Concept Note
Grant writing resources

Concept Note for Nonprofits

Concept Note is sent to donor agencies that request for it, as not all funding agency require prior submission of this document. Most donor agencies that request for concept note before the full grant proposal do so to ascertain if the applicant organizations proposed project match with their area of concentration. Concept note then provides that overview summary of your project that is being presented to the donor. When a donor agency accepts your concept note, the next step is to request a full grant proposal of your proposed project.

What is a Concept Note?

A concept note is a brief outline of the project or the shortest expression of your proposal on paper that is submitted to donor agencies. The shortest form of a concept note contain introduction, context, proposed project, objectives, outcome and a summary budget, that should not be more than 3 pages unless otherwise specified by the  donor agency.  Other additional information that you will wish to send, you can always annex the rest of the documents.

A concept note can be produced in a matter of hours. In some other cases, it can also take a few days, according to the ProPack: the CRS Project Package by Catholic Relief Services (CRS

The concept note helps to layout your project plan in a simple format. Once it is approved by donor agency, you move over to the next stage of crafting a full-fledged grant proposal. Concept is different from executive summary and also letter of inquiry.

The Structure of the Concept Note

The Project Title

Your concept note should have a project title, submitted by, date of submission. Your title should reflects your project idea and align with the donor agency’s objectives.

Introduction or Background

The Introduction section is where you narrate the problem you are trying to solve and its root causes. Also, how you intend to go about solving it. As you state the problem, back it up with citations so that you can establish authority to the facts given. For instance, if you explain that there are extensive discriminations in the region, you need to supply some data and a reference. Also, try to give numbers in terms of men, women, and children getting affected by the overall situation. In this way, you can ensure that gender has been integrated from the planning stage itself. Integrate gender, this is very important.

Goal and Objectives

State the goals and objectives of the program. Your goals give you the outcome you intend to achieve or see after the implementation of the project. E.g. improved living conditions of youth in Antelope Valley.

Your Objectives have to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound).  For example, 100 youth will be trained in Vocational skills. Also limit your objectives to 3.

Expected Results/ Outcomes

You state the expected results or outcome you intend to achieve. Expected result is very important and should express it in numerical terms. For example, 100 households have empowered with livelihood skills.


Donors are interested to see what new value you are going add to this project, this section will quickly introduce them to the innovative approach you will use to address this problem. Although most concept notes may not have this section, if you include it, it will create a positive effect on the donor agency.


You summarize your budget for the proposed project. At this point, the donor agency may not be interested in a detailed budget.

Is there a format for writing Concept Note?

There is no specific format for writing a concept   note but the above guideline can guide you to tailor concept note to that format. Also, most donor agencies have their concept note templates that they make available for the applicant organization or grant seeking organization to fill out and submit to them.

What should be the size of a Concept Note?

The standard size is three pages unless stated by the donor. The concept should be short as possible for your project idea.

Is Concept Note useful for applicant NGOs?

Concept note is useful for NGOs that are seeking for grant. It helps them put up their project idea in a brief and organized form on paper that gives first expression of their project to donors and it provides that flexibility for them to work and re-work their idea before final submission.


Template for Concept Note 1


The concept note is the first step to the application process.  Applicants whose concept notes have been chosen for further assessment will be advised and will need to prepare a detailed project proposal for further evaluation.

Insert Title of Proposed Project

Insert date of proposal

    1. Implementing entity and key partners

Insert name and short history of the organisation submitting the concept note, including a short description of the organisation’s legal status and financial and operational capacity.  If applicable, also provide a brief description of key partners.

Add maximum one page describing the national or local context in which the action will take place

    1. Background

Provide a short general overview of the proposed project, including operational timeframe (start end end dates). Between 1/2 page to 1 page.

    1. Project summary
      • Overall objective

Provide the overall general objective of the proposed project (maximum 1).

    • Expected outcomes

Provide the overall expected outcomes of the proposed project (approximately 1-3).

    • Indicators of achievement

Provide key indicators (1-2 per expected outcome) of how the expected outcomes will be measured. Clearly indicate the expected outcome(s) to which each indicator relates.

    • Main activities

List the main activities of the proposed project.  Please clearly indicate the expected outcome(s) to which each activity relates.

    • Key target beneficiary population

Provide a detailed description of the key target beneficiary group, including key characteristics/demographics and what are the key risk/vulnerability factors for this group.  Provide the rationale of why and how this target audience was chosen.

    • Summary budget

Provide a brief overview of the proposed budget for this project (should be in CHF equivalent).  Applicants chosen for further assessment will be required to submit a detailed budget.

                A co-financing of 10% of eligible costs is required from the applicant.  As such, only 90% of the total         submitted eligible costs of the action will be reimbursed and eligible for the grant.

                The Applicant will need to provide information on how this co-financing will be obtained.

Budget is prepared in CHF equivalent as per

Insert timeframe of budget

Most expenditures will be spent in INSERT MAIN CURRENCY.


        Grant requested from this application

        Grants/Revenue from other sources:

                        Provide source(s)




Personnel (including employees/consultants/etc.)

Workshops and Trainings

        Logistics, Transport and Storage

        Other Expenditures: Explain

        TOTAL EXPENDITURES                                                                                  

    • Contact information

Please provide the details (as applicable) below.

Name of organisation:

Mailing address:

Physical address (if different from mailing address):

Website (if applicable):

Primary contact person:



              Telephone number:

[1]Should include all expenditures for the project, including the 10% to be financed through other sources.


Concept Note Template 2

Name of Implementing Organization: ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

Contact Person for this Application (POC):

Email Address and Telephone Number for POC:

A short statement describing the applicant organization, including a brief history, the mission, and status as a non-profit NGO:

Please limit this concept note to 3-4 pages.

Project Description
What is the problem that this proposed project seeks to address?

What are the goals of the project, and the activities that will be implemented toward those goals?

What is the “Theory of Change” behind your project design? (How does your project design link to the goals that you have identified?)

What is the expected impact of the project?

How will this project be monitored and evaluated?

What is the relation between your work and USIP’s mandate for conflict resolution and/or peacebuilding?

Project Staff
Please outline the qualifications and experience of your organization and the project team as they are related to your project plan and goals.

Budget and Timeline
What is the estimated cost of the project? (Including a full budget is not necessary at this time.)

Over what period of time will this project be implemented?

Concept Note Template 3

Concept Note Application Form


Call for Concept Note: UNODC/NAPTIP-NGAX41-TIP “Promoting Better Management of Migration in Nigeria by Combating and Reducing Irregular Migration that occurs, inter alia, through Trafficking In Persons (TIP) and Smuggling of Migrants (SOM)


Cover page information
Organization Name
Organization Contact Details
Grant Component
Grant Reference
Project Title
Project State(s)
Project Duration
Total funding request in USD & in Naira
Concept Note Content – Maximum 5 pages


This should include:

·         Key information on the context (political, economical, social, environmental) relevant for the project and linked with the intended changes of the intervention

·         Information about the applicant’s mission and how it intersects or aligns with the project theme.

·         Introduction about applicant’s partners and why the partners want to participate in the project (if applicable)

·         The target group and beneficiaries – who is the main target group and beneficiary of the suggested project, number and how will they be identified?


Rationale ·         A raison d’être or explanation of the project. Specifically, an explanation on what the underlying issues and bottlenecks are, what exists in the state/local government area to address it and why the issue should be addressed.

·         A justification on why the NGO is well placed to carry out the activity.

Project Description  

·         A description of the project objectives and the expected results with a clear distinction of the various levels, ie, objectives, activities, outputs, outcomes, and impact.

·         A brief description of the project’s Methodology. The methods is expected to be based on best practices, “tried and tested” approaches and/or evidence-based approaches. They also need to be realistic, reasonable in cost and complexity and accomplishable within the proposed timeline.

Previous Experience in similar projects Brief description of similar/comparable activities that the NGOs have conducted in the past would be useful.
Risks/Assumptions Synthesis of main risks/assumptions and planned measures for mitigation.


List of Attachments All attachments should be listed.



The above 3 Concept Note TEMPLATES  were provided by the donor agencies involved, You can use any of the above template to format your concept note.

Your concept note should be brief and not more than 3 pages, unless otherwise indicated by the donor agency that you are submitting it to.

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