Don’t get me wrong. There are many amazing nonprofits that I’ve worked with over the years, with work product that could rival any silicon valley tech company, yet the existential question about civil society’s role vis-a-vis that of government or the private sector comes up countless times in the partnership work I do. When disaster strikes, is it the government’s responsibility to provide for its people? Some on the left would say that almost always, it is. Yet even in the richest countries of the world, governments aren’t able to provide for their people in every way possible. Who fills the gap? Nonprofits. Businesses do too, and increasingly so. There’s always more need, though. When will the need end? When will the “job” of nonprofits ever stop? Should it stop? Shouldn’t nonprofits aim to work themselves out of a “job” such that the need for their involvement doesn’t exist anymore?
I’ve always thought that nonprofits should focus more of their effort on solving systemic problems so the need for nonprofits as saviors, in a way dissipates. But isn’t that short sighted? Won’t there always be a need for more support, more disaster relief, more access to healthcare, more support for disadvantaged communities, more food for those who go without, more clean water access, more fortified shelters, more, more more? Yes. The answer is Yes. The question remains, though, is a nonprofit the right type of organization to respond to all of that need? Should an organization spend resources to bring in more resources to then hand those resources to others? Are there more efficient ways for those resources to go to those in need?
When looking at the ‘haves’ versus the ‘have nots’ dilemma, and without getting political here, we can agree that there will always be a gap to fill to ensure the ‘have nots’ get access to basic necessities and then some. I still go back to the question of responsibility. I know this is the age-old challenge that pervades politics, business and social responsibility, but it’s something I grapple with too as a partnerships advisor. How do I help identify proper roles and responsibilities for organizations looking for creative ways to give back to society? Do I push the private sector to do more, give more, be more available in the market (beyond for consumption purposes only), or do I push the public sector to provide more resources for civil society to step in and fill the gaps? Do I encourage civil society to fundraise more from both private and public sectors both to keep their work moving forward but also to ensure marginalized communities get what they need? WILL they get what they need if the civil society acts alone? Truth be told, when disaster strikes, or when needs are palpable among communities across the world, the first organizations to show up and support are always from civil society, mixed in with the occasional government or private actor. Could that model ever change? Is the growth of social enterprise something that could turn this typical model on its head? In some case I think the answer is yes. In others it’s hard to imagine social enterprises being able to respond to urgent needs like hunger, extreme poverty, climate disasters or humanitarian challenges the way civil society can. The same goes for the private sector. Yet, and this is a big yet in my view, there does need to be a shift in how civil society views its role in the long term. Thinking about ways to work themselves out of a job SHOULD be part of their future scanning. Leveraging relationships with the private and public sectors can certainly help with this transition.
Joanne Sonenshine is Founder + CEO of Connective Impact, a partnership strategy and fundraising advisory firm located in Arlington, VA.
It was William Shakespeare who wrote that “misery makes strange bedfellows.” That quote has been turned around over the centuries, and yet the concept of strangers coming together to solve a critical problem is more crucial than ever before. It’s no mistake that the 17th Sustainable Development Goal, for example, calls for Partnerships for the Goals - and in particular, finding ways to strengthen implementation for sustainable development. The premise of collaboration and partnership, particularly among “strange bedfellows” is what makes our job as partnership advisors at Connective Impact so exciting. It is essentially up to us to help find those partners willing and able to work together to effect meaningful change.
That is why when the W. K. Kellogg Foundation announced that to celebrate its 90th anniversary it was challenging organizations to pitch $20 million solutions to global racial equity, as part of their Racial Equity 2030 pledge, there was something in the way the Foundation challenged proposals stemming from creative, nuanced thinking that caught my attention. Kellogg’s plan to “invite, build and scale ideas for transformative change around the world” issued a call for “ideas from teams of visionaries, change agents and community leaders from every sector and organizations of all types, from anywhere in the world.”
I thought now was the time to test my theory that strange bedfellows may indeed make the best, most impactful partners.
With a March deadline, we had two months to make this test a reality. In early January we inquired among our broad network to garner interest in gathering organizations together in a unique way even if just to exchange ideas. We indicated that Connective Impact was prepared to put together proposal teams if the interest was there. Within three days we had a list of nearly twenty organizations each curious about what a collective process would entail. After a zoom call, where we laid out our plans for managing a collaborative proposal process, our list of interested organizations shrunk to twelve, each of which shared what topic their organization would most want to pitch. We were able to develop three distinct ideas, each with different geographic and thematic topics. Once we narrowed in on the three topics, it was clear within a few days that one topic had the most formidable support among a solid group of five organizations: supporting young women and girls with limited income and education, towards leadership and financial freedom for a better future in cocoa growing communities, starting with Cote d’Ivoire.
We had found our creative collaboration, our strange bedfellows! Girl Up, a gender equality initiative of the United Nations Foundation, Fairtrade International, Arist (a text message based learning platform), Business Connect, an entrepreneurial development company and Moja Ride, a West African startup, agreed to work with Connective Impact on a proposal for the W. K. Kellogg Foundation’s $90 million racial equity challenge.
Over the course of 6 weeks, we met weekly and collaborated on all of the elements necessary for Kellogg Foundation’s proposal. We used a shared google drive and google docs to work on joint edits. Connective Impact led the writing and budget development. With some back and forth, edits and adjustments, we finalized our $20 million proposal for RISE: Reducing Inequality Through Self-Sufficiency and Entrepreneurship. The project aims to transform the future for young women and girls and their families by creating a new economic and social construct for producers in Duekoue, Guiglo, and San Pedro in Cote d’Ivoire.
Girls will be equipped for a future of enterprise through Girl Up Clubs, with a curriculum on self-confidence, leadership and entrepreneurship skills, preparing women for the workforce, and tools to advocate for themselves and their communities. In parallel, women will participate in Fairtrade’s Women’s Leadership Academy, a professional development network and entrepreneur program teaching life skills, business acumen, helping women create business plans, build business infrastructure and ultimately start businesses of their own generating additional income to their families. New businesses will center around water, hygiene, technology and on-farm activities. Families will also learn together about the importance of community development, women’s rights, economic empowerment, sexual harassment prevention, reproductive health rights, and health and safety. Moja Ride will launch its digital wallet, connecting rural cardholders safely and easily to advanced financial services, such as credit, insurance and savings, creating strong financial systems for long-term stability and agency.
As we share in our proposal, when a girl rises, we all do. When women rise, their families and communities do. We will look forward to hearing the results from the Kellogg Foundation’s decision. In the meantime, our unique collaboration will be sharing our ideas with other interested donors and partners, ready to show that strange bedfellows may indeed be the best types of partners for creative, long-term solutions.
Want to get involved? Email us at email@example.com with Subject Line: RISE.
Special thanks to the team at Pierce Mill Media for their help preparing our proposal video.
Let’s say your programmatic priority is providing access to clean water to communities in East Asia. You position your organization as one that can design infrastructure, develop sanitation programs, and even craft irrigation plans. A potential donor with interests in funding water projects in East Asia may view your nonprofit as a jack of all trades, and may question where your priorities and true expertise lies. The donor decides to fund a different organization and you’re left wondering why. If only the donor understood your operating model. If only you could reach the donor to explain why your strengths lie in three different areas.
In the end, the donor selected to fund a nonprofit they knew. The grantee's story was familiar. The donor knew that the grantee could deliver on one of the most critical elements of the proposal -- filtration for home use. Even if your organization's irrigation and clean water delivery capabilities would allow you to support filtration for home use, the donor knew with confidence that the selected organization was as well suited as possible to deliver the program, thus ensuring the funding would be more efficiently used, more impactful, many people would benefit at a much faster rate. The donor knew this with confidence because of a long standing relationship with the grantee. The grantee had proven itself and the donor knew it could deliver.
Fundraising in and of itself is a transaction. Money is passed between organizations and a service is delivered. Beyond the transaction, fundraising allows resources to transfer from those "with" to those "without." When grantees understand donor organization's "why", when it's clear what exactly a donor is looking for, the transaction is much easier. When a donor understands the capabilities of the grantee, and how it can deliver on the donor's "why", fundraising builds relationships, which in turn lead to more funding.
Making connections with the right people inside a donor or partner organization may not always come easy. It takes persistence. Making relationship building a key element of your fundraising strategy, however, is really important.
Support each other's "why", find that overlap of interest and vision, and aim high.
A critical (and perhaps overarching) element of USAID's Journey to Self-Reliance will be sustainable and long term economic advancement. Across the hundreds of countries where USAID supports humanitarian response, conflict resolution, poverty alleviation, global health provision, climate change and gender equity, the agency will be laser focused on how its efforts are transforming markets, local and regional economies, job creation and economic access for vulnerable populations.
Below we break down the new Economic Growth Policy and share some highlights relevant for those working in international development.
For decades it was understood what economic growth meant for development; it was about growing GDP, advancing incomes and creating an equal playing field among workers across the world. The complexity of an interconnected global marketplace, fast adoption of technology, reliance on mobile communication, and an ever-expanding gap among "rich" and "poor" has created a different scope to consider for USAID and its network of partners. Economic advancement is no longer measured in simple terms. There's a complexity to the market-based development focus for the agency that is now being clarified and shared in their new Economic Growth Policy.
To stipulate how the agency will support, measure and expand economic growth worldwide, USAID's Economic Growth Policy combines its heavy focus on Private Sector Engagement, lead role in the Women's Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP) and New Partnership Initiative (NPI), to describe the underlying mechanisms of growth necessary for countries to achieve self reliance.
This journey, as USAID refers to repeatedly, will be different in each region where USAID has a presence, but the mechanisms USAID will depend upon remain the same.
In summary USAID will promote:
USAID has indicated that the core policy tenets are:
Additionally, USAID has laid out "Six Central Principles to Guide USAID’s Economic-Growth Programs." which include:
For additional insights, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to learn more about government funding opportunities to #BuildBackBetter? Join us February 3 for a dynamic panel and workshop on strategically positioning your organization as a sub-grantee and proactively fundraising from government sources.
How you achieve the frequently communicated goals of post-COVID rebuild, while still striving to keep programs, such as sustainable farming, implementing and sustaining school meal programs, and creating lasting peace in conflict areas, is by making the rounds, building relationships with all donor-types, and being proactive to ensure your programs get in front of a diverse set of donors.
It's critical to diversify your donor audience. This is mostly due to the role collaboration plays among donors seeking to leverage their investments. In particular, public donors increasingly seek private sector initiatives to invest in, and/or new and innovative partners to work with. That trend, which has been building over the last couple of years, is not going anywhere. Impact investors, NGO impact fund leaders and social enterprises are also courting the private sector. Lines are blurring. Putting all of your attention on one type of donor eliminates the potential to tap into this increasingly popular collaborative funding model. In particular, we are seeking trends among collaborative donor programs around the following issues:
Outside of engaging donors, consider creative partnerships. As you seek partners to work with on your programs, look for obscure and unique collaborators. Since donors are testing new collaborative strategies, you should too! This will be helpful in project implementation, research AND finding diverse funding so programs cover more bases, are capable of creating lasting change and can touch on donor interests.
Together with your partners, evaluate your current programs and activities to determine how you can address the #BuildBackBetter funding priorities which include:
By keeping tabs on all avenues of collaboration, and positioning your projects to align with #BuildBackBetter priorities, you can be more assured of funding directed to your programs and projects.
Want to learn more about government funding opportunities to #BuildBackBetter? Schedule some time with us to strategize your future plans.