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Efficient Concept Note Writing for Fundraisers Who Know How to Write


Concept Note Writing Can Be Challenging

As institutional fundraisers, we're often in our element when writing extensive proposals in response to detailed RFPs. With clear guidelines or a provided form, we can structure our responses with ease. But what happens when we're handed the challenge of condensing our entire project into a concise two-page concept note without any prescribed format?


It can feel like a daunting task. How do we effectively convey our project's vision, impact, and potential for success within such tight constraints? Without the luxury of detailed instructions, how do we ensure our project stands out as appealing and easily understandable in just three pages or less?


This is a dilemma many of us face. But fear not! There are strategies and approaches we can employ to conquer this challenge and create compelling concept notes that captivate donors.

One such strategy I often use is the Situation-Complication-Solution-Benefit (SCSB) model—a strategic framework designed to help navigate the complexities of concept note writing with ease and clarity.


When faced with the challenge of writing a concept note, the SCSB model offers a structured yet flexible framework that allows you to distill your ideas into key components: Situation, Complication, Solution, and Benefit.


A Step by Step Process to Using the SCSB Model

Situation: Begin by setting the stage for your project. Describe the current context or circumstances that make your initiative relevant and necessary. Make a bold statement here, perhaps even provoking thought. This is your opportunity to establish credibility with statistics or research footnotes and answer the "why" of your project.


Complication: Next, outline the specific challenges or obstacles that your project seeks to overcome. What complicates the situation and necessitates intervention? Clearly articulate the complexities of the issue at hand to create a compelling case for support. Again, footnotes can bolster your credibility. This answers the "what" of your project—what happens if this issue isn't addressed?


Solution: Propose your unique solution or approach to addressing the complication. Be concise yet specific in outlining the strategies, activities, and interventions your project will implement to achieve its objectives. Focus on what you plan to do about the issue, emphasizing your differentiation from others competing for funding. Don't get bogged down in the details of how you'll execute your plan; the goal is to paint a general picture of your approach.


Benefit: Finally, emphasize the anticipated benefits or outcomes of your project, tying them into the donor's preferences and pain points. How will your proposed solution contribute to positive change or improvement? Consider the direct and indirect benefits for stakeholders, communities, and society at large, and highlight the value proposition of your project in terms of its potential impact and sustainability.


concept note writing



SCSB Model In Action

Let's apply the SCSB model to a practical example:


  • Situation: In NYC, amidst the hustle and bustle of urban life, thousands find themselves without a place to call home. Stranded on the unforgiving streets, they lack access to basic necessities like food, water, and sanitation. This stark reality underscores the immediate need for intervention.

  • Complication: As economic downturns persist and affordable housing remains scarce, NYC's most vulnerable residents are left stranded on the unforgiving streets. Compounded by inadequate support services, the crisis deepens, casting a shadow over public health and community well-being.

  • Solution: Pioneering a groundbreaking approach, our initiative will leverage innovative housing solutions such as modular micro-housing and community land trusts to rapidly expand affordable housing options. Paired with wraparound support services tailored to individual needs, including mental health counseling and job training programs, our comprehensive strategy will empower individuals to break the cycle of homelessness and reclaim their lives with dignity and purpose.

  • Benefit: By embracing our innovative approach, NYC will witness a transformative ripple effect throughout the community. Not only will individuals experiencing homelessness find stable shelter and regain their autonomy, but the entire community will thrive with enhanced public health, safety, and economic vitality. Our solution not only addresses the immediate crisis but also lays the foundation for a more resilient and inclusive city, where every resident has the opportunity to flourish and contribute to its vibrant tapestry of life.


See how our innovative approach can transform your concept note from mundane to captivating? Just like in our example of addressing homelessness in NYC, infusing your proposal with passion and innovation can truly make a difference. If you're feeling uninspired by your concept note, it's time to shake things up! Join us for our upcoming concept note writing class in June, where we'll dive deeper into these strategies and help you craft compelling proposals that resonate with your audience. Until then, keep the passion alive in your writing!




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