Unlocking Success: What to Do Between Successive Funding Periods

May 1, 2024
min read

For African startup and NGO founders, securing grant funding is a journey filled with hurdles and opportunities. Grant funding cycles come in waves, with specific application windows that can vary from one opportunity to the next. Even major funders like Google, Mastercard, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which offer annual grant programs, don't keep their doors open year-round.

This intermittent nature of grant funding can pose significant challenges for African founders striving to drive impact and growth within their communities. Many mistakenly let their guard down during these interim periods, assuming they can simply start preparing when the next call for funding is announced. However, this approach puts them at a distinct disadvantage. Rushing to meet deadlines while hastily assembling proposals can significantly diminish their chances of securing the coveted grant funding they need to thrive.

The question then arises: How can they effectively utilize these waiting periods before the next funding round? In this inspiring guide, we'll explore essential tips and insights to help you stay relevant, ready, and well-positioned to secure the grant funding your organization needs to soar.

What To Do During The Wait

1. Stay Relevant 

At the heart of every successful startup or NGO beats a compelling "why" – the driving force behind its mission and the reason for its existence. While waiting for the next funding round, clearly refining and articulating your startup or NGO's purpose and the impact you aim to create is the key to staying relevant. Your "why" sets you apart and gives you an edge over others vying for the same opportunities.

How To Stay Relevant 

For instance, instead of being just another education-focused organization, your "why" could be to empower young girls in rural areas of Kenya, breaking the cycle of poverty and gender inequality through access to quality education. By carving out this specific niche and targeting a distinct demographic, you position your solution as more impactful and tailored to the unique challenges faced by that community. Continuously building upon and reinforcing your "why" during the waiting periods can help you become a formidable force within your industry and community. This strategic focus not only keeps you relevant but also elevates your organization above potential competitors.

For example: She Leads Africa - a community that helps young African women achieve their professional dreams - tackles a general problem, lack of employability skills, but for a certain demography – women. There are a lot of grant opportunities that focus on women alone. Most grants have their scope narrowed down to a specific demography. 

2. Build a Solid Foundation

Your startup or NGO is not an automated entity; it's powered by people – you, your team, board members, and volunteers. Having a strong foundation is critical to preparing for grant funding opportunities. 

How to build a Solid Foundation

  • Develop a Clear Mission and Vision Statement: Begin by capturing your "why" in words through a compelling mission and vision statement. For example, a Ugandan NGO working to empower women entrepreneurs could have a mission statement like "To provide women in rural Uganda with the skills, resources, and support needed to build successful and sustainable businesses, breaking the cycle of poverty and gender inequality."

  • Establish a Robust Organizational Structure: Define a clear hierarchy, segregation of roles and responsibilities, and a well-documented flow of authority within your organization. This demonstrates your operational maturity and readiness to manage grant funding effectively, instilling confidence in potential funders. Look to successful NGOs like BRAC for inspiration on building an efficient and scalable organizational structure.

  • Build a Track Record of Success: Utilize the waiting periods between grant funding cycles to execute smaller but impactful projects that align with your mission. For example, a Kenyan renewable energy startup could pilot a solar panel installation project in a remote village, providing clean electricity and training local residents on maintenance. Consistently executing similar projects will help you build expertise and a strong track record in that specific area, showcasing your capabilities and commitment to driving meaningful change. 

Example: Epower - Whose key mission is to create digital solutions & empower young minds with the necessary knowledge and tools to use the internet responsibly and safely - developed a scalable model for executing impactful online safety projects. By consistently championing anti-cyberbullying initiatives, Epower built a robust track record and earned a rare second round of funding from Google.

3. Consider Networking and Partnerships

As a founder, your time is precious and divided between running operations, building your team, and preparing for grant funding opportunities. Networking and building strategic partnerships can help you stay well-positioned and ahead of the curve, increasing your chances of securing the funding you need.

How To Network and Build Partnerships

  • Attend Industry Events and Conferences: Participate in relevant events and conferences, either personally or by sending a team member. For instance, a Nigerian cyber security startup could attend the annual cyberSec & AI Connected conference to connect with potential collaborators, funders, and industry experts, allowing them to stay abreast of the latest trends and developments.

  • Collaborate with Other Organizations and Stakeholders: Engage with relevant organizations and stakeholders in your field. For example, an education-focused NGO could partner with local schools and community centers to co-develop and deliver impactful programs, opening doors to new opportunities, recommendations, and nominations for grant funding.

  • Leverage Social Media and Online Platforms: In today's digital age, building a strong online presence is crucial. Actively share your organization's activities, achievements, and impact on social media platforms and other online channels. Take inspiration from organizations like Next Einstein Forum that masterfully leverage social media to amplify their message, increase visibility, and showcase their track record, lending credibility to their efforts. 

Example: A Nigerian NGO, Chess In Slums, leveraged the power of social media by organizing chess events in notable slums, capturing attention and generating organic publicity through attendees' shares and retweets. The founder’s recent world-record attempt to raise funds was amplified using social media as well. This strategic approach allowed them to reach a wider audience and showcase their impact effectively.


Grant funding is not a one-time event but a continuous process that demands unwavering dedication and a relentless pursuit of your mission. Securing grant funding is an ongoing journey that requires persistence, resilience, and creativity from African startup and NGO founders. By staying relevant, building a solid foundation, and leveraging networking and partnerships, you can position yourself as a strong contender for grant funding opportunities.

Remember, the waiting periods between grant funding cycles are not idle times but opportunities to strengthen your foundation, amplify your impact, and build the connections that will propel your organization to new heights. Embrace these interim periods as chances to refine your purpose, execute impactful projects, and forge strategic partnerships that will help you unlock the grant funding your organization needs to thrive. With determination and a clear vision, you can turn these waiting periods into launching pads for success.

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