What do funders look for in a research proposal? - Sue Kinn & Malcolm McNeil

The Department for International Development (DFID) leads the UK government’s work to end extreme poverty. UKaid funds many organisations to achieve this goal. So what do you need to do to get your research proposal funded by DFID? And what do DFID funders look for?

This Learning Lab, organised by RESYST and STRIVE, introduces DFID’s research programme, its aims and research challenges and what it wants to achieve with its research. Presenters Sue Kinn and Malcolm McNeil address what DFID funders want in a proposal and what puts them off. They emphasise high quality research and outcomes, and look for accurate responses to DFID requirements.

Top tips

  • Read the terms of reference carefully
  • Describe clearly what the proposal wants to do and achieve
  • Show how the research is responding to what is needed in the call
  • Do not shoehorn a favourite research proposal where it does not fit (DFID can tell!)
  • Be honest about your own expertise and capacity – make clear how any shortcomings will be addressed


Sue Kinn began her career as a laboratory-based cell biologist. She has 15 years of experience working in public health and health services research. Sue moved to DFID in 2004 and is currently the leader or the human development research team. She manages a team of 12 with a research portfolio covering health and education, with a budget of over £65m in 2011. 

Malcolm McNeil is a Senior Health Adviser in DFID and has worked on programmes in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. Before joining the Research and Evidence Division (RED) in DFID, Malcolm was the team leader of the AIDS and Reproductive Health Policy Team. Malcolm has worked on NGO health programmes in Kenya and was also the International Director for Tearfund. Malcolm's background is in health education, community development and international public health.

Recommended reading

Download the pdf of the presentation here

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