10. Project staffing
Module ten of the GFMD MediaDev Fundraising Guide.
Increasingly, donors want to see staffing plans and the CVs of key personnel presented in funding proposals.
This is mainly based on the premise that a project is only as good as the people working on it, however, donors also recognise that recruiting the right staff and consultants can be a complex and time-consuming process.
If implementing organisations are obliged to put together a team from scratch during the early stages of a project, there is a high risk that planned activities will be severely delayed.
As noted elsewhere in this manual, media development agencies are well-advised to maintain an extensive and current pool of consultants or freelance project staff who can be called on at short notice to support project teams.
It is important to ensure that this pool includes:
A diversity of professional skills.
A proper gender balance (a target of 30%-50% is recommended)
If possible, a broad range of linguistic abilities.
Individuals who have a strong track record in target geographies.
Individuals with good availability (i.e. you should ask them to inform you if they accept a full-time job)
Some agencies maintain a searchable database of consultants which includes recent CVs, daily rates and relevant track record.
They run occasional recruitment drives to enrich the pool but also maintain contact with individuals in the database to ensure that details are up to date and that GDPR regulations are fully observed.
Recruiting staff and consultants during the narrow timeframe allowed by a tendering or bidding process throws up very specific challenges.
Not only are you being asked to find individuals with the right skills and experience who are available at the right time and willing to be deployed to the right place; you are also putting together a team that has the potential to work well together and combines proper diversity and gender balance.
Furthermore, experts with strong CVs are very much in demand and can pick and choose their future employer. This means they can also name their price.
There are tried-and-tested methods for recruiting staff and consultants.
The most obvious approach is to trawl through your own contacts and those of your partners, then shortlist the most appropriate candidates.
Otherwise, you may want to advertise through social media or various sector-appropriate platforms. These include:
LinkedIn can work well for searching skillsets, although you will need Premium status in order to be able to approach individuals who are not in your network.
A UK-based organisation Media Leaders will share job announcements with its network of 400 consultants and this service is offered free of charge.
Note that, when advertising or sharing opportunities during bidding processes, you should make it clear that the position is dependent on winning the contract.
Once you have short-listed the best candidates, you may want to follow standard interviewing procedures, as you would for any full- or part-time position.
However, in competitive tenders, the golden rule is that CVs need to match the requirements of the Terms of Reference as closely as possible.
If fluent French and a Master’s degree are mandatory qualifications and your preferred candidate speaks rudimentary French and has a BA, you will lose points, however strong her/his qualifications may be in other areas.
In order to ensure that your bid stands the best possible chance of winning, you may find yourself picking an individual who was a weaker candidate in the interview but who has the perfect CV.
Once you have selected the best candidate, you will need to negotiate daily rates or salaries (and you may find that your preferred option is unaffordable and be forced to revert to your short-list).
Unfortunately, candidates who know that their CV can make the difference between your winning and losing the bid may be tempted to hold you to ransom.
Also, make sure that candidates have fully understood any exclusivity rules which may exist. If these rules are broken and the same candidate is presented on two competing bids, then both bids will be rejected.
You should be rigorous about keeping clear paper trails in all negotiations with candidates – in particular, written acceptance of financial packages and other terms or conditions.
Most long-form application templates include a section for presenting key personnel and/or a project management structure.
A simple organigram presenting the management hierarchy and partner relationships is a good idea but you should also find room for defining roles and responsibilities – not least because this can provide a useful point of reference for the personnel section of your budget.
Where possible, include the level of effort (LoE) for individual members of the team.
Staffing plans may include short biographies of key management staff and consultants. Keep these short and relevant, highlighting any experience in similar projects or geographies.
If space permits, this section offers a good opportunity to discuss your duty of care approach – the measures you will put in place to support staff in the field as well as contingency plans for ensuring their safety if there is a severe deterioration in the operating environment.
Other areas of interest include:
- Back-up to cover sickness and leave
- Knowledge management to ensure business continuity
- Efforts to maintain a diverse, stimulating and supportive workplace aimed at maximising staff retention
Several donors provide a template for CVs as well as guidance on how the template should be completed.
Donors who “score” CVs may also require supporting documentation and/or references to enable verification of the skills and qualifications presented.
Consultants who work extensively in the media development sector are likely to have CVs pre-prepared in multiple formats but, even in these cases, you are well-advised to invest time and effort into reworking CVs in order to ensure that they reflect the requirements of the Terms of Reference as closely as possible.
The following paragraphs present important areas to pay attention to when preparing CVs.
It is good practice to start CVs with a summary that explains why the individual concerned is the perfect candidate for the job.
Keep it short and punchy.
Use the third person pronoun (he/she).
Include any major awards or accolades.
Both the EU and the UN put significant emphasis on academic qualifications, so make sure these are accurately presented.
However, you should avoid submitting “academic” CVs with a long list of publications and teaching subjects. Distil these down to the most relevant examples only.
Some donors have their own rating system (1-5 for the EU, Professional/Working/Limited for the OSCE etc) but others allow you to choose your assessment method.
The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL) is one of the most widely recognised.
If proficiency in specified languages is a requirement, then make sure that you verify the accuracy of your candidate’s self-assessment.
EU selection committees, for example, may hold interviews during which language skills are tested.
Highlight relevant areas of work and, in particular, experience in the target country or region.
Try to keep this section below three pages.
If there is no specified template, make sure that each entry includes to/from dates, location, employer and duties/responsibilities.
Avoid including short assignments as separate entries unless they are very relevant or if omitting them would leave obvious gaps in career continuity.
The entries should sound relatively objective, so avoid using superlative adjectives (“excellent”, “outstanding”, “unparalleled”) to qualify job performance.
Consider including the following, if relevant:
- Membership of professional bodies
- Involvement in the boards of charities, CSOs
- Voluntary work
- IT skills (particularly desktop publishing)
- Course certification which has a direct bearing on the job in question (e.g. Training of Trainers, Hostile Environments and First Aid Training, PRINCE 2 project management)
Ensure that CVs are project-specific rather than generic.
Maintain a consistent, concise and formal style throughout.
Make a clear link between the requirements of the ToRs and the skills/experience of the candidate.
Quantify responsibilities where possible (e.g. scope of projects, size of budgets, number of staff managed etc).
Don’t be hyperbolic or overly effusive as this is likely to undermine the credibility of the CV.
Don’t provide extensive details of jobs that are not relevant to the position in question.
Don’t let the important elements of the CV get lost among the minutiae.
Don’t include too much industry-specific jargon as the evaluator may not be familiar with the target sector (for example, don’t take it for granted that a layman will understand the difference between a sub-editor, a news editor and a commissioning editor).
Don't present CVs that are more than 3-4 pages in length.