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Section 6: Implementing a project

Social entrepreneurship and projects

Humbu Nsenga

Community art counsellor

Now that you have a project description, the next step is to develop a concept note, which is a summary of a full proposal. Once a concept note is in place, it is also easier to develop a full project proposal.

6.1  Concept note

What is a concept note?

A concept note is perhaps the shortest expression of your project idea given on paper to a donor. It is usually requested by the donor in situations where no proposals have been solicited from NGOs. Most of the donor agencies prefer to understand the project through a concept note rather than a full-fledged proposal.

What should be the size of the concept note?

This depends upon the donor requesting the concept note. However, we need to remember that it is the shortest possible text for our project idea. So, the shorter, the better. Most donor agencies request a minimum of one page to a maximum of three pages.

Is there a specific format for writing the concept note?

Usually donors do not have a format for a concept note as they have for a full proposal. But, there are some agencies that issue solicitation for concept notes based upon a basic format given in the guidelines.

Is the concept note useful for the applying NGO as well?

A concept note has many advantages for NGOs seeking funds. It practically gives a framework for ideas when they are organised on paper. It is also the first expression of the project and gives the flexibility for the organisation to work and re-work an idea before presenting it to the donor.

What are the contents of the concept note?

While there is no standard format for a concept note, generally the following information is given:

  • Name of the organisation
  • Title of the proposed project
  • Potential donor
  • Context (not more than 300 words)
  • Rationale for the proposed project
  • Project goals and objectives
  • Project strategy / listing of project activities
  • Expected results
  • Innovation: How different it is from other or earlier projects?
  • Organisational background, including the expertise and experience
  • Budget estimate
  • Complete contact information of the NGO and the name of the contact person


The following provides additional guidelines or areas to include as part of the development of a concept note:

  • Observe gaps and needs
  • Gather feedback (what does the community think about your project idea?
  • Be observant of the realities
  • Get involved with the community – do a thorough needs assessment
  • Bottom-up approach
  • Remember that competition is healthy
  • Remember basic principles of any business as they relate to people
  • Performance (qualitative – quality of the design of the project)
  • Productivity (quantitative – how much of the service is offered)
  • Profit (costs involved: material, rent, time, management)


6.2 Writing the proposal

Your project proposal is really a more detailed concept note. A good proposal doesn’t just outline what product or service you would like to create or deliver. It does so in such a way that the reader feels it is the only logical choice.

What is a proposal?

A proposal is primarily a sales pitch for a product or service that your business offers. It outlines a problem or opportunity that the client has, and presents a product or service as a solution.

The proposal writing process

The proposal writing process has seven major steps.

  1. perform a needs analysis.
  2. Create the goal statement.
  3. Create the outline.
  4. do your research.
  5. Write the first draft.
  6. Edit and proofread.
  7. Polish the document.

NB:  the writing and editing process is often repeated several times.

Performing a needs analysis

A good needs analysis must answer four questions:

  • Who are the customers of the proposal?
  • What do they want or need?
  • What do they currently have as a solution?
  • What can we offer?

Writing the goal statement

This will help you understand what you want to achieve.

First, identify the type of proposal. eg a non-profit grant proposal. Next, add in the purpose of your proposal. Finally, bring it all together into the goal statement. This statement typically takes the form: Our <type of proposal> will convince the reader to <desired end result>.

Preparing an outline

The more detailed and accurate your outline is, the more cohesive and persuasive your proposal will be. It must however evolve as the proposal is being built.

Most proposals include the following elements, listed in the order that they typically appear in the proposal:

  • Cover Letter: outlines who your company is, the basic thrust of the proposal, and any conditions (such as a date of expiry).
  • Title Page: The title page should include the title, the client’s name and address, the name of the person receiving the proposal, your company’s name and address, and the date the proposal will be submitted.
  • Proprietary Notice: It is always a good idea to outline how the information in the proposal can and cannot be used, shared, and transmitted.
  • Table of Contents: A list of all the major sections and sub-sections in your proposal.
  • Executive Summary: This is the most important selling tool in your proposal. It should be aimed at the executives in the client’s organisation and should outline the proposed solution, why the solution was chosen, project management details, how the product will be handed off to the organisation (if appropriate), major benefits that will be realised, high-level cost and time estimates, and why your organisation is the best candidate for the task.
  • Introduction: An explanation of why you are writing the proposal, and an overview of what to expect.
  • Body: The meat of the proposal, organised by headings and sub-headings
  • Summary and Conclusions: of the main points covered, proposed solution, and why your organisation is the best candidate for the task.
  • Bibliography: List of resources used in the proposal.

Special sections

There are some optional components that you might see in a proposal: including the proposed timeline, budget, benefits summary, cost-benefit analysis etc.

Creating a framework

It is time to build the body. Remember, this is just a guideline – you can move sections around and add additional points as you perform your research and write the proposal. Once you have your main points outlined, add your supporting or sub-points beneath each heading. (min 2 max 9).

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