How to Develop a Project Charter for a Charitable Organization

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Develop a Project Charter for a Charitable Organization
Develop a Project Charter for a Charitable Organization (Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/howardlake/3637581793/)

Donations are the lifeblood of charitable organizations. To secure funding and other resources for your charitable organization, it is essential to understand the approval process for project charters from the donor's perspective and to master the art of responsive proposal writing. This step-by-step guide will show you the key elements that charitable donors search for in determining whether a project charter is viable and responsive to the donor's "Request for Proposal "("RFP"). Furthermore, this guide will illustrate critical mistakes to avoid during the writing and submission process to maximize the potential that a donor will give due consideration to your project charter.

Things You'll Need

  • Contact information for the potential donor
  • Request for Proposal (RFP) from the potential donor

Conduct thorough background research on your potential donor before writing the project charter. Access the donor's website to gain information on the donor's purpose, to investigate previous projects approved by the donor and to determine whether the donor engages in the type of assistance that your charitable organization requires for the particular project.

Contact the potential donor. Direct contact with the potential donor establishes personal relationships with people who might influence the project-selection process. You can also gain additional information on the donor's purpose or the donor's funding patterns.

Analyze the Request for Proposal (RFP), and follow its guidelines when framing your project charter. A donor's RFP will inform you of the length and content requirements for a project charter and will explain the relevant deadlines and procedures to follow for submitting the proposal. Following the RFP guidelines is the best way to ensure that your project charter will be considered by the potential donor.

Set an internal organizational timeline to meet milestones required to finish your project charter. Creating proposal milestones will increase accountability for each component of the project charter and will ensure that you meet the RFP submission deadline.

Develop a resource allocation scheme for your project charter that explains how you will deploy your organization's personnel, funds and expertise to actualize your project. Illustrate that your organization is equipped and competent to responsibly and effectively implement the donor's resources to fulfill the project.

Incorporate a tracking system into your project charter that will measure the impact of donations on that particular project. Tracking systems need not be complex, but they should quantify the relationship between a donor's input and the project's desired outcome.

Compose multiple drafts of your proposal. After each draft, consult an objective third party outside of your organization to critique your project charter for clarity and conciseness.

Maintain a cordial relationship with your contact person within the donor's organization. Send a thank-you letter to follow up a project charter submission. Sustaining a personal relationship with the donor after submission might be what distinguishes your organization's project charter from other proposals.

Tips & Warnings

  • Determine your organization's general compatibility with potential donors through background research and screening and strategically select which Requests for Proposal (RFPs) are suitable for your potential project. Search for information regarding a donor's purpose in either an "Introduction" or "About us" section of the website, or in a more detailed "Mission Statement" for the donor organization. Investigate whether the potential donor engages in financial donations or in-kind services and goods donations. Before expending organizational resources on a donor-specific project charter, you should fully understand the needs of your project and whether the potential donor can fulfill those needs. Analyze the RFP with a view to not just meet the minimum submission requirements, but also to provide detailed descriptions of how your project is novel and will address a need within a particular community served by your charitable organization. Explain any apparent discrepancies between the donor's expectations under the RFP and your organization's budgetary or human resource constraints for the particular project charter. Charitable organizations are often underfunded and understaffed. Convince the potential donor that your organization can overcome these concerns to actualize the proposed project. Explain how your organization will resolve any funding gaps if you are requesting a partial donation that will not cover the full costs of project implementation.
  • Do not request financial donations from donors who only provide in-kind donations, and vice versa. Do not contact the potential donor if the RFP or the donor's website suggests that open inquiries are not welcome. Do not deviate from the RFP guidelines. Donors often use the slightest deviation as a means of filtering out potential projects. Avoid field-specific terminology that is not accessible to a general audience. When such terminology is absolutely necessary, provide a brief explanation of the term. Avoid colloquialisms. Although the tone of your project charter should often be conversational, you should maintain a level of formality in your diction, syntax and presentation that expresses a culture of professionalism within your charitable organization.

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