Unlocking Funding Opportunities: 8 Ways NGOs Can Scale Funding Barriers 

April 23, 2024
min read

Nigeria boasts over 3,360 startups, the highest in Africa, according to Forbes Africa. However, this number is insignificant compared to 46,000 registered non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the country, per AllAfrica. NGOs address pressing global and local issues with a commitment unmatched by profit-driven entities. Yet, despite their noble intentions and impactful endeavors, they find it hard to sustain and expand their vital work due to a lack of funding. While one of the key reasons for this challenge lies in the submission of unfundable proposals, it's essential to note that it is not a mere lack of viable project ideas. A major key to overcoming this hurdle lies in the ability to craft compelling grant applications. In this blog post, we will equip NGOs with tips to approach grant-seeking with finesse. 

Why NGOs Need Grant Funding like Humans need Air

Non-profit organizations (NGOs) face unique funding challenges. These challenges exist because NGOs operate differently than startup companies. Understanding this difference explains why NGOs rely heavily on grant money for funding. Here are 3 reasons why:

1. Revenue Disparity:

Startups thrive on revenue generation through the sale of products or services. In contrast, most NGOs have no tangible products or services in exchange for income. This distinction explains why NGOs actively seek funding opportunities, as they lack the inherent revenue streams enjoyed by startups. Securing funding becomes not just a desire but a fundamental need for the continuation of their impactful initiatives.

2. Difference in Focus:

While startups often prioritize revenue and profit, NGOs are driven by their impact on society. However, quantifying and concretely demonstrating this impact in grant proposals can be challenging. Unlike startups, whose success metrics are often straightforward, NGOs must navigate the complexities of showcasing their impact, which may not always be immediately visible or quantifiable. This challenge adds a layer of complexity to the grant application process, as NGOs strive to convey the significance of their work to potential funders.

3. Lack of Acquisition Appeal:

Another key distinction lies in NGOs’ lack of attractiveness for acquisition compared to startups. In times of financial distress, startups may have the option of being acquired by investors, who can then leverage their assets and business models for profit. However, NGOs do not possess such assets or revenue-generating capabilities, making them less appealing to investors. This lack of a safety net further underscores the importance of successful grant applications for NGOs.

8 Simple Strategies for Writing Compelling Grant Applications

Obtaining grant funding is crucial for non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This section provides tips for NGOs to craft effective grant proposals and increase their chances of securing funding. Here they are:

1. Decode the Grant RFP

Before starting any proposal writing, it's crucial to understand the details of the grant opportunity. Dive deep into the guidelines, eligibility criteria, and overarching objectives of the opportunity. While startups may find straightforward requirements like size, traction, and growth stage, NGOs often need to read between the lines. Understanding the grant's essence is paramount. For instance, if applying for a grant to improve access to clean water, you may need to understand the funder’s preferred location for the project and possibly the anticipated deliverables from grantees. 

2. Painting a clear picture

Your grant proposal serves as your NGO's manifesto for change. Craft a strategic narrative that vividly portrays the social issue at hand and outlines how the grant will spark transformative solutions. While it may be easy to find information on financial inclusion challenges in Africa online, it may be hard for funders to find information about the problems rocking Sangotedo community in Lagos state, online. Help funders understand the problem exists by painting a detailed picture. Show your NGO's unique approach and expertise to captivate funders. For example, use words to create a visual of the problem, e.g., poverty, child trafficking, or anything, you want to solve in your community, and explain how the grant will bring about a change. 

3. Go heavy on showing impact 

A startup can provide invoices, receipts of revenues, or evidence of customer acquisition as proof of the impact of their operation or previous funding. An NGO may find it hard to show a change in the income of a beneficiary due to their intervention as that is considered private information. An NGO can show a constructed borehole, but the impact on individuals might be hard to get. Use real-life anecdotes and testimonials to illustrate tangible differences made in individuals' lives. Highlight success stories, such as providing medical supplies during a health crisis in Nigeria.

4. Show how the project will live after the death of grant funding 

Startups can boast of continuity since they can market their service or product with previous funding to get more income to sustain the project, but NGOs do not have such grace. Their projects do not generate revenue which can be further reinvested. Hence they need to show sustainability. Show your sustainability plan within your proposal, outlining plans for long-term impact. For example, if your NGO is teaching farmers in Taraba sustainable agricultural practices, show how the methods being taught, without the project, will increase crop yields for years to come, ensuring food security for generations.

5. Explain your partnership deals and goals

Startups are quick to climb the ladder of success due to their modus operandi. This attracts lots of collaborations. Organizations will jump at the opportunity to work with Flutterwave than they would an NGO. Collaboration is essential for success. Forge partnerships with like-minded NGOs, local stakeholders, and community organizations. Highlight these collaborations to strengthen your proposal. For instance, if your NGO is working to protect wildlife in Lagos, talk about your collaboration or how you will collaborate with a conservation giant like the Nigeria Conservation Foundation. The organization carries weight and will add more credence to the proposal. 

6. Budget with near-precision

Precision is vital in budgeting. For most startups, what they require funding for is often public knowledge. For example, a fintech company needs a mobile app, server hosting, licenses, and infrastructure management of which the prices could be fixed or relatable. In the case of NGOs, policy advocacy is not a precise thing. An advocacy program could take way longer than planned. This and many more instances could make it hard to put down a precise budget that can be justified or sufficient for execution. Prepare and present a near-precise budget, clearly showing how funds will be allocated. Break down expenses to show accountability. Do not budget too high because of uncertain expenses and do not budget too low to look affordable to secure funding. Miscellaneous is important here to cover the uncertain expenses. 

7. Polish your proposal

A white cloth is different from a sparkling white cloth; the former is a regular proposal and the latter is a polished proposal. Ensure clarity and coherence. Follow instructions and guidelines. Speak the language of your reviewers and avoid using complex jargon. Do not use local language without translation for a foreign funder and do not use foreign language for a local funder. Make sure your proposal is easy to understand and free of mistakes. Tailor your proposal to resonate with clarity and conviction. For instance, the infusion of French words or concepts might woo Agropolis Foundation grant reviewers but not the United States Agency for International Development grant reviewers. Why? One is a French-speaking funder and the other is an English-speaking funder. 

8. Consult grant writing experts

Grant proposal writing is both an art and a science; not many people have both. It is one thing to know what you are doing, it is another to be able to communicate it. Let professional grant writers or organizations with a proven track record review your proposal before submission or let them handle the entire application process. For example, you reach out to other NGOs in your network who have received the same or similar grants or professionals like Grant Master and hire them to help you put together badass proposals.


Writing a winning grant application is not only to fulfill righteousness, it is needed to realize your NGO's vision for a better world. As an NGO founder, adopting the simple tips in this blog post can unlock funding opportunities and pave the way for your NGO to make enduring change. With these tips, NGOs can increase their chances of securing grants and continue their vital work in building stronger, healthier, and more prosperous communities.

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