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What's in a winning corporate proposal?
CEO Forum is a peer to peer learning opportunity for the heads and CEOs of the organizations in the social sector. The CEO forum is initiated and hosted by India Cares Foundation.
India Cares Foundation believes vibrant Civil Society Organisations (CSOs/ NGOs) play a vital role in building a humane society. We pay special attention to income generation; donor relations and leadership development in the social sector. A sector, that constantly builds its capacity and competencies to address the dynamic challenges, is the need of the hour and thus, the solutions must be based on real experiences.
The aim of the CEO forum is to be an opportunity within the sector to be a platform for peer learning between organisations, a space where leaders can share their challenges and seek solutions in an atmosphere of trust , encouragement and learning from experience.
On October 28, 2015, Raj Rajkumar, Director and Site Leader from TE Connectivity facilitated a session on how to write a winning proposal and what’s in it which attracts companies and CSR teams to take up the cause to support. His session was divided into 3 areas of discussion -
a) What do Corporates look for?
Corporate firms and CSR teams primarily look for organizations that “fit” into their CSR focus easily. The decision making usually involves a personal "liking" or familiarity with an NGO, its founder or Board member. There is comfort in knowing the person behind the organisation. This is especially true for younger organisations or where the support is being extended for the first time. At such situations, internal champions play a key role in deciding which organisations to support. If that internal champion is the CEO, or a senior level executive, their views play a significant role in the decision making for the choice of the organization.
Companies look for impact that can be very easily seen, measured and is sustainable. In that case, a simple and straightforward methodology which creates the impact is usually a deciding factor for support. There needs to be some evidence of sustainability in the project, therefore those projects where this is very difficult will be less preferred options.
b) What should CSO proposals contain to be more "corporate support ready"
It is always beneficial to start with a story of change. Wherever possible, present the initial information as a powerpoint (not exceeding 4-5 slides). People do not have the time to read long proposals and if there is initial interest will come back for more information. Thus, the presentation of the entire proposal can be in the form of a short video with pictures, testimonials and add on the financial ask alone as a slide. Ideally the video should not be longer than 4 -5 minutes. Some tips to do this are -
The slides should contain lots of pictures and very little text- use bullets and not long sentences.
Anything that can be hyperlinked to an external source of information must be presented as such
Make sure that there is synchrony between your financial information and the number of beneficiaries you are planning to reach out to.
Ensure that there is 100% timely legal and statutory compliance and state the same proactively. Provide 3rd party references to validate this.
Provide information on the methodology of work and how will audit progress. Break down of the cost is very helpful in making a decision and reveals the detailing thought which has been put into the plan
Keep space for minor deviations that may occur. Stating this helps in trust building and retains honesty and trust factor.
Provide information in a simple and non-complex fashion.
c) How can CSOs leverage/engage corporates for support?
Leveraging corporate support is extremely important for any Civil Society Organizations (CSOs/NGOs) to secure a sustainable funding. Thus, before approaching a company/corporate, it is crucial to do research and find out the necessary information. Corporates that are MNC's vis a vis India based or family enterprises, make decisions very differently. MNC's are usually given their guidelines from their parent company which may not be located in India. Different companies work in different ways. To know them in and out for a corporate engagement, research the corporate that you are exploring support from thoroughly and look for their senior management. Then find out if any of them has supported a specific cause anywhere and if are they on the Board of any organisation.
Cold mailing/calling rarely works . Thus, getting involved in forums where corporate professionals are likely to be present becomes a trick to use. So, start by engaging informally and telling people you meet there about your work. Some of these forums are available online on LinkedIn, Facebook and offline forums like networking spaces, CSO mela and conferences prove to be a great help. There are CSR professionals groups that could be explored.
Is it also crucial to understand what the corporate wants! Corporates are concerned about employee engagement in recent present. One option is to offer employees in a corporate an opportunity to engage with your organisation/beneficiaries in a one time event. Invest in the costs of doing this. This helps in relationship building and showcases the real work of the organization. Internal champions are built through these activities.
In case the organization is already funded by a specific corporate or organisation seek references from them to people in other companies, leverage the opportunity. The corporate world is well networked. Always remember, it is important to present the real and honest work only. Failure for first timers are always understood.