A successful project to wean southern civil society organizations off aid

I’ve previously lamented the aid industry’s lack of interest in building up the domestic fundraising capacity of local

Soul City Institute, South Africa
Soul City Institute, South Africa

organizations and suggested we need a ‘Fundraisers Without Borders’. Turns out something along those lines is already happening. A note in a recent edition of Development in Practice by Robert Wiggers of the Dutch Wild Geese Foundation (WGF) describes its Action for Children (AfC) programme in four countries (Brazil, India, Kenya, and South Africa). Here’s how it works:

First the rationale: ‘Local fundraising contributes to the financial sustainability of an organisation and spreads financial risks: with different sources of income an organisation can cope better with donors that withdraw, or other setbacks. In addition, it provides a better guarantee that local priorities, instead of those of donors, prevail: research has shown that all too often, donors’ priorities dictate where the money goes and thus, which problems are solved and which not. Local fundraising also contributes to organisations being better embedded in the local community: it increases the need to involve all, not only as beneficiaries, but also as active citizens, such as fundraisers, potential donors, or volunteers. And it gives legitimacy: the broader an organisation’s support base, the stronger its right to voice the interests and concerns of the community it serves.’

Using a subsidy from the Dutch government and its own private funding AfC first identified big local partners in the four countries to lead the project. ‘At the core of the design was the presumption that over the course of the programme, the Dutch government subsidy and WGF’s contribution would decrease while the contribution of the national partner organisation would increase. Thus, foreign funding would be gradually replaced by domestic funding.’

Smile Foundation, India
Smile Foundation, India

The lead partners were CESE (Brazil), Smile Foundation (India), Soul City Institute (South Africa) and the Kenya Community Development Foundation. AfC then worked with those big national partners to do the same with local groups – use grant funding and technical support to help them build their ability to raise local funds and wean themselves off aid. See the inevitable Theory of Change diagram.

The DiP paper presents the results for 2011-2015 and finds ‘national partner organisations approved a total of 903 local projects from local community-based organizations (CBOs) and NGOs that successfully raised funds at the local level. Only a handful of organisations, after receiving training and coaching, were not successful in raising their share of the necessary funds…. Usually, CBOs and small NGOs, after training on local fundraising given by the national partner organisations, were able to raise half of the funds they needed for their projects.’

Both the big national partners and the grassroots organizations improved their fundraising, but the big guys had to work harder:

‘It is more difficult to raise funds for these types of interventions as potentional donors, be they middle-class individuals or companies, like elsewhere in the world, prefer to donate to concrete projects and programmes. It takes time to gain their trust and to convince them to also donate to cover the costs that come with any development activity, and especially for a model that involves a large amount of capacity strengthening.’

Useful lessons for other would-be Fundraisers without Borders?

It takes time: ‘At the start of the programme, in 2006, it was estimated that 10 to 12 years would be needed for the CESEprogramme to attain full independence from foreign funding. At the start of the second phase, in 2010, this was adjusted to between 12 and 15 years.’ That is tough in a world of 3 year project funding cycles.

There can be internal resistance: staff in the Brazilian partner felt they were being pulled away from their previous focus on rights to the grubby business of fund raising. I guess they had previously led a sheltered life where the northern donors raised the funds, and they could just do the fun stuff…..

A lot of the skills needed are in short supply in developing countries, because they have previously largely happened in the North: delegated project funding and everything that entails, like attracting applications, project selection, monitoring and evaluation; capacity strengthening of local CBOs and small NGOs; advocacy; communication and PR, including the media; and local fundraising with different types of donors (corporate, middle-class individuals, local government). To fill the gaps, AfC invested in exchanges between the national partners and funded new hires, consultants and training, but it still took a long time.

As for where the domestic resources actually came from, Robert replied to my email saying it was all ‘really local, local sources’. For both national partners and the grassroots organizations ‘the proceeds of events in their own communities and contributions from local companies… Nothing from governments or aid donors’ national offices.’

However one major actor failed to step up – the emerging middle class.

KCDF logo‘The greatest difficulty, according to all three evaluations, lies in mobilising funds from the national middle class. In societies where most of the funding for poverty alleviation used to come from abroad, the perceived need to donate was low…… There are political and cultural barriers to overcome, and understanding these better might require more academic research. There are also practical obstacles to overcome, such as an absence of laws and regulations that help create an enabling environment for donating, such as tax exemptions. Successfully inviting middle-class individuals to donate or to donate more perhaps also requires more training in the different fundraising techniques that exist worldwide than AfC was able to provide.’

Fascinating – would love to hear of other similar experiences

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27 Responses to “A successful project to wean southern civil society organizations off aid”
  1. Matt Moran

    A very timely piece about local fundraising and resourcing. Hopefully, you will be advised about other such schemes in operation. As fundraising by civil society in the north and the west becomes more difficult, the fundraising capacity of civil society in the south needs to be boosted.

  2. Neela

    Very interesting. I would also point out that one reason it’s hard to engage the emerging middle class in developing countries in donating to NGO projects is that many of them are already deeply engaged in donating – to their own family members and extended social circles. Studies have shown that rates of giving to charity in Kenya re extremely high, when you include all the harambee-style fundraisers that are undertaken to send a sick family member to hospital, send a talented student in the extended family to university, contribute to funeral expenses, etc. Basically, Kenyans are giving all the time. It’s difficult to convince middle class Kenyans that their shillings will be more effective in supporting the work of a civil society organization.

    • Duncan Green

      That’s right Neela, and I think, taking a leaf out of the institutional reform book, those seeking to encourage domestic fund raising should be looking to build hybrid institutions, combining with existing practices, rather than impose foreign fundraising models. That could include being more tolerant of personal sponsorship approaches.

  3. Ken Smith

    As mentioned quite a lot on this blog , aid organisations could maybe learn a lot from faith groups have been raising funds locally for years.
    They seem to have the locally based skills they need and to be able to attract the emerging middle class. What is the Religious business doing right , that the aid business is doing wrong ?

  4. Athayde Motta

    Very interesting piece. Would it be possible for IBASE to translate and publish your post on its news website? We are very engaged in strengthening our funraising skills and there’s certainly an audience for this kind of information down here in Brazil. Please e-mail me if you can.

      • Athayde Motta

        Thanks. I’ll let you know when it goes live. On the report, there are interesting aspects but I would draw attention to two “ifs”. First, fundraising is really not in the repertoire of most organizations in Brazil. So, in addition to the lack of knowledge about asking techniques and local “donor markets,” there is the need to highlight fundraising as part of a nonprofit’s evevryday to-do-list. It’s cultural and it may take a while to overcome. Secondly, everything that is being done in Brazil about improving fundraising conditions and skills concern small organizations. They are indeed very important, but there is a growing gap about mid-sized to large native Brazilian NGOs, those engaged in hardcore policy and advocacy work in Brazil and abroad that do not benefit from being connected to international NGOs (For instance, a large native environmental organization in Brazil is still different, and less succesful in funraising, than the Brazilian affiliate of Greenpeace). These also need the kind of support Wilde Gazen is willing to provide, but may have a bigger challenge and may need more time to increase their revenues from local fundraising.

        • Dear Athayde,
          You are absolutely right! Orginally, Wilde Ganzen was planning to also develop courses for bigger organisations, but our focus group is small and medium sized CSOs and our funding possibilities are limited. However, if we could find addiotional funding through a tender or Call for Proposals, we are very much open to work on this issue, as I am sure will also be the case for our partner organisation in Brazil, CESE.
          At the same time: if you would go to our e-learning site http://www.changethegameacademy.org , you would find that also bigger organisations could probably learn from what we have to offer. The site is presently being translated into Portuguese (and Spanish and French). In the course of next year, a course on Lobby and Advocacy will be added.

  5. Rieky Stuart

    I’ve been interested in this issue for a long time. In many countries, it is easiest to raise funds for direct support – for orphans, for example, or natural disaster relief – and much more difficult for anything that would change the rules of the game that maintain people in poverty. One way around this has been the efforts of organizations like Graca Machel’s Foundation in Mozambique, or the Tanzanian Foundation established initially by CARE, both of which supported collective local fundraising that included advocacy and capacity-building as well as direct project funding. There is much potential for doing better on local fundraising, even taking into account the constraints that Neela describes that are a constant reality for all of those emerging from poverty.

  6. Masood

    One of the most important example of local capacity development in the civil society sector have been the rural support programmes in Pakistan. They are registered as private non profit companies with their own board of directors. Their vision is to create societies where poverty is reduced. This is done by tapping the capacity for self help present in communities and the organisation acting as the catalyst to promote social mobilisation and bringing financial resources and technical assistance to the community organisations. The government has put in sizeable funding for creating endowments for these organisations. The government at the same time has been encouraged to have non officio members representing it on the board. But these board members are a tiny minority. The organisations thus retain their independence.The organisation leverage their endowment and the long term stability that it offers to raise funding both nationally and internationally for their work. The organisations have grown rapidly over the years playing a huge role in both development and humanitarian work in Pakistan. Today they are the largest deliverer of infrastructure development, producers of community electricity, provider of rural financial services, providing platforms for delivering health and education to the government and they have also emerged as the largest humanitarian aid delivering organisations. In time of crisis when international organisations have left they scene they have continued to work in a difficult environment. There are no expatriates working in them and the standard of their work competes with international organisations. There is much to learn from them at a time when the call for local organisations playing a greater role in development and humanitarian aid has increased

    • Dear Masood,
      Thank you for sharing this! Where can I find more information on these programmes? Are there any publications that are accessible? We’d also like to mention those, if existent, in the library of the Change the Game Academy.

  7. Ken Smith

    OK – I’ll take the challenge to answer my own question.
    Religion is about joining , I become part of something , belong to something. In developing countries I need to belong , to my extended family , to my neighourhood , to funeral clubs , to my local church/mosque etc because these networks will help me when I need it. I can’t rely on state institutions , health services , social services.
    Even the emerging middle class have grown up with that mindset
    So if the NGO wants me to donate it needs to offer me something to belong to and something I see the benefit of in my local community , even if for the middle class that is simply better social cohesion.

  8. Beatriz Guimaraes

    Hi Duncan, Oxfam GB used to run a similar programme in Brazil (Resource Mobilization Programme, run from the Recife office). I worked on it for six months during a secondment as programme coordinator. Great fun! We had 9 partner organisations mostly in the northeast, Rio and Sao Paulo. Some were big established NGOs delving into direct marketing, others much smaller, trying to fundraise through shops selling project produce (babacu nut soap etc). The programme was essentially about supporting partners to develop fundraising and comms skills. It came to an end as Oxfam in Brazil shifted more towards advocacy. At the time (2005) the programme was the only one of its kind for Oxfam – I don’t know if we have the same sort of programme happening in other countries now.

  9. Tanja

    Hi Duncan
    Very important issue this. For interesting info on what’s happening in South Africa, see a short article here http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2016-03-22-south-african-philanthropic-foundations-investment-in-the-new-democracy/ More detail, including the report mentioned, can be found on the author’s website here http://www.gbphilanthropies.co.za/#!blank/qvmgb

    And there is also a newly established academic chair in African Philanthropy at the Wits Business School http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2016-03-13-seat-of-power-a-boost-for-the-study-of-giving-in-africa/#.VukwqMdNBOp To quote the article:
    “What is unique is that this chair will not only focus on what most people view as traditional philanthropy, i.e. charitable giving on the one hand or strategic or venture philanthropy on the other. This goes a lot further. The announcement states that the aim of the chair is “to take forward the study of gifting in Africa”. According to Dr Alan Fowler, who has been appointed on an interim basis, the initiative would develop “a pan-African perspective on the practice and epistemology of gifting on the continent. The chair in African Philanthropy would go beyond the traditional metrics and would recognise that acts of gifting take many forms, serving critical functions for stabilising and innovating societies”.
    The old UCT study referred to in the article can be found here http://clpv.sanford.duke.edu/documents/Poor_philanthropist_screen.pdf

  10. In follow up to Action for Children, the program described in this blog, Wilde Ganzen (Wild Geese Foundation) developed the Change the Game Academy: https://www.changethegameacademy.org/
    Change the Game offers blended learning courses, modules and toolkits on Organisational Development (partly ready), Local Fundraising (full course available) and Lobby and Advocacy (under the name of ‘Mobilising Support; available by the end of 2016). All from the perspective of partners in the Global South. The e-learning part is available free of charge, worldwide, when you follow the link above. The very intensive, three to six months face2face courses are given by the same partners as under Action for Children, at a cost recovery rate. So is coaching. Contact the partners mentioned in the blog (the links to their websites are given there) for more information.
    Once Change the Game has all three courses ready, we plan to developed courses and learning materials for bigger organisations from the Global South.

  11. @Athayde Motta: a Portuguese translation is planned for later this year or early 2017. You could consider contacting CESE to explore possibilities for cooperation. They will invite trainers for a ToT on Local Fundraising that takes place October this year, in Brazil.

  12. @all: please share with us publications, toolkits, to do lists, etc. on local fundraising, lobby and advocacy and organisational development that you encounter, so that we can consider uploaiding them in the Library of the Change the Game Academy (or use them to enrich one of the courses or modules), or to make a toolkit based on them.

  13. What struck INTRAC and us when we were collecting materials for the Library of Change the Game Academy, was that the great majority of publications on Local Fundraising are only available at paying a relatively large sum of money to the publishing houses owning the magazines in which articles are published. If we want to give local CBOs and NGOs access to the information they need, this must change; they cannot afford to pay some 20 or 30 Euros for just one short article that may be of relevance to them. If any of you are authors yourself, or know of authors on the subjects we are dealing with, please plead for free access to information for CBOs and NGOs from the Global South.

  14. Lena

    OK, so I don’t want to spoil the enthousiasm expressed in the blog and the various comments. Having worked for Oxfam in the Netherlands myself for some I am a big admiror of many CSOs – especially those advocating for more government transparency, accountability, human rights and good governance in General. But I have also always been a bit hesitant about CSOs possibly “crowding out” what should in principle be government functions. Reading this article, I couldn’t help but wonder whether local sourcing of funds might undermine the ability of central and local government in particular to raise taxes. Yes, people might not trust government and therefore might not be willing to pay taxes or have their taxes increased. Those people might indeed be more inclined to give to charity. It would be interesting to see research on whether charitable giving has indeed the potential to undermine tax compliance. In the article, Robert Wiggers cites the following: The Charities Aid Foundation, in a summary on the key findings of its World Giving Index 2015, found that “some of the world’s most generous countries are among the most deprived. The G-20, which represents the world’s largest economies, accounts for only 5 of the top 20 countries [on the WGI 2015 list]”. It should not be forgotten that general taxes pays for ODA. And in countries where tax to GDP is higher, social welfare systems are usually better developped, which probably reduces the (perceived) need for charitable giving, at least at home.

    • Dear Lena,
      You are absolutely right that charitable giving cannot and should not replace government functions and especially not replace its ability to raise taxes. Taxes are the most important instrument we have in this world for income redistribution (a government task). As the Advisory Council on International Affairs has pointed out, poverty more than ever has become an issue of (re-)distribution of wealth. But it would be foolish to solely depend on government. There is no country in the world, under whatever system, where the government is able to fulfill all the needs of its population. Also historically, charity has always been needed to fill the gaps that government leave. Private initiatives, including charity, private donations and voluntary work will always exist alongside government led services. This is not to say we should not pressure government to deliver what it should deliver. On the contrary, such pressure is the most important thing we need to do, worldwide, especially given the growing power of the private sector. Just look at some of the consequences of TTIP and CETA for the power balance between the state and the corporate sector. Therefore, Wilde Ganzen not only invests in the capacity of CSOs worldwide to raise funds, but also in their capacity to Lobby and Advocate. As a consequence, we have developed a course on Lobby and Advocacy and trained or will train local trainers to deliver it in 12 countries in 2017. Our e-learning site http://www.changethegameacademy.org will contain a course, inspiring cases and references to reading materials on Lobby and Advocacy in the course of 2017.