Time to level the funding playing field for local partners?

Lots of NGOs are trying to change the way they fundraise.

After our Responsible Fundraising series kick-off meeting last year, it became apparent that members saw responsible fundraising as a way to shift towards locally led development. However, what also became very apparent was that NGOs didn’t feel they had the power to make that shift happen, unless donors made the first move. NGOs also felt that the short-term nature of fundraising was a huge barrier to making that shift, as was the fact that at a senior level, organisations didn’t understand the link between how they fundraise and the role that plays in shifting power to communities.

In the first of our Responsible Fundraising sessions, we heard from Farida Makame, head of resource mobilisation and Corina Pickering, programme funding manager. Both colleagues gave us an insight into how Restless Development hasembraced and implemented its responsible fundraising strategy.

During a fascinating and informative session, here is what we learnt.

Put the communities or people at the heart of your work

Keen to restore power and development to young people, Restless Development has developed youth models for fundraising. A key part of this is the idea of youth leadership. Over the years, putting youth leadership at the core of their work has been transformative, but Restless Development believes the sector needs to change the way current models of development work. Right now, most funding goes to big NGOs, which means an unequal distribution of power and funding.

When Restless Development thinks about power, they mean institutional and individual power. One of the key principles that underlines their funding partnerships is they do not compete with partners for funding. Restless Development share its resources with youth civil society and aims to create equitable partnerships. In pursuit of this, they are also looking at their use of branding and language and are also diversifying their teams.

Restless Development has a specific ethical policy that guides any private sector funding and is willing to both avoid and turn down funding if it doesn’t comply with their policy, which can be found on their website.

Define what power restoring funding looks like for your organisation

Defining what “power restoring funding” means for your organisation is critical, as is having clear measurables. Questions Restless Development asks themselves are: is the funding flexible? Can we design our programme with young people? If there is a chance to co-design with youth organisation, is there a chance to boost the resilience of youth organisations through funding? Would the donor welcome conversations on these issues? Would the donor welcome thought leadership on how to provide power restoring funding?

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This is something Restless Development has done with some donors to help improve the diversity of philanthropy. Though Restless Development has financial targets in terms of how much funding they want to get to youth organisations, they remain flexible and adaptable. Restless Development also delivers annual reporting to their Resource Leadership Team to create a body of evidence and learning that maps how they are progressing, as well as what they need to improve.

Restless Development also works with donors to help them understand the issues around restoring power to youth organisations. They facilitate conversations, produce annual reports working with partners and local organisations, andwork through challenges together and share decision-making around resources. Restless Development is also part of the We Trust Youth partnership.

Securing responsible funding requires Board and leadership team buy-in

Both speakers spoke of having a Board and leadership team that both truly bought into what the organisation istrying to achieve and how they aretrying to achieve it. The leadership team at Restless Development openly talks about working themselves out of a job in 10-20 years’ time when they hope funding will be going directly to the local youth organisations. If that hasn’t happened, it would mean Restless Development would still be needed as a relationship broker – and only then they would need to keep going.

Both the Board and the leadership team buy intothe idea of diversifying the organisation’s funding so that they support youth leadership, rather than compete with it. Restless Development is diversifying its resource mobilisation unit, establishing regional roles in East Africa and Asia, as well as global south-based team members. The organisation has also specified how many power-restoring funding partnershipsthey are aiming for, and the extent to which this needs to increase over the years.

What’s next?

In our next session we will be exploring the experiences of local civil society in fundraising and trying to understand how our individual behaviours impact fundraising and our relationships with partners.

We will be sharing the findings of the series with the sector at Bond’s Dismantling Development conference which is taking place in September. Please keep a look out through the Bond channels on how to sign up.