As an intern, I have learnt a lot from sitting through meetings, assisting in SeyCCAT’s daily operations and mostly questioning Vania and Angelique (maybe a bit too much). One of the highlights is observing the process of evaluating proposals and I realised there are common mistakes that stop a proposal becoming successful.
Writing proposals is often stressful and confusing especially if you’ve never written one before. As a university student, I can relate so I hope this blog can settle some of that stress.
Let’s begin with some context on what can be funded by SeyCCAT.
What is SeyCCAT
Seychelles Climate & Conservation Adaptation Trust is an independent, nationally based, public-private trust fund. The organisation aims to use blended capital proceeds from debt conversion to increase investment in marine conservation and climate adaptation as well as sustainable fisheries management. SeyCCAT gives out two types of grants: Large (SCR 100,000 to 1,000,000) and Small-Medium (SCR 0 to 100,000). As these funds are in the form of grants, the funds are not required to be paid back to the organisations and can be used to fund not only research but also other development. Research developed from SeyCCAT funds such as market research can be used to apply for the Blue Investment Fund from the Development Bank of Seychelles for further investment.
Eligibility to apply to SeyCCAT
SeyCCAT’s fund aims to be accessible to all Seychellois to ensure the investment in our country and foster innovation and development.
Categories that are allowed to submit a proposal to SeyCCAT:
– Any locally-registered NGO
– Parastatal Organisation
– Government Agency
– Citizen of Seychelles
Applicants must have legally existed and operated in Seychelles for a minimum of one year. Overseas-based organisations are not eligible, although proposals from and led by eligible local organisations may include overseas-based partners.
In line with SeyCCAT’s priorities and transparency there are projects and/or items that cannot be funded using SeyCCAT funds:
– Buying land, buildings, automobiles
– Coverage of taxes, credits to third parties, debts, interest owed
– Individual sponsorships for participation in workshops, seminars, conferences, congresses or individual scholarship
– Salaries for existing government officials (though new hires are allowed!)
– High-risk environment impact projects e.g. projects that would affect the ecosystem or livelihood of residents
Alternative sources of finance can be found to fund several of these exclusions though hopefully not for any projects that would have a severe negative impact on the environment.
DISCLAIMER – Before we begin giving any tips, following the advice will not guarantee getting the grant, it can only make your proposal stronger and more detailed. Considering the competitive nature of the grant, a stronger and comprehensive proposal can never hurt your chances.
The Secretariat i.e. the CEO and the Executive Assistant have no say in the decision-making, obviously neither do I. The decision-makers are those on the Grant Committee, members who have the technical expertise, perspectives from government, private sector and the youth to evaluate the proposals, and finally, the Board who have the final say.
Tips in writing a strong proposal
o Do what the application says
Some applications though interesting are often marked lowly because they do not follow the application guidelines, making it difficult for the Grant Committee to evaluate them comprehensively.
So, please use the itemised budget as required, attach the CV of those involved in the project, attach the letters of support from partners/collaborators, and use the application form given by SeyCCAT.
The checklist at the end of the application is really useful to double-check whether you have all of the necessary documents.
o Ensure the concept is clear and concise
Grant Committee members and the Secretariat cannot read the applicants’ minds so ensuring the proposal is as clear and concise as possible is a great help so there is no second-guessing what the applicant wants to do.
Having a realistic and detailed timeline of activities, and SMART objectives i.e. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-specific, can help with the clarity of the application and gives the impression that the applicant has fully thought through the proposal and is prepared to implement it.
A good thing to do is before submitting the application, have other people read through it and consider their opinions, ask if they have any confusion over the proposal so that the proposal submitted is the best version.
o Contextualise your project
SeyCCAT does not wish to fund projects that are duplicates of past or existing projects, as innovation is one of their priorities. Hence, before writing the application, applicants should research if there were or are projects that are similar to theirs.
If there are, do not panic, just ensure that through the application, you outline these projects and make it obvious that your proposal is different from these ones or build on them. Outlining the context of your project makes the applicant seem honest and shows clearly that they have put a lot of thought and research in their proposal.
o Specification is always necessary (especially in the budget)
Though I have mentioned that the application needs to be clear and concise, details are also very useful in helping the Grant Committee decide. Put yourself in their shoes, they would not wish to fund proposals that have some unknown components. Hence, in the budget or the application make it clear where the funds are going to if it will be used to purchase equipment outline the type, and its uses, if it goes to salaries outline the qualifications and responsibilities of the person that justifies the amount (add a comparison of salaries in the private sector if you want).
o Attach relevant documents
Making it easy for yourself and the Secretariat, add scans of relevant documents needed. These can be business licenses, proof of ownership of land (if the project is to be implemented on your own land), letters of support from relevant departments of the government.
This is because sometimes the proposal claims need to be double-checked by the Secretariat to ensure they have the capacity to implement it, hence these documents are useful as proof. Also, if they are not included, SeyCCAT may ask for them further in the process, so you will just be saving time and the hassle of attaching them in future.
o Be honest
The Grant Committee knows that all proposals have a level of risk and obstacles, hence portraying your proposal as a definite success is not helpful.
Be honest in what difficulties you foresee with the implementation of your project, as well as weaknesses in the project. Outlining safeguards against these risks and obstacles also build your proposal.
This is not a bad thing, it shows the applicant has fully considered all aspects of the proposal, and the Grant Committee given their expertise may give advice in how to mitigate these risks.
o Think beyond your project
As part of the application form, the impact and sustainability of the project are in separate sections for the applicant to fill out. Most applicants do however most are written on environmental impacts and environmental sustainability of the project. The committee members are often looking for more than the environmental side of the proposal, but also looking at the economic impact, social impact and whether the project is sustainable financially in the long term, hence, to make the proposal stand out, always look at the impacts comprehensively. Think about how it would affect different groups of people, the local region of the project site etc.
o Work on it in advance!
A really simple tip but is often overlooked by applicants, the application form and requirements require a lot of preparation and thought, in order for it to be competitive. Requesting Letters of Support can be a lengthy process, doing research and reviewing your proposal takes time, so do not start writing your application one week or even days before the deadline.
Preparing the application in advance is also beneficial, as you can ask for clarification from SeyCCAT if there are areas of confusion or doubts from the application process. Do this in advance rather than last minute as the closer to the deadline, the busier the SeyCCAT office is.
As a last tip, please don’t be discouraged if your application does get rejected, take the constructive criticism and reapply again. Seychelles has the innovation and skills to build a Blue Economy, and these proposals are just one step towards a more sustainable future.
Contributed by Anna Yang (SeyCCAT’s former intern)