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Fall 2023 Unfunded List Update

Prospect research, an important step in grantseeking, is sometimes about trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. We talk about this often with the proposal authors who submit their proposals for review. During our most recent round (our 17th) of proposal review, we were excited to be partnering with the platform KujaLink to review proposals from all over the globe. All told, we reviewed over 50 proposals and spoke to grantseekers from distant countries, including proposal authors from Ukraine to Madagascar.

Nearly two dozen of these proposals came from people representing community support organizations in Latin America. About a dozen from Argentina, but we also read submissions from Colombia, Peru, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. 

For support with the submissions from Latin America we worked closely with Clara Esmoris, who works with CIVICUS and is based in Montevideo, Uruguay. Clara attended all of the report discussions and worked overtime as a translator. In the beginning she was unsure that she was experienced enough in philanthropy to give advice to social entrepreneurs, but she very quickly got the hang of it. It was a great pleasure to have her join us for the discussions this round. 

Although most of the proposal authors who submitted this round primarily speak a language other than English, their submissions were nonetheless in English. The funding world seems to have made up its mind that English is the language of grant writing. For instance, we reviewed a proposal from an organization in Addis Ababa applying to the Finnish Embassy and their submission to the Finnish Government had to be in English. Another group we reviewed, based in Bolivia, was applying to the German Embassy, also in English. We have spoken with a number of organizations based in francophone countries that write their applications to the Government of France in English. 

These same international funders have pledged in various forums to send a greater percentage of their funding to local community organizations rather than to large gatekeeping organizations. In order to do that, many grassroots organizations in non anglophone countries will need to find a way to submit great grant proposals in English.

This round, Clara helped us to plan a series of webinars in order to prepare our proposal authors for their submissions. During one of these webinars, we learned that the phrase “fit a square peg into a round hole” does not translate well into Spanish.

The square peg confusion is only one (and a silly one) of a thousand potential challenges that grantseekers from the Global South (countries that receive humanitarian assistance) face when trying to apply for funding from organized grantmakers in the Global North (countries that provide humanitarian assistance). We spoke more about those challenges during a webinar with Abby Flottemesch, my former co-worker at Atlas Corps, who gave 5 tips for grantseekers applying across cultural lines.

An exciting result of this round of review is that we recruited over a dozen of our proposal authors to be members of our evaluation committee. While they waited for their own proposals to be reviewed, they received assignments and reviewed proposals submitted by their peers. Some of the best feedback we received came from proposal authors who were reviewing proposals for the first time. Over the last 8 years, hundreds of NGO professionals across the globe have gained experience reviewing proposals through Unfunded List. Funders in need of proposal reviewers and who are looking to be more inclusive with their processes can benefit by adding experienced Unfunded List evaluators to their own judging panels. 

We gave our best advice and feedback and we shared lists of tips with each organization that we reviewed. We can and will put together more refined educational content for our grantseeking friends to help them succeed with their proposals. And we are ready to review their next drafts this Spring and give them the opportunity to review some proposals as well. Ultimately, the work will be up to them and the work will be considerable.