How NGO Can Write Concept Notes

How NGO Can Write Concept Notes

When applying for a grant, most of the donors prefer the applicant to submit a comprehensive concept note. The note provides a clear description of the proposed project before submission of the full project proposal. Given the important or concept notes in proposal writing, NGOs need to clearly understand the best way to utilize this component in their projects. 

What is a Concept Note?

Simply put, a concept note is the shortest expression of a project idea written on paper and given to a donor. In other words, this is a brief outline or description of the project to the donor. Donors usually ask for a concept note where project proposals have been solicited from NGOs. In fact, many of the donors prefer to understand projects by reading a Concept Note instead of a full-fledged proposal. 

Purpose of a Concept Note

In many financing programs, donors require a concept note before a full proposal can be submitted. The purpose of the concept note is to decide whether the proposed project aligns with the priorities of the programs. It also helps in the elimination of grants proposals that are less likely to be funded. In other cases, donors may only seek a Concept Note without the need for a full-fledged proposal document. This helps in understanding a project and provides directions on the way forward. 

For nonprofits, the purpose of writing a concept note is to capture the interest of the funding agency. A properly written note will demonstrate that the idea the NGO is proposing is worthy of further consideration. To increase the chances of winning the grant, the first few sentences of the concept not should be cover the most important interesting aspects of the project. The aim is to keep the funding board members or representatives to continue reading. 

Concept Note Format

A simple version of a Concept Note will usually include an introduction, project background, proposed objectives, budget overview, and expected outcomes. Ideally, it should be summaries in 2-3 pages, unless the donor agency requests additional information. Keep in mind that the note should be short, as you do not want to overwhelm the donor with information. Neither do you want to sound unsure or vague about what your NGO aims to accomplish. Any additional information, such as your organizational profile can be annexed or provided upon request by the funding agency.

Depending on the kind of project to be pursued or humanitarian activities to be addressed, a Concept Note can be prepared in hours or a few days. Nonprofits can highlight their goals, role in the community, and implications of their proposed project. However, adequate research should be conducted to cover the main details of the project. In some cases, experienced planners develop extensive notes and hold meetings with project stakeholders to write more inclusive notes.

Contents of a Concept Note

Although there is no standard format to follow in the development of a Concept Note, the goal is to highlight the key details of the project. Therefore, you should include information that helps the donor to understand the organization and the project. The most important details include:

  1. Title of the Proposed Project – Informative, snappy, and distinctive to paint a clear picture of the project or idea. 

  2. Name of the Organization – Brief explanation of the organization and what it does.

  3. Potential Donor – The kind of donor that will be best suited to fund the project or offer additional financial support. 

  4. Content (About 300 words) – An explanation of the importance of the project, the problem identified, and what has been done to address the issue. 

  5. Project Goals and Objectives – Clear and concise goals and objectives that have been agreed upon and entered into the local action plan. 

  6. The rationale for the Proposed Project – Why the project is important and the choice of a certain approach in its implementation. 

  7. What Makes the Project Unique – Qualities of the projects that deem it necessary to be financed. May include the beneficiaries and impacts of the project. 

  8. Expected Results – This should be directly related to the objects of the project, and may include both tangible and intangible items. 

  9. Budget Estimates – An overview of the inputs needed, and the cost of hiring people, buying equipment and supplies, travel costs, facilities, and more. 

  10. Contact Information of the Nonprofit – The point of contact or the person to be in constant communication with the donor. 

Applicability of a Concept Note

Concept Note has become a prerequisite for many private donor agencies before the submission of a full proposal. The approach is being used as a way for applicants to obtain formal feedback from the donors on their projects and ideas before preparing a proposal. Although concepts notes are usually used in large projects like the construction of infrastructure, they are becoming more popular even in medium-side projects. 

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