Many organizations that work with volunteers use them to write their proposals. Particularly when the organization is based in a non-English speaking country and volunteers come from abroad to support the work, this is tempting. It is not necessarily a good idea though. Proposal writing is an important task that is reoccurring and for which you should develop the skills within your organization so you don’t depend on outsiders for it. Still, there are a couple of ways that volunteers can help you with it.
Let them do research
Before writing a proposal, research is very important. You need to find out which are the donors most likely to fund your project, you need to have background information for your justification, and you need supporting research for your approach. This can be a very time consuming process. While it is good to have these skills within the organization, this is also a task that can be done by volunteers. Be sure to give them a very clear framework though so they know exactly what to look out for.
Let them run the numbers
Budgets are one of the most important parts of a proposal. You should look at them as a description of your project in numbers. Getting those numbers can be quite a task though. How much does a bag of cement go for these days? How much do you have to pay a skilled worker to labor for a day? Particularly in developing countries, this information often is not available online and you actually have to go down to the shops to get details. This is the perfect task for a volunteer to do and will save you a lot of time.
Let them help you get organized
Getting started with a new proposal is always hard. But getting started with a blank page is even harder. Most organizations have a lot of material from past proposals they could use, but it is scattered across different departments and sits with different people. Let a volunteer help you get organized and gather all relevant information in one place. This way the next time you start a new proposal, you already have something to start with.
Let them help with your baseline study
Setting up a baseline study can be very time consuming, as you have to go into the field repeatedly and collect a lot of data. Particularly if your baseline study is very broad, this might need a lot of resources. Volunteers can help here as well. You can send them out with questionnaires and let them collect the bulk of the data. Make sure they have good instructions so they know what they are doing. Also, the data entry into a computer system is a good task for a volunteer as it needs no analytical skills but is very important nevertheless.
Let them proofread
Never send out a proposal without having different people proofread it. If possible also give it to people outside of your organization to make sure it is also coherent for someone who is not familiar with your work. Let a volunteer proofread your proposal and also check the math in your budget to make sure everything is right.
These are just five tips to work with volunteers in proposal writing. Does your organization do the same? What are other areas volunteers help you with? Let us know in the comments!