March 3 is World Wildlife Day. For all the hard-working NGOs out there working to promote the great diversity of life on this planet, here are 8 tips to implement in your next funding proposals!
Pay attention to donor requirements
Very few donors for wildlife support “general purpose” conservation issues. Most commonly, a donor will be interested in funding work in specific geographic regions. If an environmental donor does fund globally, it usually comes with other specifications such as only funding certain species, only funding research, only funding national parks or zoos, etc. Pay attention before applying so to not waste your time or the donor’s time.
Avoid “Us vs. Them” narrative
It can be easy and compelling to describe poachers, corporations, or other non-natural threats to wildlife as heartless profiteers and villains. However, the reality is more complicated. Some poachers are also impoverished locals, some companies want to improve but are unsure how etc. Even if there are true villains, it is still better to set a conciliatory tone in your proposal. Donors dislike risk, and combative overtones may send a worrisome signal. Instead of labeling these players just as threats, describe your plan for coming to a peaceful solution.
Don’t just protect
While protecting wildlife may be the very definition of conservation, donors want to see projects that go beyond. The long-term goal should not just be to maintain the status quo, but to improve it. Even if it is not possible in one project alone, show that your organization has thought about not only halting a population’s decline but also allowing the population to rebound and grow to a sustainable size. The ability to clearly express this difference in a proposal shows the donor your organization is being proactive and not just reactive. It also shows your organization has a long-term vision and plans on continuing this work for years to come.
Wildlife projects are complex in their technical aspects and also complex in how they relate to the environment and society. Therefore is very important to show your organization has developed partnerships, received professional expertise, conducted proper research, etc. The most successful wildlife projects often include collaboration with experts like universities and zoos, local and national governments, researchers, local communities, local businesses, etc. Protecting land and resources is a prerogative of government. Donors need reassurance that your work is supported or blustered by the relevant government departments.
Wildlife intersects with life and society in a myriad of ways. It is worthwhile to use a solid part of your proposals – possibly multiple pages – explaining these intersections and why they are vital. Do not assume donors will understand how important your work is. After all, there are over 24,000 endangered plant and animal species in the world today. Why does your project need to be addressed right now, instead of all the other possible projects? Fortunately, there is a lot to write about on this topic. Here is just a short list of ideas:
- Environment: ecosystem, climate change, sustainability, genetic diversity
- Local communities: food and shelter, livelihood, culture, health, quality of life
- Business: jobs, products, tourism, resources, beauty
- Science and technology: research opportunities, uniqueness, bio-mimicry
Sustainability is key
For some proposals, the project sustainability issue is an afterthought – just a donor requirement which needs to be included. This is not the case for proposals regarding wildlife protection, where a long-term outlook is pretty much by definition embedded into the project goal. Donors want to know your organization has the will and ability to implement long-term strategies, and that the work they funded will not all be undone when the grant expires. Take the time needed to fully incorporate sustainability into the structure of your project.
Use quality images
Good news: nature is inspiring and wildlife photography is particularly influential on donors. Bad news: donors have already been primed by thousands of beautiful, quality images from the likes of National Geographic and Blue Planet. Not including images in your application is a big missed opportunity, but on the other hand, non-professional photography may make your proposal look shoddy in comparison. Professional photography can be expensive and time-consuming. If you cannot take the images yourself, try recruiting a media volunteer or intern. You can also try reaching out to nature photographers who have visited your area in the past. Many nature photographers are under-funded themselves but may be willing to allow the use of their photos for a cause they care about.
Stay in the loop
Stay informed on the global conversation of wildlife conservation. Find events for World Wildlife Day near you. Keep track of policy initiatives and conferences from organizations like CITES. Be aware of ongoing like research and reporting like at the Red List and SDG 15. And of course, find the latest funding opportunities for Wildlife at fundsforNGOs.