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West Africa Civil Society Institute Strengthening Civil Society


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Insufficient Local Fundraising Capacity is Civil Society’s Weakest Link

Resource mobilisation is a recurrent challenge for not-for-profit organisations in West Africa. External donor funding available for civil society in West Africa especially those that have been designated middle income is progressively decreasing.

Development partners are shifting their priorities and in some cases even withdrawing funding support. Meanwhile, the pressure on civil society to be more representative and responsive is increasing globally, and its space to operate as an independent development actor is diminishing in many places and in other instances threatened. More than ever, it is imperative that civil society mobilises local resources and adopts sustainability models to be more robust and resilient.

Local fundraising is a vexing challenge for not-for-profit organisations in West Africa. Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the region are increasingly being challenged to mobilise funding from their local constituencies as a more sustainable option for responding to socio-economic problems. In West Africa, this situation is made more complex by a general lack of innovation and creativity with respect to the design of proposals and application of local fundraising techniques.

WACSI’s work in the region has revealed that there is an overdependence on external donor funding sources and a lack of appreciation of potential resources from local communities. In addition, civil society actors in the region have inadequate knowledge of tools that could be utilised to raise resources from local sources.

Meanwhile, CSOs continue to have difficulties articulating their vision, ideas and plans in proposals. Most CSOs lack human resources with strong writing and engagement skills that will enable them to attract the requisite funding from local sources including the private sector and diaspora.

Further, challenges include weak conceptualisation, ineffective presentation of ideas, the lack of work plans and detailed budgets with narratives and other compliance documents and a shortage of professionally trained and experienced fundraisers with local context capabilities.

Therefore, local fundraising for most CSOs is particularly difficult for several reasons including excessive competition among numerous groups for scarce local financial resources, poorly regulated operating space for CSOs, the difficulty for CSOs in establishing credible references, practical issues with resource transfers, numerous tax issues and the lack of diversified resourcing strategies.

In addition, private sector players and citizens living in the diaspora continue to argue that most CSOs lack the ability to “sell” their causes through a compelling value proposition. Certainly, there is an urgent need to strengthen the financial sustainability of CSOs in West Africa within the context of a changing donor environment.

In response to these challenges, WACSI through a series of reflection sessions has begun strategising to respond to this critical need. The institute has strengthened its resource mobilisation and proposal writing intervention to integrate issues of sustainability and local fundraising strategies. The institute is also actively pursuing partnerships that would enable it to further this cause and respond appropriately to the skills and knowledge capacity gap.

Key resource mobilisation issues that the institute would seek to address in the next ten years include strengthening the capacity of civil society to develop holistic fundraising strategies; strengthening the capacity for mobilising resources from various sources; identifying potential sources of financial support; helping organisations to increase the portfolio of potential domestic and international donors.

In addition, the institute will continue to provide technical support to organisations to prepare for direct communication and meetings with donors and identify internal organisational fundraising strengths and build on them.

The thrust of the institute’s financial sustainability intervention is to promote local philanthropy for self-reliance and long-term viability within West African communities and to strengthen their capacity and confidence in taking charge of their development agenda.

*The Author, Charles Kojo Vandyck is WACSI’s Head of Capacity Development

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