Many project proposal templates include a section that refers to the relevance of your idea. What do they mean by that? In my view, there are three aspects to relevance that you should keep in mind when designing a project.

Relevance to the context

First of all, you must make sure that your idea is relevant to the context in which it will be implemented. Is it addressing a problem that persists in that area, for instance? Does it tackle a cause of that problem? Is this solution suitable to the area or the people concerned? Is your idea protecting values that are relevant to that area or community? In short, is your idea something that has value in the real world, in the location or community where it is planned to be implemented?

Check – don’t assume!

You may think that any idea you come up with is automatically relevant to the context, but if you look closely you will see that this may not always be the case. Or that some of your ideas score higher on relevance to the context than others.

Relevance to your target group

Once you are convinced your idea is relevant to the area or the community, you must check with your intended target groups. Is your idea relevant to them at all, in their view? Does it address a problem they perceive? Is this problem indeed the most pressing problem for them? Do they view the solution or intervention you propose as suitable? This is part of your validation process with the target group(s) and key stakeholders.

What if there is no match?

You may find that some of the issues you want to address may not be considered as most pressing by the target groups. That can happen in case of a situation of war or violent conflict, when you want to address human rights violations for instance. People may perceive that as not a priority at that time. Or if you want to do an intervention on girls’ education in an area of extreme poverty.

In those cases, a value is pitted against a violent or highly problematic daily reality. You will need to find a way to address your target group’s most pressing and immediate concerns, such as staying alive or having a meal at least once a day, through your intervention. Otherwise, your idea is not relevant to them. And if your target group does not consider your idea as relevant, you will not be able to successfully implement it.

Relevance to the funder’s mission and objectives

The third level of relevance is that of relevance to your funder. Visualize your potential funder as an organization just like yours. They have a mission and vision for the world. They have a set of objectives that they want to achieve. They have decided that the best way to achieve these objectives is by giving grants to civil society organizations who are closer to the ground and reality than they are. So, they will see the grant to you as a tool for them to achieve their objectives.

What does the funder want to achieve?

You must first find out what drives them; what is their mission and vision, and what are their objectives. You can do this by reading very carefully the call for proposals and by doing a thorough research of what they have funded before, who they work with, etc.

Does the funder suit you?

Second, you must make your own assessment of whether this funder actually fits with your mission, vision and objectives. Is there a match there?

Show a clear match between the funder’s objectives and your idea

Third, you should think how your project idea fits in with their objectives. What values or principles of this funding partner are brought to life in your project? How do your activities contribute to the funder achieving success in their objectives? Make sure to be very clear about that.

Do not assume that ‘the funder will understand’ when they ‘just read’ your proposal. You must make it explicit. Write, for instance: the objectives of the programme abc is to ….. This project contributes to ….. by achieving xyz. Make sure you use their vocabulary as much as possible, so they recognize themselves in your text.

Institutional funders

In case of governmental funders, you may need to refer to a foreign affairs policy and maybe to a country strategy. Maybe there is an overarching regional policy involved as well, for instance on the level of the European Union, African Union, ASEAN, etc. Be sure you collect those documents and carefully and thoroughly read them.

In most project proposal templates this aspect of relevance is what the potential funder asks you to demonstrate.

Help needed?

If your organization is small or not much experienced, feel free to ask me for a quick reflection on your draft ideas. I am happy to help.

Check out my Ten Tips for Clever Project Budgets here (free download).

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