Tees Valley was already suffering from a stagnant economy, with an employment rate 6% below that of the UK average. Six-weeks after the first COVID-19 lockdown in the UK, people knew things would only get worse for Tees Valley, but not how much worse.
We needed to propose a grant program to grow businesses and create jobs in the region. Uncertainty about COVID-19 and widespread cost-cutting meant our Client was potentially walking into a program with nowhere near enough resources for the funder's pre-pandemic goals.
We addressed the funder's worries about the lack of resources and uncertainty by developing a robust proposal that pooled local resources and embedded flexibility to respond to an economic recession.
The stakes were high. We were proposing services to a funder receiving their largest amount of funding, ever—in the middle of a pandemic. We needed to show the funder we could navigate uncertainty and provide services fit for the region.
Staying Humble. We knew right off the bat our Client lacked a domestic track record. We then considered our other weaknesses as a proposal: what would prevent the funder from choosing us?
Weakness Analysis. Doing a weakness analysis helped us answer that question. Weakness 1: our Client is a large international organization that could be seen as expensive. Weakness 2: lockdowns meant that international trade and collaboration would be limited. We needed to show the funder that our Client is cost-effective and understands the local context.
Maximize the budget. We used our Client's size to our advantage. We demonstrated to the funder how our Client's access to economies of scale (cost advantages for highly-productive organizations) could actually save them money on the procurement of goods and services. With limited funds, we gathered support from local charities, organizations, and universities to pool resources and, again, save the funder money. Signing on local support and expertise assured the funder that our Client was surrounded by supporters who knew the local economy deeply.
Co-create. We knew the funder worried about the uncertain future of the local economy with these new lockdowns. To address their worries, we built in multiple touchpoints for them to co-design and re-design the program. Showing our willingness to cocreate/codesign grant processes provided a much-needed sense of control for the funder.
Developing a Delivery Model. Finally, to convince the funder our Client was confident and ready, we developed a pay-by-results delivery model (the funder only pays our Client when impact results are delivered). Traditional models would have the funder pay our Client for their time spent, which Western Europecould leave the Client nervous about spending money for little or no actual results. Our Client was happy to assume some of the commercial risk and each payment would act as additional performance controls for the funder.
Proposal Writing, Program Design