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The best tips for a successful call for project

Ornella Schillaci

A call for project is not always the easiest task. We know it. This is why it is always better to turn to an expert resource. This is exactly what we are offering you today.

Back in 2021 we met Dorothée CORBIER, Associate Director for the Assemble Agency. The Assemble agency supports companies and foundations in the process of setting up their sponsorship actions. Among the many companies that benefit from the expertise of the Assemble Agency, there is the Fondation de France, but also the Carrefour Foundation, the Maisons du Monde Foundation, among others.

Let's go back to the interview held as part of our "CSR Connect" Podcast.

Optimy: Since covid19, what have been the favorable or unfavorable impacts of the calls for projects for foundations?

D.C.: There has indeed been a lot of impact and changes concerning the calls for project and the actors (the project leaders). An adaptation within the framework of this context was necessary. There is also this idea that the digitalization of their practices and tools was necessary given the impossibility of getting to work, of carrying out their activities as they used to do ... I think that the keywords of digitization are "agility", "flexibility", and this is ultimately what the actors involved in the calls for project did. We have seen, especially in the first half of 2020, that many foundations or sponsors who have implemented calls for projects have extended the deadlines to give more time to project leaders to apply. A lot of foundations are already equipped with digital tools. But it was more complicated for other associations: having the right tools to work from home, to communicate, to maintain the link was a question of survival sometimes for these associations. We can therefore see, even with 2020, that some associations have sometimes fallen further behind in this area, for financial reasons but also human resources issues. Initially, the model of project leaders was not necessarily created using digital technology, etc. There is probably a lack of internal skills. Suddenly, in a health context like the one we started to experience in early 2020, it was difficult to adapt: ​​there are still many associations that have succeeded, often with the help of their funders. Beyond the call for projects as such, being able to count on financial assistance or skills when you are a project leader and want to adapt to tools and practices, has been a real change. in 2020. And there are a lot of foundations that have supported associations in sponsorship of digital skills during the lockdown in 2020.

Optimy: Covid19 has accelerated digitization. But will these changes continue in the months or even years to come?

D.C.: I think so. Digitization is a guarantee of the survival and sustainability of organizations. On the one hand, it is necessary to comply with the legislation on data protection, and on the other hand, it is essential today to develop a communication strategy. It is also important for the development of tools, office automation interfaces, management tools, etc. This is part of the need to continue to work and it is, therefore, necessary for organizations, not just foundations and associations, both private, public, and of general interest. It's a question of survival. In the field of sponsorship and associations, there is a real need to make digital support for action. The challenge for these structures is precisely to be able to rely on digital technology to continue doing what they were created for at the start: acting for the beneficiaries, developing their projects in the service of the common good and the general interest. Digital must come in support and be at the service of these projects which allow those who work to devote themselves to their primary mission.

Optimy: In your experience, do grant managers still work with traditional systems, such as paper, Excel files, or email communications to manage their activities?

D.C.: I think when there are fewer and fewer who work only with paper files because it is time-consuming and there are very simple tools that allow working with digital. Many work with Excel documents, email, etc. because casually, it requires financial and human resources to equip oneself with tools. But the use of digital tools, whatever they are, is nevertheless increasingly used to manage calls for projects, to forge relationships with partners. That said, digitalization cannot do everything. Today, to work properly when you are a patron or a promoter of projects, we also always need people, proximity, collective, to live the projects, solidarity in real life and not just with screens. interposed. But again, I think digital should facilitate this.

Optimy: What does a project look like now, since we cannot deny the changes made thanks to or because of covid19?

D.C .: I believe that today a call for projects - if we place ourselves on the side of companies, patrons, etc. - it is the fact of reflecting on the themes of the calls for projects and adapting them to the possible new needs of the project leaders who have emerged or been intensified given the crisis. For example, we realized that there were a certain number of project leaders or structures which had been badly carried out and whose activities were largely disrupted. They, therefore, needed support in terms of (re)-structuring, to the point of rethinking their associative mission. Perhaps the traditional themes of calls for projects can evolve and that deserves reflection when you are a company. And on the side of the non-profit organization, we also see that since 2020 - and it will certainly accelerate - there is an increasing number of applications submitted as part of calls for projects. And that's normal. Vulnerabilities and needs have exploded, both on the side of the structures and on the side of the number and the need of the beneficiaries with whom they act. There are undeniable financial difficulties, and even more so sometimes when they are employers and they have wages to pay. And then, the nature of their activities requires either to have stopped because of the context or to adapt. I, therefore, think that there is a work of reflection to be had on "how do we adapt the application process" to avoid the associations a tedious work on the fact of filling a myriad of calls for projects in there spending a lot of time and ultimately having little chance of being selected in the end. Indeed, it is not because there are more requests, that there are more subsidies that are granted.

Optimy: Let's imagine that I decided, as a person, to launch a call for projects. What are the elements to take into account? What are the main stages to plan to build this call for projects?

D.C.: At Assemble, we follow ten steps to follow. A call for projects must have one or more defined objectives. Depending on these objectives, we can outline the ambition we have with this call: support associations for local projects? support a few associations only over 5 years? etc. Then, a call for projects requires themes, one or more. The more precise they are, the more relevant the responses from project leaders. There is also the question of territorial anchoring: it is necessary to define the scale (local, national, international), the establishment of the project leaders, or the projects themselves. We then come to take a look at the calendar: a call for projects follows a periodicity, a phasing, a duration. It must be defined upstream to then refine and adjust the various stages of the selection process. We also talk about the endowment stage: define how much will be allocated, is it only financial or in-kind support or skills sponsorship. Eligibility and selection criteria are also important parts. The first group together all of the conditions required for a project leader to be able to validly apply, the second represents all the elements that will make it possible to assess whether the projects received are in line with the objectives and ambition of the call for projects. All this must of course be defined upstream. A call for projects remains an instruction and selection process: the nature and human resources to be compared are interdependent. Companies increasingly want to involve their employees in the choice and selection of projects, but they may need to be trained upstream. It may also be a question of forming an independent jury. In short, there are many questions to ask yourself beforehand. Not to mention that a call for projects, is also a legal, operational, and communication tool to launch the call for projects and address all the targets (internal, external, project leaders, etc.). Communication must be designed for all the highlights. I would say that the success of a call for projects is a framework and a mechanism well designed upstream.

Optimy: As for the project leaders who submit applications, what do they need?

D.C.: In an ideal world, they would need a unified form; almost like what the administrations practiced for public subsidies. Today, it is time-consuming to respond to calls for projects. Given the specificities of each sponsor or each funder, their instruction process, their selection criteria, there are as many calls with different questions, different fields, as there are funders. Maybe they need a common core, it would be a good idea to start with Optimy, in particular, and with some of your clients to create a common core, for example. The other need would be clarity and transparency. The criteria are essential but they must be well worked out to be known, understood, and announced in regulation and communication so that the project leaders know exactly what is expected and what the stakes are. This will allow them to decide in their soul and conscience if they want to take the time to fill out files. Finally, I think that project leaders need opportunities for direct exchange, meetings. Whether it is to defend their project orally before the final selection or to understand the reasons for a refusal, to be able to improve for the next time.

Optimy: What would you change in the world of CSR or calls for projects in general?

D.C .: I would give a boost to the logic of alliance, pooling of knowledge and skills, cooperation, etc. which are still too few and too nascent in the world of sponsorship and CSR at present. I find that the exchange of know-how and coordinated actions are still too timid and often costly and inefficient. But we are seeing things emerging and accelerating them in a logic of impact and improvement would be interesting. It is a kind of collaborative dynamic to respond together to social and environmental challenges, by establishing shared diagnoses, by imagining action plans and common indicators that deserve to happen now. This does not mean that we should not continue to do things each on their scale, to their measure, but to push the decompartmentalization and the logic of partnership to solve problems and respond to issues which for some are global, would be ideal. In the Anglo-Saxon world, new philanthropic logic is emerging, "catalyst philanthropy" I believe. And it is a matter of realizing that there are already thousands of people who are taking action to change things on their scale and to ask the question of giving them the possibility by working together to change the situation on a large scale. with the logic of alliance and general structure between sponsor and public authorities. It takes time, energy to agree on common goals and shares.

Great ambitions that we hope to see evolve and which we will not fail to communicate on our blog, our website, our social networks ... or our podcast! To find out more, visit our blog!