Tips to Leverage Funding from the Private Sector

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អត្ថបទ​នេះមានជាភាសា៖ kmខ្មែរ


By Vibol THENG

Deputy Chief of Party
Development Innovations

Getting private sector to co-fund your social good project is not easy, but it isn’t impossible. At USAID’s Development Innovations (DI), leveraging private sector funding to address Cambodian development challenges with technology is one of our core activities. Therefore, when I first joined DI as the Partnership Program Manager in 2013, I was tasked with brokering partnership deals with the private sector to co-fund ICT-enabled projects proposed by our partner civil society organizations in Cambodia. I hadn’t brokered these kinds of partnerships in the past, but started exploring this new challenge by myself and I admit it was not smooth from the beginning. However, after trying different approaches, I figured out the best way to strike – and manage – the deals.

As a result, for the past four years, our project has worked with 20 private companies in technology-related businesses including internet service providers, mobile operators, software developers, hardware suppliers, and mobile money service providers. We have been able to leverage over $150,000 in cash and in-kind sponsorships to make USAID’s funds go even farther.

Among the different approaches to successfully engage private sector, I would like to highlight five of ours. Remember, there are no set-in-stone formulas for this! You can adapt and adjust to fit with your organization’s activities and the context.

  1. Start with Your Own Private Sector Mapping and Build Relations with Priority Partners
  2. There are many private companies with different missions and activities, in particular within their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative, and you don’t want to waste your time by approaching every single of them. Hence, you can start with private sector research by looking for companies that have interests in or available funds matching with the activities you are doing. I would suggest starting by researching and choosing the top ten companies on your list, and get contact information of focal persons from each company and approach them. At the early stage, I found internet didn’t help much but getting close and building relationships with well-connected persons who can introduce you to decision makers helped me move faster.

  3. Put Your Explicit and Specific  Messages into a Simple Slide Deck
  4. You may feel there is too much information from your side, so you are not sure which detail you should include.  While the private sector does not have much time to review your long proposal, if you put too little information you cannot bring your messages across. From my past experience, proposals that work cover four main points: Firstly, clear description of a ready-to-fund project that can bring quick and tangible results with specific objectives; secondly, clear indication of how your proposed activities will solve social problems and benefit beneficiaries (plus if you can highlight some past results with data or expected results in case it is a new project); thirdly, try to imagine why it matters for your potential partner to fund that activity and  what they can get in return, not just what you want from them; lastly two or three bullet points of in kind or in cash amount you want from your partners. Don’t forget to put these messages into four or five slides with attractive design.

  5. Get Yourself Ready for the Pitch
  6. Again, many private sector actors in Cambodia do not have much time or a dedicated team to digest your proposal, so after submitting your written proposal, you should try to set a meeting with them. In my case, I do a lot of practice to get myself ready and build my confidence; often I do it in front of my colleague to get their feedbacks before my real pitch.

  7. Follow Up
  8. After the meeting, you may feel negative or positive impression from your partner but at the same time, they may need more information. Don’t give up your hope yet and get back to them with additional information quickly.  Be patient to wait and give your partner some time (but not forever) to respond. After a week or ten days if you still don’t hear from them, please send a follow up email or phone call. While you are waiting for their answer, make sure that you have an agreement template in hand and when the answer is “yes”, quickly fill in the information and get the agreement signed.

  9. Maintaining Good Relation with Your Partners
  10. Keep your partners engaged in your activities and send them key highlighted results, pictures, videos, or links to social media post or website, so that they can share on their social media pages or other channels to their audiences. Remember that you will not just work with your partners once, you always have new projects to pitch them just like the case of DI project, we have worked with five strategic cooperate partners for the past four years and have more to come.

Examples of Our Partnership Activities:


Since the inception of the project in 2013, DI has been working with an internet service provider, EZECOM, to co-fund the all-girl tech entrepreneurship program Technovation Cambodia Program, technology event BarCamp, our Lab at Development Innovations, and the Business Information Portal for Women Entrepreneurs by SHE Investments. Their investments have helped more than 3,500 Cambodian design and test new technologies and totaled more than $50k for in-kind and in-cash sponsorships.

The Lab


A tablet company, MyTEB, has been collaborating with the DI project since 2014 to provide in-kind sponsorship of more than $10k for the Lab at Development Innovations and our Technovation Program.