On the 6th February 2021, I was at Hephzibah Christian Centre, Aburi-Ghana to facilitate a session on “Integrating alternative financing models to strengthen 3rd Sector Resilience in a Post Pandemic West Africa”, during the 2021 DAAD Alumni Conference.
These alumni work within the civil society space including academia, international NGOs, media, social movements, professional associations and experts from Ghana and other West African Countries including Cameroon.
COVID-19 has seriously tested the resiliency and sustainability of organisations, especially those in the nonprofit sector. The pandemic has further exacerbated their already precarious state and many Civil society organisations (CSOs) are under immense pressure to operate, survive, and thrive, while maintaining independence and continually generating funds to pursue planned operations and command strong recognition and influence.
They have been forced to adapt or to abandon the game, to face adversity through innovation or to fail while trying. Organisational and individual preparedness to manage change was tested also and many had to unlearn and relearn, to find new ways of working and developing resilience amidst the pandemic.
Since financing is a key pillar of organizational sustainability, I was invited to strengthen participants understanding, knowledge and practice in mobilizing resources more creatively. Aside the traditional channel of funding, there are 12 proven models of mobilizing resources for any civil society organisations in Africa, no matter its size, staff or strength.
As you would imagine, not all the model could be applied at any type of organization. Hence the need of doing an internal and external assessment to identity the organizational strength and weaknesses, which would then inform which decision making and priority setting.
When I was facilitating the session, I noticed that participants knew most of these models but haven’t yet considered them through a systematic lens, as potential channel of resources mobilization. Most knew fiscal sponsorship, social enterprise, private sector funding and membership fees models but few had explored models such as social and green bonds, incubation, consultancy and microfinance.
Also, many considered financing as priority number one for every organization’s sustainability. This is a shared belief among some civil society practitioners in West Africa. But this is not actually the case always since several research and studies have demonstrated that identity is the most important dimension of an organization’ sustainability. This was confirmed through a commissioned research of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) on the state of CSOs sustainability in Ghana which revealed 4 dimensions to sustainability:
Hence the importance of adopting a system thinking approach to address the financial challenges of any organization. Tackling solely financial issues without strengthening the identity, operational or interventions components won’t be effective. It’s just a waste of time, energy and resources. Conscious of this, the conference coordinator Gervin Chanase convened a panel of expert on other pillars of civil society sustainability, such as:
- Charles VanDyck, Co-Chair, Africans Rising and Founding member of the International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Topic: Reimagining civic leadership to strengthen 3rd Sector Resilience
- Franck Sombo, Development Practitioner and Fellow of the International Program for Development Evaluation Training (IPDET) Topic: Building and sustaining collaborative community of practices to strengthen 3rd Sector Resilience
- Regina Baiden is Research, advocacy, and policy analyst with extensive experience in conducting evidence-based research and advocacy campaigns. Topic: Applying networking and alliance building strategies to strengthen 3rd Sector
- Kwame Asante is an Information Technology Consultant and CEO, Tech Port Solutions Topic: Enhancing technology adoption, digital resilience, and security within the 3rd sector.
Through their feedback, participants confirmed they had understood and agreed to renew their thinking and revisit their organizational sustainability pillars. As one would expect from every session I facilitate, there was a lot of fun in the atmosphere and I used reflective games during the interactive activities. We learn more through serious games, reflection and practice oriented activities.
If you’ll like me to speak or facilitate a session at your event on resource mobilization within nonprofits or civil society sustainability, kindly send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll follow up on it.
If you are interested in learning more about the 12 Alternatives financing models, I’ll recommend you to download the full guidebook developed by WACSI here or to read this article co-authored with Charles Kojo Vandyck in which I explain how to advance CSOs’ financial sustainability.
You could also have access to my presentation at this conference here and drop a comment if you have any question or contribution.