How to Build an Effective Technology Related Funding Proposal

Investing in technology that will improve your internal processes probably hasn’t seemed like a top priority for your organization until now. Read on this article to learn how to:

  • Discover your project’s funding eligibility
  • Build a plan with funders in mind
  • Better map the technology-benefit connection
  • Effectively format the proposal
How to Build an Effective Technology Related Funding Proposal
How to Build an Effective Technology Related Funding Proposal. Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Table of contents

Discover your project’s funding eligibility
Plan with funders in mind
Shortlist potential funders
Map the technology-benefit connection
Map your costs
Effectively format the proposal
Build a connection
Submitting the proposal

It might feel like there’s always something more important than your time, attention, and money could go towards, and tech investments can also be hard to justify. Your funders want to know where their money is going, and showing them how your new software system will improve your overall efficiency sometimes just isn’t as powerful to them as showing them the actual social benefit of their donation.

The reality is that backend technologies can radically change your organization for the better. They free up your time, resources, and funds so that you can redirect your attention back towards all of the projects and programs that your organization runs. The ones your funders want to see.

While it might seem easier to sell your funders on providing you with something tangible like new computers for your community centre’s computer lab than it is to get them passionate about updating your internal software systems, the time saved by implementing new internal technology can pay for those 12 computers and more in the long term.

Herein lies the challenge. How can you create effective grant proposals for internal technology investments that demonstrate tangible ROI for the investment and also connect that ROI to how it will translate into increased social good?

Since many nonprofits are short on the staff and time resources necessary to make this process easy, we’ve put this guide together to help you get started.

Discover your project’s funding eligibility

Let’s say that you and your team have realized that you need software that can better track your donations, analyze trends in those donations, and then send out customized emails at the right times to ensure that you are encouraging your constituents to donate during the periods that are best for their particular spending habits.

After a quick search online, you realize that a Donation Management solution is what you need, so you start to evaluate vendors against one another. Sounds like a good idea? Almost, but there’s one flaw in this plan! You’ve chosen to leave the technology funder research until later.

It might sound counterintuitive at first, but finding out if you are eligible to receive funding for the technologies that you have chosen before you start planning can save you a lot of time and energy.

It’s much better to find out that most funders aren’t offering the pertinent technology grants for organizations like yours before the receipt of funding for this specific technology becomes an integral part of your project plan. By researching funders before the details of your plan are complete, you can structure your budgeting and resource details around the project aspects that you know would be covered by a funder.

It is best to know which technologies you are able to get funded before you start your project plan.

Tips

Not all funders provide grants for all types of technology. Here are some things to consider when researching funders that may be able to support your project:

  1. How much money does the funder usually reward for each grant?
  2. Has the funder provided a grant for your type of nonprofit in the past?
  3. Has the funder provided a grand for your type of technology in the past?

Plan with funders in mind

Congratulations! You’ve completed all your primary funder research and have identified that the technology you want is, in fact, eligible to be funded. Now it’s time for the fun part: planning your project!

This project is your baby, and you want nothing more than to build a strong, beneficial program. This is a great approach, but it’s also important to always keep general funder requirements in the back of your mind while planning. That way, not only will you be able to write a strong funding proposal, but you’ll also be able to look at your ideas with a critical eye (something that is very difficult for most of us to do).

Frequently stopping to consider how all aspects of the project will look to your funders will help you write a proposal that is free from information holes. We can’t stress the importance of this enough since holes in your proposal will affect the credibility of your proposal—and your program as a whole.

Playing devil’s advocate can help you ensure that no critical project details are missed.

Questions to ask yourself while building your project

  1. Have we planned all of the major program components in detail?
  2. Have we accounted for all of the minute details for each major component?
  3. Have we built contingency plans if a certain aspect doesn’t go to plan?
  4. Have we considered all of the costs of each minute detail of each program component?
  5. Have we determined how we want these costs to be covered?

Shortlist potential funders

You’ve done it, you’ve completed your project plan! Now the only thing that stands between you and implementing your program is the funding.

It’s time for the first step of the grant proposal process: performing in-depth research on funders to build a shortlist of the funding organizations that best match your nonprofit and project.

Doing this research can be time-consuming, but there are many resources available to help you speed up this pace. To make the most of this process, you mustn’t close your mind to foundations that may not perfectly match your project. Funders often give grants to projects that might seem completely separate from their organizational goals because they align with their greater social benefit mission. Always keep the big picture in mind!

Staying open to all possibilities is the best way to ensure that you will find more than one potential funder to support your program.

Did you know?

There isn’t such a thing as a “technology funder.” Most organizations will be open to funding your technology project as long as they can see how it will provide tangible benefits to the community.

Map the technology-benefit connection

You know your new management software offers tons of benefits for your organization, but your funders want to see more. They need to see the connection between the technology you’ve invested in and how it’s benefiting the community you serve.

The key point of this step is to directly link each of your technological solution’s features to the savings in time, resources and money you know it will provide. Then summarize these savings and apply them to how the savings will be reinvested in your programs and projects. You need to structure your proposal so it communicates big picture benefits, not just the bare bones of what it will do for your staff. Make sure to make the benefits of your project are the main event throughout the proposal; the software should be what supports these benefits.

For example, one benefits-based way of explaining CRM technology is to say that it allows for more effective communication with donors, which, because your relationships with your donors will be stronger, it will eventually substantially increase donations. This increase in donations would mean you could expand your program to, say, 3 more cities, helping approximately 100 more children.

When funders can understand and identify with your social mission, they’re always more likely to treat your project favourably.

“Having a deep understanding of the relationship between you technology and the benefits of your program is beneficial to you as well as your funders.”

Helpful chart

A chart similar to the one below can be useful when trying to link each technology system to a direct benefit. Use a chart like this to categorize every projected feature of your designed program.

Helpful chart to map the technology and its benefits
A helpful chart to map the technology and its benefits

Map your costs

Budgeting for a project is a necessary evil, and it’s even more necessary when requesting funding for your project. Foundations and organizations that give grants have limited amounts of money to give out, so they want to be able to see exactly where their contributions would go.

You need to take the time to record how much every last detail of your project will to cost, as well as where you’re projecting the funding for this cost will come from. That way, your prospective funder sees that you’re not relying on their money alone to fund your project and that you’ve done your research to find other reliable sources of. Funders are more likely to award you a grant if they know that they have a large probability of seeing a tangible return on their investment, and making them feel like they’re joining a team is a great way to entice them to favour your project.

Important things that Funders look for

Project Scope: How many months will it take to implement the technology?

Slow VS. Fast Value: How quickly are you going to see a return on your investment?

Project Long-term Sustainability: Do you have the team to support the technology in the long term and the operational processes and training to properly utilize the technology? If not, what are those costs?

Funds for Sustainability: Do you have funding (or plan to get funding) for some of the reoccurring costs associated with the technology such as support, maintenance and upgrades?

Funders will also want to see how this technology investment fits into your overall strategic plan for your nonprofit. If you plan to double in size in the next 3 years, you need to show how this investment ties into being able to reach that long term plan.

Your funder is also going to need to know that your organization is ready for the project. Provide examples of training that your team has undergone, and show connections with colleagues who have already implemented the solution and who are mentoring you.

Another great way to show how well-informed you are is to outline how the selected technology provider is going to prepare and guide you through the deployment in the most efficient way possible. They want to see that you have a bullet-proof plan to make your technology implementation successful, and being this thorough can only help your organization.

Example of some costs that have the potential to be missed

  1. How much money is required to train employees on the new technology?
  2. Do you need to upgrade other technology that is connected to the new solution?
  3. Will you need to hire new IT staff to manage the technology?
  4. Will there be a transition period where some of the old administrative costs will still be there as people ramp up?

Make the math work for you

The technology costs $40,000 to implement in the first year, and then $3000 per year to maintain.

In the first year, your administrative costs go down by $5000 and your donations go up by $10,000.

In every subsequent year, administration costs are $8000 less than what they would be without the technology, and donations go up 10% per year.

What’s your timeline to realize the return on your investment?

Make the math work for you
Make the math work for you

If in Year 3 you see an increase in your budget of $8100, what does that translate to in the increase of programs or projects that your nonprofit can now create? Always link the budget increase to social benefit. Ex. In Year 3 you can now deliver 2 new programs to 60new children. Now that will make an impact!

Effectively format the proposal

All of your research is done, your benefit and cost mapping are complete, and you’re finally ready to start writing your proposal. So how can you write it in a way that puts all of your preparation to good use?

The answer lies in the formatting. It’s important to keep in mind that funders are not large, scary institutions –they are individual people who work for these institutions. So you should probably format the document in a way that considers the eyes and intuition of Sally Grantmaker, who will be reading your proposal –and likely, dozens of others.

Your document should be structured logically, ensuring that readers can follow your proposal’s train of thought intuitively. The easier it is to follow the layout of the document, the more enjoyable it will be to read. The next key consideration is the length of the document. No two proposals are created equal, and there’s no “standard length” for grant proposals. Instead, it is important to ensure that you’re covering all the relevant topics and are explaining your request in a clear, concise manner. Don’t bore your reader with long, drawn-out points, and make sure you don’t miss crucial information, leaving your reader confused.

A third key consideration for your proposal is the tone of your document. It is important that the funders feel like your organization’s and project’s goals align with their own organizational goals. Matching your document’s tone to the tone of each funder’s documentation (such as the content on their website, in their emails, etc.) can make them feel this connected to you. And make sure you do this for each funder. It may be extra work, but it’ll all pay off.

Tip

Unsure about how to best format the proposal for a specific funder? Just ask them! Not all funders will speak to grant seekers before the funding process, but many of them will. You’ll never know until you ask.

Build a connection

Grant funding organizations aren’t there for the sole purpose of giving money to other organizations. They’re their entities, with their own goals, missions, and values. These funders don’t want to just give you an opportunity; they want to partner with you to benefit society following their chosen mission.

Many organizations may think that they should only apply for grants from organizations whose goals line up directly with theirs. This is a mistake. Instead of only considering the most obvious high-level goals of your project, take the time to find out other ways in which your program can provide benefit for society.

The more benefits you can identify, the wider the variety of funders you can apply to. It’s pretty easy to send a proposal for funding your donor management software to an organization whose mission is to better the lives of people through technology. But limiting your sources to just foundations like these will minimize the audience you could have.

One idea would be to consider addressing the proposal to a foundation that specializes in reducing the carbon footprint of society. Seem like a stretch? If your proposal positions the software as a way to put the donor receipting process online, you’ll use less paper, save on the gas associated with mail deliveries, and ensure that your organization does its work in a more renewable fashion.

Since your project’s goals will never line up with the goals of every available funder, looking at your project from an alternate perspective may open you up to more opportunities than you initially thought possible.

Fun Fact

Big Brothers Big Sisters Canada received funding for their Donor Management technology project from The Keg Steakhouse Restaurant.

Submitting the proposal

Finally, it’s over—almost. You’ve done your research, planned your project, found potential funders, and written your proposals. You’re excited and are finally feeling ready to submit everything to all of the funders. But not so fast!

The final stage requires you to take a couple of steps back. First, you need to take the time to review and edit your proposals. Have multiple individuals who were not involved in the writing process read through the proposals and give their suggestions. This ensures that the proposal is clear and concise to outside eyes. Then make sure you review the submission details provided by each specific funder before preparing your proposals for submission.

Organizations reserve the right to not consider your proposal if the way it was submitted does not follow even one of the steps outlined in their submission protocol. Taking the time to ensure that you follow the submission steps can save you unnecessary headaches. Once you have considered all of these last steps, you are officially ready to submit your proposals.

The fun will truly begin once you have received the funds to finally begin implementing your new technology!

“Although submission is the final step, it’s still very important to do it well.”

Checklist

  • Make sure you know all of the following information about the potential funder before submitting your proposal.
  • The method by which the proposal is to be submitted (ex. through email, in person, etc).
  • Location of the organization to be used as the main address.
  • Name, email and phone number of the main contact person in the organization.
  • Deadline for submitting the proposal, including date, time and time zone used.
  • Organization’s preferred format for structuring the proposal, if any.

Source: Sparkrock: Nonprofit Accounting Software

Published by Thomas Apel

, a dynamic and self-motivated information technology architect, with a thorough knowledge of all facets pertaining to system and network infrastructure design, implementation and administration. I enjoy the technical writing process and answering readers' comments included.