Unlocking Success: Benefits of Cross-Partnership in Grant Application for NGOs and Startups

May 30, 2024
min read

Securing funding is a constant challenge for both non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and innovative startups. Grant opportunities are increasingly competitive, with stringent eligibility criteria narrowing the applicant pool. While expertise, operational history, and beneficiary reach are crucial factors, there's a strategic solution that can amplify success: cross-sector partnerships.


The Feasibility of Cross-Partnerships

Some grant opportunities, such as those from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and African Women Development Fund (AWDF), are designed for not-for-profit organizations, while others, like Africa Business Heroes (ABH) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), are for for-profit entities. Recent grant opportunities now accept grant proposals from consortiums that can be mixed types of organizations, with the lead implementing organization being the preferred type by the funders.


Types of Partnerships

1. Vertical Partnership

This involves collaboration between organizations of different sizes within the same tax-exempt status. For instance, a partnership between the TY Danjuma Foundation, a grant-making and poverty-alleviating foundation, and Smile & Shine Foundation, an NGO addressing the issues of child abuse in all forms, illustrates this partnership, with the former operating at a greater scale than the latter.


2. Horizontal Partnership

Organizations operating at similar levels within the same tax-exempt status form horizontal partnerships. An example is the collaboration between She Leads Africa, a startup training girls and women only in 21st-century digital skills, and the Learning CORE, a startup training individuals in digital and soft skills, both for-profit entities operating at comparable levels.


3. Cross-Partnership

Cross-partnerships bring together entities from different tax-exempt status. These partnerships foster innovative solutions by merging diverse expertise whether vertical or horizontal. For instance, the collaboration between CLAPAI, an NGO catering to victims of ethnic and communal crisis, and Homgrove, a startup building wealth for Nigerians with real estate and property ownership, represents a horizontal cross-partnership, while Flutterwave and Kitian Hub showcase a vertical cross-partnership.


Why Consider Cross-Partnerships?

No one organization has it all, be it for-profit or not-for-profit. Each organization type has its unique advantage that jointly contributes to the application’s success.


 Benefits NGOs Bring

1. Established Community Relationships and Stakeholder Networks

NGOs have cultivated trust and strong bonds with local communities over the years of their grassroots engagement. Their deep-rooted presence and understanding of the socio-cultural fabric are invaluable assets in ensuring project acceptance, participation, and long-term sustainability. Partnering startups can leverage these existing networks to gain community buy-in more effectively.


2. Deep Understanding of Social and Cultural Contexts

NGOs' intimate knowledge of the unique challenges, customs, and nuances within communities enables them to design and implement solutions that resonate with beneficiaries. Startups need this cultural awareness that NGOs already have to adapt their innovation to local contexts for maximum impact.


3. Strong Connections with Policymakers

NGOs often work closely with government agencies and policymakers because they are for social good. This gives them insights into regulatory frameworks and policy priorities. These connections can help startups navigate bureaucratic terrains more effectively and align their initiatives with broader developmental goals.


 Benefits Startups Bring

1. Innovative Digital Solutions and Entrepreneurial Vigor

Startups are at the forefront of technological innovation with fresh perspectives and disruptive solutions to longstanding challenges. Their entrepreneurial mindset fosters a willingness to take calculated risks and experiment with novel approaches that can drive sustainable impact at scale. NGOs can ride on this to approach community problems with a fresh perspective. With startups looking at problems from the standpoint of revenue and profit, they can help NGOs develop sustainability plans for the project beyond the grant funding period.


2. Expertise in Technology, Marketing, and Design

Startups possess specialized expertise in areas such as digital technologies, data analytics, marketing strategies, and user-centric design principles. These skills can enhance an NGO’s effectiveness and reach by leveraging cutting-edge tools, optimizing outreach efforts, and creating intuitive solutions tailored to beneficiary needs. Most startups are characterized by the use of technology, which can make the intervention and interaction with NGO’s interventions seamless and long-lasting. While an NGO does empowerment, startups infuse the use of technology to make the empowerment remote thus eliminating location barriers.


3. Agility and Adaptability in Dynamic Environments

Startups thrive in rapidly evolving environments and can pivot quickly to seize emerging opportunities. This agility complements the often more structured operations of NGOs, enabling partnerships to respond swiftly to shifting conditions and capitalize on new developments. In terms of unforeseen circumstances, startups' expertise in pivoting can be of great help to NGOs.


4. Scalability and Replicability of Successful Projects

Startups are inherently focused on growth and scaling their solutions. This mindset, combined with their expertise in replicating successful models, can amplify the impact of NGO initiatives by expanding their reach to new regions or beneficiary groups more efficiently. The goal of a startup operating in Lagos is to spread to all the southwest states and Nigeria. This is often slower or non-existent for some NGOs. This mindset can help NGOs fast-track the replicability of their projects.


Benefits of Cross-Partnerships

In case you are wondering why the two distinct organizations come together, it is for the two reasons below:


1. Makes Securing Grant Funding Easier with the Blend of Expertise

NGOs' collaboration with startups amplifies their grant proposals' competitiveness. A joint proposal merging their unique strengths paints a vivid picture of how their complementary capabilities will converge to drive transformative change. This powerful combination increases the likelihood of securing funding for projects that promise far-reaching, positive impacts. This innovative approach creates a compelling narrative that resonates with funders seeking high-impact, sustainable projects aligned with their priorities.

NGOs bring a wealth of invaluable assets to the grant-seeking process. Their extensive networks within communities and deep-rooted understanding of beneficiary needs position them as credible voices articulating the pressing challenges on the ground. Moreover, their proven track record in executing impactful projects lends credibility and assurance to funders. Startups contribute to the application strength with their entrepreneurial spirit and a penchant for innovative solutions and cutting-edge technological expertise using digital tools to tackle longstanding issues more effectively.


2. Makes Project Execution Easier and Impacts Sustainable

Once funding is secured, the second benefit of the partnership is unleashed in project execution. Combining the NGOs' reach and community trust with the startups' innovative prowess and adaptability ensures project execution success. The result of the partnership guarantees that the project’s impacts touch the lives of the beneficiaries are sustainable within the communities they serve. This leaves a lasting legacy of positive change.

NGOs' extensive networks within marginalized communities and deep-rooted local knowledge ensure the dividends of the project reach those most in need. Their cultural sensitivity and trusted relationships with stakeholders pave the way for seamless implementation and community buy-in. Startups, on the other hand, bring an agile and experimental mindset to the table. Their cutting-edge expertise in areas such as technology, data analytics, and user-centric design principles enables them to develop and deploy innovative solutions tailored to the unique needs of beneficiaries. This agility allows for rapid adaptation and optimization, ensuring projects are executed efficiently and with maximum impact.




Securing grant funding is complex and challenging. However, the synergy between NGOs and startups offers a powerful catalyst for positive change. Forging cross-partnerships enables the organizations to leverage their complementary strengths to not only secure crucial grant funding but also execute high-impact projects that resonate with funders' priorities. As shown in this blog post, NGOs and startups contribute differently to ensure the competitiveness of the proposal. These cross-partnerships unlock new possibilities for lasting social impact.

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