community people as a result of improved biodiversity.

There are two issues in stakeholder analysis

  • Which groups of people/organizations should be considered for problem and opportunity?
  • Who will be benefited (and how) from the proposed interventions?

Stakeholders should be involved in every aspect of the project from planning to implementation in order to achieve the goal of the project.

Which group: Ask yourself who can be your stakeholder, for example, for forest resource protection in Belize. Forest resource extractors, government institutions, different industries located that area, various educational institutions and other non-governmental and voluntary organizations operating that area. Among that forest resource collectors have direct involvement whilst educational institutions have indirect involvement.

Who will be benefited: Forest resource collectors, local people and organizations, government agencies all can be benefitted by the proposed forest, source protection project.

There are several steps to conduct the stakeholder analysis:

(1) List all possible stakeholders who may be affected by the proposed interventions and can influence the activities positively or negatively. Try to avoid words using the community people or local authority. Be more specific, like for example, forest source collectors, forest departments, local government institution (Union Parishad in Bangladesh), Khulna University (University in that region) etc.

(2) Identify, as thoroughly as possible, each stakeholder’s problem, interest and the potential role in relation to the potential project, some stakeholder may have multiple interests.

(3) Decide which stakeholder groups should participate at what level and when during the project cycle.

There are various useful tools such as Stakeholder Analysis Matrix, SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threats) Analysis, organizational landscape, Venn Diagram, Potential Analysis, Force Field Analysis for this task among which the first two are used at the most. Effective use of different participatory planning methods such as Focus Group Discussion (FGD), Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA), and Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA) can help ensure that the views and perspectives of different stakeholders related to this project are adequately represented and understood.

Stakeholder Analysis

An illustrated analysis of Stakeholder Analysis Matrix

How to write a Grant Proposal for Promotion of Democracy and Good Governance

If you planning to develop a project or thinking of applying for a funding opportunity for the promotion of democracy and good governance, then here is a guide on how to write a grant proposal for a project aiming for the promotion of democracy and good governance.

The guide gives a basic understanding of how a project proposal should be developed and presented to a donor agency. Although donors have different proposal formats, yet the various components of a standard proposal are always same and this guide covers most of it. This guideline will also assist organizations in developing proper planning for a project on promoting democracy and good governance in your project area.

Each component of the proposal also gives a live example to help you understand the concept clearly and also relate to project situations easily.

To go through this guide, click on the links given below:

  1. How to write the Project Title and its Importance in a Proposal
  2. Executive Summary in a Project Proposal
  3. The Critical Role of the Problem Statement/Justification/Rationale
  4. Project Goal & the Objectives
  5. Project Strategies in a Project Proposal
  6. What should be included in the Activities in a Project Proposal?
  7. How to develop Project Results?
  8. What are Indicators and how to describe them in a Project Proposal?
  9. Monitoring and Evaluation of the Project Activities
  10. How to make Gantt Chart and complete Logical Framework Analysis?

Basic Questions on Proposal Writing Answered

What is a proposal?

A proposal is a document that outlines a detailed plan on a project that NGOs propose to a donor seeking funds to implement it. Usually, the donors that provide funding to NGOs request proposals in a pre-set format. Although this format can vary from one donor agency to another, it usually has a standard framework.

Proposal writing can be a complex job. Even if you are proposing just one page concept note about your project idea, you need to be prepared with your full proposal at least in your mind. A proposal is not just a document you submit to a donor agency. More than that it is an exercise for you to understand your own idea, your own project so that you are clear in what you wish to do and you can easily respond to donor questions about it.

You can get answers to other basic questions on proposal writing below:

Also check out our latest guide: A Proposal Writing Guidebook for Grassroots-based NGOs/CBOs/CSOs


Proposal Writing Guidebook for Grassroots-based NGOs/CBOs/CSOs

Characteristics of successful proposal writing

A good proposal must convince the donor/funding agencies about the following aspects of the project going to be proposed by the organization:

– The issue going to be addressed matches with the objectives/target area of the donor agency.
– The problem going to be addressed is of significant magnitude in the proposed area amongst the target population.
– A need assessment/baseline survey has already been done to assess the gravity of the problem.
– The beneficiaries were involved in need assessment by using various participatory tools (PRA/PLA/RRA etc.) & the organization believe in beneficiaries’ capacity & capabilities to bring changes.
– Partnership & networking with other organizations of the area who are working for the same problem/issue.
– Is the organization well equipped to undertake the project in terms of manpower, capital, infrastructure etc? An organization must do SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) analysis before writing any proposal.

Browse more contents of this proposal writing guidebook at the following links:

Understanding a Budget Format in a Proposal


Budget is the most important part of any proposal. The budget depicts a clear picture of all expenditures involved in carrying out a research project. Any research project, right from its very inception, requires several activities involving the financial aspect. Therefore, it becomes necessary to focus on the budget and to ensure that it is clear and all the expenditures proposed are justified. Though, developing a budget is not much tedious task, provided the concepts regarding all expenditures involved are clear.

Components of Budget

To develop a budget, is a step by step procedure. A budget is majorly categorized into four parts viz. Staff, Recurring expenses, non recurring expenses and institutional overhead. Recurring expenses are those which are variable and which keep on occurring throughout the entire project duration. Non recurring expenses are those which are one-time in nature or which do not occur at regular intervals. Various activities or particulars in a budget are categorized in recurring or non recurring expenses. At the end of the budget, a particular amount is provisioned as institutional overhead charges.

The table below depicts a picture of basic layout of a research budget. Changes in the particulars and break up of the duration of study of the budget can, however, be made as per the needs of the study.

Budget Format

Budget Format for NGOs

While initiating to develop a budget, as per the needs of the project, it is first ascertained how much manpower is needed. The category of personnel i.e. director, assistant director, project associate, project officer, research associate(s), research officer/ fellow(s), field investigator(s), supervisor(s), consultant(s), computer operator, data entry personnel, etc. are to be figured out. It helps in the estimated expenditure on the remuneration of the overall project human resources. The category of personnel to be appointed is shown separately under the ‘staff’ head. A detailed description is also given in terms of their number, tenure of their drawing the remuneration and the amount of monthly remuneration. This is done for all categories of staff. The ascertainment of personnel required to be appointed constitutes a major and most important part of the budget. The number of people to be appointed should be as specific as possible. The monthly remuneration of the project personnel for the entire duration of the project is determined this way.

After the determination of staff, contingencies in terms of recurring and non recurring expenses are drawn. Recurring expenses, as the name itself indicates, are periodic or regular in nature. They include expenditure to be incurred on stationery, telephone, etc. Non recurring expenses frame the next important aspect of the budget. In non recurring expenses, travel forms an integral part as it is the next major expenditure after staff compensation. In the determination of travel expenditure, it is important to calculate the total number of days required for data collection. The expenditure to be incurred on collection of data is calculated as per the number of personnel required to be in field for particular number of days. The travel reimbursements and dearness allowances on per day basis or anything else admissible as per the rules of the organization is also included. Total travel cost is calculated keeping in view these aspects.

Training sessions, workshops, meetings, etc. are also proposed in a new budget. Since such sessions are not a periodic event, they fall in the category of non recurring expenses. Printing charges are also a part of this category as it usually deals with final report printing.

Last segment of the budget is institutional overhead. These overhead charges go directly to the institution carrying out the proposed study. This is provisioned so as to meet several costs on the part of institution such as furniture, electricity and other running costs. The institutional overhead ranges between 6 to 16 percent of the total cost of the project. The range may, however, be flexible on the basis of type of organization, the funding agency or the total cost of the project.


To develop a budget is not a difficult task. The prime and only matter of concern is that concepts regarding all expenditures should be clear and it should define all minute details involved. Detailing of all expenditures not only facilitates the work on the part of fund seeker but it also lets build a better understanding of the donor agency. More transparent the budget, fairer will be the chances of it being accepted.

Innovative Projects funded previously under the UN Trust Fund

The UN Trust Fund against Violence against Women is a funding opportunity for NGOs working on gender-based issues in different countries around the world. While large organizations can request funding of up to US $300,000, small and grassroots organizations can apply for grants of up to US $100,000. However, projects have to be fairly innovative and in line with the priorities of the Fund.

In order to submit a good application, it is important to conceptualize the right project with an effective strategy and express it through your proposal. But while developing such a project, it is necessary to refer to other projects working to address the same issue. The best practices and lessons learned from such previous projects help in designing an innovative project proposal. Besides, referring to those projects – that received successful funding from UN Trust Fund during the previous years – enhances your knowledge about the potential areas and strategies can receive potential funding.

We have compiled a list of some innovative projects which received funding from UN Trust Fund in 2009-10 and 2011-2012 grant cycles. You can go through these projects below to understand the rationale under which they were proposed and what kind of strategy they adopted to address the issue of gender-based violence. Click below on the links for more information:

You can also refer to some project ideas to address Violence against Women (VAW) in Developing Countries developed previously:

Common Questions Donors Ask NGOs in their Proposals

Proposal writing is a time consuming process. You need to carry out proper research, collect information from various sources, read through the proposal format and fill in appropriate details. All these tasks are also required to be undertaken in a stipulated time because most proposal submissions have deadlines which you need to follow carefully.

In such a situation, how can you develop a quality proposal? One of the best ways is to pre-identify some of the common questions donor agencies ask from NGOs in their proposal formats. Although proposal formats vary from one donor agency to another, there are still some questions which appear to be common in all these formats. If you prepare yourself in advance for these questions, then you are saving yourself some time for working on the remaining part of the proposal.

A master template would be useful in this regard. You develop a list of all these questions that seem to appear in all proposals and write down their answers in a template and call it a master template. When you are required to write a proposal, you only need to copy the information from this master template and paste it in the proposal application form.

For example, many donor agencies ask about the monitoring and evaluation plan for the proposed project. Instead of re-conceptualizing the entire process, you can just copy the plan from the master template which you have developed previously. Of course, some monitoring and evaluation plans can be custom-oriented for different projects, but in small proposal application forms, they remain the same.

So what are the commonly asked questions in proposals for which NGOs can prepare in advance? Here we are discussing them below: