Expert gives advice on designing NGO projects

  • Home
  • >
  • Analysis
  • >
  • Expert gives advice on designing NGO projects

Chinese NGOs have often encountered funding difficulties in recent years. Many of them have looked to public fundraising campaigns in partnership with internet platforms to improve their funding sustainability.

Professor Li Jian from the School of Management, Minzu University of China, was invited to be the judge of the China Charity Project Competition (online public fundraising campaigns) last month.

After reviewing countless applications, Li found that many NGOs have shortcomings in project design. Here is his advice:

Set a small project goal

Some NGOs like to use grand and empty words when expressing a project’s goals, such as “renovating China’s education system”, “awakening the consciousness of Chinese people”, or “completely solving regional poverty”.

Such expressions can be used for organizational purpose and vision, but are not appropriate for project goals.

This kind of writing cannot arouse readers’ empathy, but instead makes them question the feasibility: how could such a small organization achieve this huge ambition?

In addition, some organizations like to set multiple goals for one project. It is true that one project often produces multiple outputs in different fields, but for fundraising, we need to distinguish priorities, and convey clear fundraising needs to readers.

For the setting of project goals, the suggestion is: the smaller the better. The smaller a project is, the easier it is to gain public support.

Decrease the project content

Some project applications contain lots of irrelevant content.

In practice, the main reason for this situation is the repeated revision of the project, adding new content to make up for deficiencies in the original design of the project.

The increase in activity content may not only confuse readers, but also add difficulties to project management, such as budget preparation, the schedule, labor costs, and service quality monitoring, which will overburden NGOs in the subsequent implementation process.

The suggestion for the description of project content is: to delete all irrelevant parts.

The description needs to be streamlined. In past successful public fundraising cases, the project design has always been very simple and straightforward, such as the Free Lunch for Children project of China Social Welfare Foundation.

Clear and measurable performance outputs

Many NGOs can’t clearly identify what improvements their project can bring to society.

Their usual explanation is a lack of funds to commission third-party monitoring agencies to carry out the assessment.

Instead of professionally reliable evaluations, they prefer to promote the amount of funding, number of beneficiaries, project-related media reports, awards, and other indirect evidence to prove that their project is good.

Some NGOs realize the importance of project logic, but the support chain of evidence in their applications is often incomplete.

There’s no doubt that, after the project is launched, it must also be lackluster when it comes to the regular feedback which is crucial to online fundraising.

Members of the public cannot be willing to donate for such a project.

The description of performance outputs does not have to be a lengthy professional evaluation report, but it must be clear and measurable.

In general, try to use direct evidence, such as feedback from the beneficiaries, based on which observations can be made and analysis can be carried out.

If project conditions do not allow access to direct evidence, briefing materials that can demonstrate the usefulness of the project are also needed.

Regardless of the size of the project and the amount of operating funds, the measurement indicators and methods should be determined in the project design process.

In the process of project development, process data and evidence shall be collected, and displayed in a timely manner according to the requirements of the internet platform.