How to write a project proposal
Project proposals are documents requesting for financial assistance to convert a bright idea into a development project. Project proposals are presented to NGOs and other donors for funding or implementation. Since development agencies usually have highly qualified and experienced staff to evaluate project proposals, these must be written in a clear, short and comprehensive style. Keep in mind that project proposals are actually sales documents trying to convince a donor to finance a project. Project proposals must therefore be written convincingly but without overstatements. Also avoid technical jargon, complicated words and long sentences.
Guidelines for writing a project proposal
1.The front page
2. A Summary
3.The table of contents
4.The need and background
5.The technical solutions
6. Training community members
Training of community members is the main key to make development projects sustainable. Much emphasis should therefore be given to a series of about 5 workshops to be implemented in the project area as follows:
- The 1st workshop should discuss and agree on the Survey and Design Report with the community. Should such a report not be available, it can be made during the 2nd workshop.
- The Implementation Agreement stating the donor's conditions for giving financial assistance to cost-sharing with the community on training and construction works is explained and signed.
7.The construction of the 200 water projects
These are described briefly while referring to the annexes for technical details. In this example, the construction works consist of three types of structures, namely;
- 50 hand dug wells for all types of water consumption will be sunk into the shallow ground water identified in the riverbanks of ephemeral (seasonal) water courses, also called dry riverbeds, sand rivers, luggas and wadis. A well sunk at the deepest point in a 20 metre wide riverbed, as in Mwiwe, yields 139,000 litres of water which amounts to about 772 litres per day in a dry season of 180 days without recharge from upstream or floods. 50 wells will thus supply about 7,000 cubic metre of water twice annually.
- 50 subsurface dams will be built of soil from onto natural underground dykes to 30 cm below the surface of sand in riverbeds, increase their yield of water. A subsurface dam built of soil built in a 20 metre wide riverbed can increase the yield of water from a well from 139,000 litres to 1,141,000 litres, which is 6,339 litres of water per day in a dry season of 180 days without recharge from upstream or floods. 50 subsurface dams will thus supply 57,000 cubic metres of water twice annually.
- 50 small circular charco earth dams or semi-circular hillside earth dams to provide water for livestock and garden irrigation will be built manually and with farm implements along public roads to harvest rainwater run-off from these roads. On average a community can construct an earth dam with a storage volume of 600,000 litres during 300 working days (2 cubic metre/person/day) in a dry season. However, due to evaporation and seepage only about half the volume, 300,000 litres will be available that is 1,667 litres of water per day without any rains in 180 days. 50 earth dams should therefore supply 30,000 cubic metres of water twice annually.
- 50 hand dug wells will be sunk into seepage lines downstream of the 50 earth dams to provide water cleaned by the seepage for domestic use. Since about 150,000 litres of water is lost to seepage a quarter of it, 37,500 litres, may be extracted from a well which is 208 litres per days in a 180 days period without rains. 50 wells should therefore supply 1,875 cubic metres of water twice annually. Summarized, these 200 water projects are expected to supply about 190,000 cubic metres of water from two annual rainy seasons in a year.
8. The work plan
Is also called an implementation schedule, for construction of these 200 water structures should be made according the annual seasons due to these reasons:
- Communities cannot be expected to provide free labour during rainy seasons when they are busy in their fields.
- Hand dug wells should be deepened when the shallow ground water level is at its deepest which is towards the end of dry seasons. However, the upper part of the well shaft and the well head can be constructed anytime of the year provided the shaft is made to sink through the apron.
- Subsurface dams should not be constructed in rainy periods when flood water can destroy the construction works.
- Earth dams built manually are very labour intensive and should therefore only be constructed when communities are not busy in their fields which are a few months before rainy seasons.
Concept papers from NGOs to donors
Concept papers are proposals which NGOs have compiled to short and comprehensive documents to be presented to bilateral donors (e.g. Danida and Sida) and multilateral donors (e.g. UN agencies) for financial support. NGOs compile their concept papers on basis of either their own proposals or proposals which they may have received from community groups, women groups, etc. Often a positive evaluation report on an existing development project is used to produce a project proposal, which may thereafter be used as a basis for formulating a concept paper to be presented to a donor for funding of that project proposal.
The cost of producing concept papers and project proposals cannot be reimbursed. The financial viability of producing these documents can only be found if financial support is secured for the proposed project and a reasonable fee for administration of the project is agreed upon. Although there is no fixed administration fee for implementation of projects, it is understood that a norrmal fee amounts to about 17% of the total implementation cost, inclusive procurement of transport, equipment and materials as well as emoluments of project staff and consultants.
The purpose of executive summaries is to present the contents of concept papers in a clear and short text covering maximum one A4 page. The text should give a busy reader an overview of the content of a concept paper in a few minutes. If an executive summary fails to invoke a readers interest it may be discarded, often without informing the presenter.The content of executive summaries should follow the contents of the concept paper and its project proposal along the following guidelines:
1. Background and need for the proposed project. Describes where the project area, its inhabitants, their livelihood, constraints and potential.
2. Background and experience of the NGO to implement the proposed project.
3. Describes the NGOs organization, its objectives, its capacities and experience. Description of the proposed project, communities, input and output, etc.Describes the community activities and cost-sharing, coordination with local authorities, training of local staff, expected outputs and sustainability after completion of the project.
4. Technical details
5. Implementation schedule. Describes local and external staff as well as requirements of housing, transport, offices and equipment.
6. Logistical framework
7. Monitoring and evaluation. Describes who and when the internal and external monitoring and evaluation shall take place.
8. Assumption and risks. Describes what the project is assumed to benefit from and what could go wrong if these assumptions fail to mature.
50 of the proposed 100 hand dug wells for domestic water shall be sunk in riverbanks where investigations have identified natural depression in riverbeds where flood water is stored in the voids between the sand particles. The proposed 50 subsurface dams shall be built manually of clayey soil onto natural underground dykes identified downstream of the wells for the purpose of raising the water level and increase the yield of water in the wells.
The proposed 50 earth dams shall be built manually combined with animal draught in depressions and valleys along public roads which will function as catchment of rainwater for the dams.
The other 50 of the proposed hand dug wells shall be sunk into seepage lines downstream of the earth dams. The wells will provide clean water for domestic water while water in the dams will be used for watering livestock and irrigating small vegetable plots.
The investigation methods for identifying suitable sites for hand dug wells and subsurface dams in riverbeds shall be in accordance with the instructions given in a handbook Water from Dry Riverbeds. Site identifications of sites for earth dams and well along road shall follow another two handbooks Water from Roads and Water from Small Dams.
Present an implementation schedule with the upper horizontal line of the graph listing the annual quarters or months of the implementation period, while the activities are listed vertically on the left side of the graph. The implementation periods of the activities are marked in the respective squares as shown below.
Example of an Implementation Schedule
|Activities||1st Q 2009||2nd Q 2009||3rd Q 2009||4th Q 2009||1st Q 2010||2nd Q 2010||3rd Q 2010||4th Q 2010|
|Establish project base||X|
|Procure transport facilities and office equipment||X|
|Contract and employ staff||X|
|Mobilize communities and carry out surveys||X||X||X|
|Conduct campaigns and training courses||X||X||X||X|
|Construct and evaluate pilot structures||X||X||X||X||X|
A Logistic Framework shows how to verify progress on agreed objectives based on the assumption of some factors. Logistical frameworks give a comprehensive and quick overview of progress, or lack of it, by project managements, consultants and donors.
Example of Logistic Frameworks
|Improve the living standard for ...inhabitants in ...||
Increased quantity and quality of water
Data from water sources
|Cooperation from people and authorities, Doctors and nurses|
|Train people to be self-sufficient with water supplies||Workshops and training courses||Number of participants||Participation from people and authorities|
|Sufficient water supply structures||Design and construction works||Number of structures and supply records||Participation from people and authorities|
|Objective 1. Quantity and quality of water||Supply data from water sources||Supply records versus Baseline Study||Cooperation from people and authorities|
|Objective 2. Training||20 workshops and 20 training courses||Certificates and office records||Participation from people and authorities|
|Objective 3. Sufficient structures||100 wells, 50 earth dams and 50 subsurface dams||Completion certificates||Participation from people and authorities|
|Objective 1. Quantity and quality of water||1 Surveyor/engineer, 4 technicians,20 builders and 20 trainees||Diploma, CV and recommendation letters||Suitable candidates|
|Objective 2. Training||1 Community Trainer and 3 Assistants||Diploma, CV and recommendation letters||Suitable candidates|
|Objective 3. Sufficient structures||3x 4WD vehicles, 2 tractors w. trailers, 10 motor cycles, 30 bicycles, offices,building materials.||Tender procedures, receipts and accounts||Financial capacity|
Budget must reflect the exact cost of the various components listed in the Concept Paper and attached Project Proposal. Failure to miscalculation, roughly estimates or forgetting some of the expenditures will usually result in severe budget constraints which most donors will not appreciate.
Example of a Budget
|Activities||Estimated cost of today in USD||Reference to page number in the project proposal|
|20 workshops a 1000 USD||20'000|
|20 training courses a 3000 USD||60'000|
|20 pilot projects a 2000 USD||400'000|
|Community water supplies|
|100 hand dug wells a 1000 USD||100'000|
|50 earth dams a 1500 USD||75'000|
|50 subsurface dams a 1500 USD||75'000|
|Establishment of project database|
|4 office, 4 houses and 1 workshop||300'000|
|Procurement of transport, etc||300'000|
|Operation costs for 2 years|
|Water, electricity, etc, for buildings||20'000|
|Tools and equipment||20'000|
|Salaries and allowances for staff||300'000|
|Fees for monitoring and evaluation||100'000|
|Total of above costs||1'790'000|
|17% administration fee||304'300|