Grants:APG/Proposals/Best practices on proposal and report writing

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This page aims at listing remarks on the form and some content of the APG applications. Its main purpose is to look at the various “features” and “bugs” of FDC applications, and try to give actionable feedback for future rounds. This is not a *must do* (ie. you should not necessarily be implementing all the points listed here) but it is definitely a list you want to keep in mind when writing your next application or report.

“Design” of your application[edit]

This is on form, ie. on what the application actually looks like

Device compatibility / other compatibility[edit]

People will read your proposal on:

  • paper (you can see the result using the print function)
  • mobile
  • small screen (tablet, laptop)
  • big screen (double screen, actual room screen)

Please make sure that all of those views yield an acceptable format. Practically, you want to:

  • avoid collapsible wiki parapgraphs (these do not show on paper)
  • avoid columns within paragraphs (they are hard to read on smaller screen and span across several pages on paper)
  • be wary of color contrast (printing in black and white sometime yields unreadable results) especially in any illustration you add (not pictures, but infographics for example)

Readability[edit]

  • Tables and text: tables are tables and while they can contain some text, they should not be a replacement for long narratives. Tables should provide an easy way to read numbers or concise information.
  • Big blocks of texts: Avoid long block of texts or endless narratives. Highlight important things, use headers when you can. People will read your proposal more than once and clarity of structure helps to go back to a specific place where a note was made.
  • Legibility:
    • avoid jargon (you may use the phrase “impact is/isn’t commensurate with money spent, but no more than once :P)
    • avoid references to past programs that you are not referencing in the actual document. New FDC members and members of the community may not have read your previous applications/reports, you don’t want to lose them.
    • make sure you always refer to the same programs/activities with the same name/definition. One easy example of getting confused is the use of the word “project” which in our Wikimedia World can refer to a project = activity (ie. planning an editathon) or a project = wikimedia project/website (ie. Wikipedia, Wikisource etc.). Make sure these are clear when you use them.
    • avoid acronyms unless you have defined them at least once (ex. HOT all by itself is not super easily traced back to Humanitarian Open Street Map Team ;-)).

Content and context[edit]

In applications as well as in reports, you want to make sure to give enough context to the information you are trying to convey in order to make sure that people with no prior knowledge of your organization still understand what you are trying to say. Giving context can come in different ways:

  • Narrative: use stories to give more context. Discover good practice in writing a story.
    • You can give narratives at different levels (program, activity...)
    • Use narratives to highlight something (you probably don’t want to tell every single story you could be telling, but rather want to choose the most compelling/interesting/illustrative)
  • Baselines: Give baselines, ie. what do you base your next target/progression report/evaluation of success on?
  • Logic models: logic models are interesting and can take different forms, but be sure to use them wisely and to refer to them in the text so that they are clearly linked to what you are trying to illustrate. Logic models are not a replacement for everything else.

Examples used to give more context[edit]

Note that these are examples, and that they work for each context. We ask you to consider them, not necessarily copy them ;)

  • Elephant in the program: WMAT had an interesting feature in their application in Round 1 2016-2017, the ‘elephant in the program”. While we surely don’t want to get too heavy on pachyderms altogether, this was a very interesting way of putting things into context and addressing past remarks from the FDC or other people. See this page and scroll down to the Elephant in the program.
  • CIS responses to community concerns: CIS in their progress report 2014-2015 have put together a clear table of how they addressed community concerns.