Why Original Project Ideas Are Key to Securing Grant Funding

July 12, 2024
min read

When seeking grant funding, demonstrating ownership and authenticity in your project idea is crucial. Funders want to support innovative solutions from the founder's heart, not borrowed or copied concepts. How can you convey this through a written proposal? Words carry emotions, and they can reveal your passion and dedication. Imagine how an employee feels upon reading a sack letter—words can evoke strong emotions. Previously, we talked about How to Generate Grant-Worthy Project Ideas for Your Startup. In this post, we will explore why being the originator of your idea is essential for grant seekers and how it can significantly impact your chances of securing funding.

Why does it matter? 

1. It demonstrates a deep understanding of the problem 

Consider two proposals aiming to end hunger among Almajiri children in northern Nigeria. One is from a local NGO, and the other is from a southern organization. Instinctively, you'd rate the local NGO's proposal higher due to its first-hand experience of the problem. As the originator, you've likely spent time researching and experiencing the issue firsthand. This depth of understanding enables you to develop more effective solutions, which funders appreciate.

Sharing your personal experience with the issue you want to solve can make it more compelling. However, take note that something like “I know someone in our community that…” is not a personal experience. 

“I was born in Makoko, the most famous Slum in Nigeria. Born to Mr & Mrs Gbongudu, I grew up in House 14. Every day, I trekked 100 kilometers to fetch water for my mother to cook and to take my bath before going to school…” Such a story about your struggles with water scarcity will show the reviewer that your project is more than just a project idea but a mission.

2. It shows experience and expertise 

An optician and an ophthalmologist both deal with the eye, but with a different approach to solving an eye problem. One is more suitable for surgery than the other. This is the same with project ideas. An NGO and Fintech startup can look at a problem the same way,but their approach cannot be the same. A reviewer can tell the originality of the idea from a proposal’s approach to solving the problem. 

Using the Almajiri example above. If one applicant writes that feeding and clothing the children is the way out and another says relocating and empowering them with education is the way out, you can tell who has a better grasp of the problem. If you don’t have first hand experience or a deep knowledge of the problem, you are better off partnering with an applicant with a better grasp of the problem than you. Why is that important? 

Your proposal must demonstrate a level of expertise that the reviewer cannot ignore. It is not enough to know what the problem is, how to solve it, or what to do to solve it is important, too. In the example I shared, having extensive knowledge in education and rehabilitation is needed to address potential challenges and convince reviewers of the project's feasibility.  

3. It differentiates your proposal from the rest 

Another advantage of being the originator of your idea is the uniqueness that shines through it. Because you have first-hand experience and a deep understanding of the challenges coupled with your expertise, you are not likely to propose the same solution as others for the same problem. You have seen what works and can better build on it or come up with something new. A unique idea that comes from within shows that you are not duplicating someone else's work. This differentiation is enough to make your project stand out.

Take for instance in Nigeria, property agents serving as middlemen extort tenants seeking new apartments. There are current solutions but they also somewhat follow the same pattern. Imagine a tenant developing an idea that connects the real landlords with potential tenants without the need for an agent. Such a unique perspective to solving a problem cannot be easily copied. 

4. Ownership and credibility 

It is not uncommon in the creative industry for ideas to be stolen. In music, movies, or even in journalism, individuals have been found guilty of intellectual property theft. This can be the same for grant proposals too and you don’t want to be on the receiving end. 

How will you feel, if after receiving a grant, you are accused of intellectual theft? Not only will the funding be withdrawn, but your organization’s reputation will be on the line. Your current and future hopes of winning a grant will be dashed. 

Also, as the originator, you will be more interested in the project's success. Funders recognize this commitment and are more likely to trust you with their funding. 

What Happens If Your Project Idea is Not Original? 

1. Lack of Passion

If you are proposing an idea that is not originally yours, your lack of enthusiasm will be evident in the proposal. Even if the proposal is a 100-page one, it will look just like a congregation of sentences exhibiting a Brownian motion with no real direction. Such proposals will fail to convince reviewers. 

2. Limited Understanding

Project execution most times does not go as planned. If you are not the originator of the idea, you will find it hard to maintain balance during the project storm. Before that happens, your response to risk mitigation in the proposal will lack substance. This will scare the funder and make you lose out. 

3. Accountability Concerns

The worst part is you come across as desperate to secure funding than actually solving a problem. You will leave them with many unanswered questions which will make them hesitant to fund your project. 

4. Lack of Authenticity

Stealing project ideas is the same as armed robbery. If found guilty of such, you may be charged for fraud or theft. Aside from that, proposals with unoriginal ideas come across as insincere. This can make funders question your motivation to apply for the grant.  


Being the originator of your idea is a critical factor in securing funding. This will prevent you from looking clueless or desperate in your proposal. It demonstrates authenticity, expertise, and commitment, making your project more attractive to funders. Don't risk your chances by shamelessly borrowing ideas. Tap into your own experiences, knowledge and passion to develop innovative solutions that funders will love.

Do you need an expert to help with your next Grant?
Yes please!