By Emilly Omudho


This blog is part of our series on modelling progressive funding. This theme will culminate with an online event on 18 January 2023.

I work for the Kenya Community Development Foundation (KCDF), where capacity strengthening and grant-making are approaches we use to support community-led development. I often meet people who ask about our funding methods and how they can be of benefit. To me, funding is not just a transaction between a donor and a recipient, but a relationship built based on trust and mutual interests. As is often the case, “deals are brokered over coffee while contracts are signed in boardrooms”.

Civil society organisations require resources to drive their mission successfully. However, it is wrongly assumed that a strong civil society sector has a robust capacity to mobilise resources in different forms (cash or in-kind) to enable them to implement their agenda. My experience at KCDF has made me realise that resource mobilisation is more than fundraising. As the saying goes, “your network is your net worth”. Resource mobilisation is about building networks and involves leveraging a range of resources. At KCDF, we have tools to track all kinds of resources – including the non-cash forms that are often neglected.

The dynamics around resource mobilisation are changing, with more organisations appreciating the need to mobilise local resources, be it cash or in-kind. I have been involved in and experienced resource mobilisation at different levels. In this blog, I will focus on four resource mobilisation approaches: community foundations, grant matching, private sector partnerships, and direct cash transfers.

Community foundations

My work with various communities in Kenya helps me appreciate that every community has resources that can contribute to its development. The value of the resources can only be realised when community organisations can identify their needs and the resources available to them. However, local resources are seldom enough to meet the needs of the communities – hence the need to continuously engage other partners to support and incentivise local giving. The work that KCDF does with community foundations has enabled them put up endowment funds for different projects. For example, Kirima Education support project was founded in 2006 with around $5,000 and has grown to over $179,000 today. In that time, it has supported over 40 students to access education with returns from the fund. For the community foundations, community members contribute as little as 41 cents per person, and leaders and alumni would match on a shilling-for-a-shilling (or dollar-for-dollar) basis. I am looking forward to supporting more work around community foundations.

Grant matching

Incentivising community giving is another approach that I have seen enhance the potential development impact of community resources. KCDF’s grant matching has enabled communities to implement livelihoods and education projects . Nkoilale Community Development Foundation is one of the foundations that has entrenched the culture of communities organising themselves for development. It has greatly improved access to essential services, including education, water, and health. Ordinary community members donate resources – including goats, cows and sheep – aggregate them, and leverage their resources with other generous Kenyans to finance their priority projects. In one of the projects, where they supported the construction of a feeder school to reduce the distance covered by young children to school, the community mobilised $8,200. With an incentive from KCDF, they were able to complete the project. Parents are happy to now send their children to school without fear of them being attacked by wild animals on their way. While the incentive may be short-term, communities can build social capital, networks, and trust that form a solid basis for continued fundraising beyond the grant matching period. It is often most useful for nascent organisations and communities or those beginning to take up local fundraising as an alternative resourcing model.

Private sector partnerships

I was recently involved in a campaign to raise resources for dignity kits for girls and food donations for families in the Western region of Kenya. In our first campaign phase, we acquired resources from individuals and private sector partners. After the fundraising initiative, we have had to submit reports to account for the initiative. Additionally, we have had to demonstrate the element of community participation in the process. This may seem to be process-heavy but it’s useful in strengthening trust levels between the organisation and our corporate funders.

Direct cash transfers

In a direct cash transfer, donors and philanthropists give unrestricted funds to organizations. This means of enabling organisations to take action to advance their missions is a growing trend. In this model, communication is critical for organisations to share their profiles and the impact of their work.

Evidence-based sharing of impact stories promotes the visibility of CSOs, positioning them strategically in the resource mobilisation environment. The East African Philanthropy Network (EAPN) notes that direct transfers of cash challenge established funders and funding approaches. They have encouraged smaller organisations to rethink their value-add, to be more effective rather than their simple transactional role.

Conclusion

Resource mobilisation is critical for the sustainability of organisations. It has multiple facets with multiple levels. Progressively, technological advances have opened community organisations to opportunities for global resource mobilisation. Community engagement, impact communication, and relationship building will continue to be the critical building blocks for organisations and communities that want to excel in attracting the resources and support for community-led development. This approach is freed from highly restrictive and transactional funding, and it recognises the right of communities to be at the centre of a development and change agenda that belongs to them.

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