Things We Like

In a series of previous posts, I examined the kinds of things we look for when making funding decisions. This post takes a fleeting look at a few additional things we like to see in potential grantees, although these are by no means set in stone. In short, we have a bit of a soft spot for:

  • Small organisations: As a small organisation ourselves, we have something of an affinity for other small NGOs. We recognise that large NGOs can do some fantastic work and have supported a few in the past. But we also recognise that small organisations without dedicated fundraising teams can often find it more difficult to take those first steps to get a project off the ground and part of the reason we offer grants of approximately £10,000 is to help just those sorts of organisations.
  • Local organisations (or organisations with good local partnerships): This really comes down to the fact that we believe in strengthening the capacity of African-based organisations and we also think that local people know their communities best and so will know the kinds of solutions that work.
  • Interoperable solutions: Often when different organisations are working towards the same goal, they may have different ways of trying to achieve that goal. Building interoperable tools allows people to take the best elements of the first approach and combine them with the best elements of the second approach. It might not always be possible to guarantee interoperability, but where possible we certainly like to see it happen.
  • Two-way interactivity: This is something that we see particularly with SMS-based projects, but applies equally to other sorts of projects. While one-way, push messaging is valuable in and of itself for a variety of purposes (advice, reminders, education etc.), allowing users to text in queries and opinions encourages valuable feedback and can be a useful source of information on your target audiences. We realise that some organisations don’t have the capacity to be able to deal with large volumes of incoming messages and so would never push an organisation in that direction where it wasn’t appropriate.
  • Open Source Software (OSS): Many of you will probably be reading this in Mozilla Firefox or on an Android phone, both of which are examples of open source software. All OSS means is that the source code (the building blocks of the software) is open for users to change and adapt. This is important because it allows organisations to collaborate with one another to develop better products and services, thereby driving efficiency and avoiding the need to constantly reinvent the wheel. Alaveteli, for example, is a piece of software developed by mySociety that allows users to set up freedom of information request websites. Organisations can simply download and tweak the software to suit their own needs, rather than having to invent the whole thing from scratch. It can help save organisations thousands.
  • Innovation: A slippery concept that’s difficult to define, all we mean by this is that we like to see organisations using their creativity to develop new solutions, services and products. This isn’t to say that we don’t value tried-and-tested approaches, but is simply a way of saying that we’re open to new ideas and will sometimes be willing to take a chance on them where we think it’s appropriate and there’s a good likelihood of success.

If you’re thinking of applying to us, but are concerned that your project isn’t built on open source software or that your project isn’t edgy and innovative, don’t worry. None of what’s written here is set in stone and we’re always keen to hear from organisations and individuals with projects that could be of interest to us. Equally, if you think there are other things we should be looking for, then just let us know.