This post connects to the final part of the story of Dorothy’s journey to the Emerald City of Tech for Goodness where she and her friends have now met the Wizard of Tech for Good. The story has been unfolding in weekly instalments delivered to 280 Hub subscribers. Become a subscriber here and get future stories and TfG guidance delivered to your inbox.
Sooner or later you’ll want to get your hands on some Tech for Good funding and digitise part of your service. Use this guide to maximise your chances of a successful funding application.
So you’ve got an idea. Or even better you’ve identified a social problem to be solved.
You’ve learnt a little about building digital services and three important types of value.
You may even have identified potential funders.
But are you ready to apply for funding?
We’ve analysed digital service principles, reviewed tech for good applications and consulted with Tech for Good grants managers past and present. Here’s our best advice. Follow it and you’ll be on your way to a winning application.
Part 1: How to Get Ready
Applying before you’re ready reduces your chances of success. Simple as that.
But making the effort to first get your project’s early ducks in a row changes everything and pushes the funding door wide open.
So check you’ve carried out each of these seven steps. If you feel tempted to skip any that’s ok, but your application won’t be as strong.
- Identified your assumptions? What do you assume about how your user group behaves, how they use tech and what a good solution look like through their eyes?
- Done some user research? You’ve interviewed at least 5 potential users, synthesised your learning and generated clear insights into the problems they experience using existing online and offline services.
- Researched existing solutions to avoid replication. You’ve explored how the problem is currently being solved, any digital tools you could reuse, and the potential for collaboration with other organisations.
- Redefined the problem. You’ve analysed the research, validated your assumptions and reworked the problem and need based on what you learnt.
- Identified a savvy tech partner. They’ll be a digital agency motivated by your mission and committed to working with you as one Tech for Good team.
- Made an effort to learn about agile, test driven development – because the evidence is that this approach develops better digital products and services.
- Defined your project’s scope – so you can specify your early-stage objectives and estimate how much funding you’ll need to reach them.
At this point you might be forgiven for thinking this sounds like more prep than you’d usually undertake for a funding application. But think of it like learning to use a smartphone when all you’ve ever done is use a PC. You’re making an investment in new skills, new ways of thinking and, in this case, taking a design-led approach to problem solving that will change the way you approach all future projects.
And of course, if you’re serious about solving the problem then these steps won’t phase you. This blog is here to help.
Part 2: How to Create Your Tech for Good Funding Application
If you’ve followed the seven steps then by this point you should feel confident about your project’s foundations. That’s good, because that confidence will inevitably show in your application. This in turn will reassure your funder, building their trust in you.
But what if your proposal requires a video application, or even both a written and a video element? No problem. Whatever the format, talk about these six elements.
1. Show the social need
Start with the problem. Not your solution. I know we always bang on about it but you wouldn’t believe the number of applications that don’t articulate the actual problem. State, in simple terms that include the underlying issues, the social problem you want to tackle. Then state the impact you want to make.
2. Show the demand
Stating the problem is one thing. Stating why you believe people would use a solution is completely different.
Look to your assumptions and user research and consider these two questions:
- What insight into your beneficiaries’ behaviour did it generate?
- What evidence is there that people might actually use any digital service you create?
When you’ve done this you should be able to confidently state your theory about why the service might get used.
3. Explain why tech is the best way to solve the problem
Many funders are cautious about funding digital services because they are unsure if tech is the best solution or whether a tech one already exists.
You can do a lot to help them out here.
Show that your proposal is well considered and you won’t be building tech for tech’s sake. Describe:
- How existing non-tech solutions are failing to solve the problem
- What you’ve learnt from your attempts to solve the problem
- Any digital products you could test and reuse to solve the problem (cheaper and easier for you!)
- How your project will improve on any existing solutions
4. Show your experience and capacity
Most third sector organisations have little to zero Tech for Good experience. If you’re one of them that’s OK, because most funders are more interested in the strength of your team and its willingness to work in a new way.
Willingness to work in a new way could be shown by your experience of:
- Leading other challenging projects (not necessarily digital) where you had to innovate to succeed
- Testing or adapting an approach or service model to solve complex problems
- Learning from the process of designing a new project or service, and using that learning in demonstrable ways
- Being open to 3rd party mentoring and guidance (e.g. from the grantmaker’s support team). This is a common model in tech funding programmes.
You should also state why your tech partner’s skills and experience make them well-suited to working with you on the particular problem, and how your proposal is congruent with your organisation’s digital ambitions
Of course, you may also be one of the few who has experience of delivering digital services. In that case, show what you’ve learnt, your impact and your team’s expertise.
5. Create a feasible delivery plan
Your delivery plan should explain your approach to delivering the project. It may include a description of what you imagine the solution will be, but that description should be dwarfed by that of your methodology. Methodology rules here!
State what you have already done and the progress made. Outline your expected research, design and build process. What do you expect to be the main challenges? Show you have a good understanding of design methods that go beyond user participation.
Also critically consider and then explain how far you expect the funding to take you. It’s OK if:
- The funding is only to help you establish the viability of a solution
- Your output won’t be an all bells and whistles product (focus on one killer feature first).
- Your initial impact is likely to be small, but with big potential at scale.
Just be realistic about what you expect to achieve with the money.
6. Explain your sustainability plan
At this stage it can be difficult to know how you’ll continue to fund your project outputs. But every funder will ask so its important you consider:
- What might the next project stage involve and who might fund it?
- How will the project explore, and help you get closer to, generating financial value?
- What Tech for Good business models might be viable?
It’s OK not to have any fixed expectations. But you need to show how your project will make progress towards becoming 100% self-sufficient.
Thinking about applying for Tech for Good funding?
If you nurture an ambition to create a digital product or service and think you might apply to a charitable grant maker for funding then we recommend you get started on Part 1 now. That way when funding programmes open you’ll be ready to respond.
Also, this blog is here to help! Sign up and read each week’s new articles. Each one will teach you something new and help you get your organisation more funding ready.