Nowadays it is widely recognized by NGO staff that ChatGPT has become a game changer in proposal writing and grant management. Many have started to utilize it as a key tool with which to draft their proposals or reports, inputting details such as the donor name, location, and sectors, and then allowing Chat GPT to generate content. However, I believe this approach is not particularly successful as it often results in content that feels disconnected from the actual operations on the ground.
Don’t get me wrong, as a humanitarian and development specialist, I’m a fan of #ChatGPT, and I enjoy using #Microsoft_Copilot, but let’s face facts – ChatGPT (at least at the present time) doesn’t excel at creating detailed content that reflects your actual work. It can generate a wide range of descriptive texts but these often lack the nuance and clarity of human writing. The tool tends to produce short, concise sentences that can sound robotic or unnatural, which may not capture the essence of your thoughts or convey your intended message accurately. Not to mention the person at the other end reading it! However, with a few simple tips, you can use ChatGPT to help you to write a proposal that effectively communicates your ideas and enables you to speed up the writing process. In this article, I will share some practical advice on how to do just that.
1️⃣ Analyzing the call for proposal and donor strategy: Use ChatGPT’s capability to read through documents to generate a general analysis highlighting the key points of the call which could be an important part of your Go-No-Go discussion. If your organization’s strategy is public, include this in the analysis or use Microsoft Copilot or ChatGPT to sift through the Donor Call for Proposal and Donor Strategy, comparing these with your organizational strategy to assess alignment.
There was a time when I would spend hours looking through donors’ strategies and online documents to learn about their approach, projects, and more in a specific location. Now, you can quickly retrieve this information by asking ChatGPT or using the #Bing search engine which will provide this data in seconds. Think of both as speedy research assistants. They quickly find and summarize information so that you can review specific details about a donor’s activities without sifting through lots of documents yourself.
2️⃣ Preparing for the Go-No-Go discussion and assisting in proposal planning: ChatGPT can simplify the key points from your Go-No-Go discussion, providing a clear summary and assisting in drafting a timeline for the proposal writing process. By inputting details of who will contribute to the proposal development, deadlines, and other relevant information, ChatGPT can serve as an excellent planning tool. It will draft a proposal writing plan and it can also document the process, acting as your virtual assistant to take notes, document actions, and more, especially if you are using the voice-to-text function.
3️⃣ Editing and refining narratives: While ChatGPT might generate general content, its expertise shines in editing. It can manage character count – a benefit for anyone who’s struggled with cutting down words – and if a program/sector lead tends to write a full page when only a paragraph is requested, ChatGPT can help to trim the text down to size. A simple prompt such as “Fix the grammar” or “Improve this sentence” can make the text clearer, more organized, and grammatically correct. It could also be an excellent tool to demonstrate different ways of writing a sentence – simply input the sentence and ask it to show you other alternatives or ways to phrase it.
4️⃣ Evaluating the proposal: This one is probably my favorite.
A– Assign ChatGPT the role of a donor focal point or a selection committee member by prompting it to “play the role of X donor technical advisor in Y location, your role is to…etc), B– provide it with the criteria from the Call for Proposal document and the Donor Strategy, C– input your narrative and prompt ChatGPT to evaluate your proposal. ChatGPT will then provide you with recommendations to improve your narrative, all from the perspective of a donor focal point. Amazing, right?
But don’t be fooled – with the results of this approach, there is no guarantee that the selection committee or evaluators behind the table will think and work in the same way as ChatGPT does. However, it could help you to pinpoint potential oversights or areas that require improvement.
5️⃣ Drafting the budget narrative and more: Here’s a task for you to explore – use ChatGPT to draft your budget narrative or support in the drafting of proposal annexes. Provide the figures and brief descriptions, and let ChatGPT do the magic and flesh out the narrative.
Similarly, you can use ChatGPT to help draft your procurement plan, value-for-money document, and other proposal annexes that require clear writing based on a short text. There’s a lot of potential here, but I will leave this for you to explore.
6️⃣ Bonus tip: Are you, like me, sometimes in need of a brainstorming session with someone who isn’t involved in your process? Someone who isn’t part of the design of the project or the proposal? Someone or maybe… Something?
ChatGPT serves as an excellent brainstorming tool in these scenarios. I sometimes prompt ChatGPT to reflect on an idea that I have, or on a piece of text I’ve written, and I may also ask it to provide reflections from a different perspective. It can do the same for your project design or any aspect of your proposal writing process.
There are many ways to use ChatGPT and other AI tools, and I recommend learning how to prompt them as your new skill, exploring AI tools and testing them. But it’s important to follow your organization’s data protection rules and avoid entering community or personal information. Always consider ethical use, be aware of the bias and hallucinations that can occur with these AI tools, and understand that ChatGPT is not a replacement for human insight, judgment, or creativity.