CSOs Beyond Foreign Aid: Local Fundraising for Financial Sustainability

CSOs Beyond Foreign Aid: Local Fundraising for Financial Sustainability

For decades, civil society organisations (CSOs) in Ghana have relied mainly on international donor funding for their financial sustainability. According to the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI), financial sustainability is “the ability of CSOs to generate and also manage finances so as to meet spending commitments and operations both now and in the future.” A sustainable civil society (CS) is financially vibrant with strong fund-raising capacity and often has a predictable inflow of funds from diverse sources. A sustainable CS has financial systems and is able to plan its financial health well.

It has the autonomy and independence to say no to certain sources of funds that do not align with its mission.

n a report entitled, “The State of Civil Society Sustainability in Ghana”, it was established that “finance has been found to be the most pressing and challenging aspect of sustainability. The conclusions reached suggest that CS in Ghana is under intense pressure to operate, survive and thrive in an increasingly competitive and dwindling funding environment.” (WACSI, 2015)

Many CSOs have been registered, but due to lack of financial resources, are doing nothing in their respective communities. These dormant CSOs are perceived and sometimes referred to as ‘NGO’, which stands for “Nothing Going On .” It has, therefore, become very necessary for CSOs to find alternative means to raise funds for their initiatives as opposed to relying solely on donor funding. Local fundraising is, therefore, necessary for CSOs to survive and thrive.

Local fundraising concentrates efforts on gaining financial support from the local stakeholders in the country of operation of the CSO. These stakeholders could be their beneficiaries, private sector institutions, government, individuals, etc. Below are six different options of local fundraising available for CSOs to explore and apply to increase their resource base.

Membership fees and subscriptions

Some CSOs have different kinds of members: board members or members of the board of trustees as well as general members of the organisation. Depending on the number of members, the CSO can raise a substantial amount of funds from its members through monthly or annual subscription fees.

Fees for services

Many CSOs are rightly uncomfortable charging fees for their services. Recovering costs by charging fees for some or all its services helps to reduce the financial burden on the CSO. Some of the services CSOs can offer include rental of facilities and equipment, information services, training and consultancies among others. Services can be offered at a fee to a segment of the beneficiary group that can afford or to the public. This can be done to subsidise for those who cannot afford. Fees can be set at a level which contributes to the cost of providing the service, rather than covering the full cost of service. Depending on the type and size of the CSO and its beneficiaries, charging modest fees can really strengthen an organisation’s financial sustainability. This is helpful for both current and future beneficiaries.

Donations from supporters

There are many kind-hearted individuals who may not be members of any CSO but would like to support CSOs and their initiatives. Well planned fundraising events and campaigns (both online and offline) targeted at the public other than registered members of the organisation can generate a substantial amount of funds for the CSO. In October 2018, the Initiative for Democratic Alternatives organised a fundraising event in California, U.S.A through which it raised over six thousand United States Dollars to support the scholarisation of underprivileged children in Liberia. Some CSOs have fundraising appeals at airports which allow travellers of goodwill to make free-will contributions to the organisations’ cause.


Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising money from people, typically via the Internet. Crowdfunding is a developing fundraising approach for CSOs and social enterprises. Crowdfunding offers opportunities for a wider base of people to support organisations and or initiatives to save humanity and promote development. Some crowdfunding platforms include www.gofundme.com, www.globalgiving.org and www.impactghana.org.

Social enterprise

The UK Government defines a social enterprise as, “a business with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners.” The goal for which CSOs can adopt a social enterprise approach is to achieve financial sustainability by enabling organisations to support themselves financially through innovative ways instead of relying solely on grants from donors. A social enterprise model can be integrated into a CSOs’ operation as an embedded strategy or a separate entity established as a funding mechanism for the CSO.

Corporate Grants & Partnerships

Business entities have corporate social responsibility (CSR) budget provisions. They often dedicate this for community development and social interventions and may be willing to partner with CSOs to achieve their objectives. CSOs can organise and court relationships to benefit from these corporate grants or partner with businesses for their CSR programme implementation.

Continuous streams of funding are paramount to the success of a CSO just as continuous cash flow through sales is necessary for the success of a for-profit organisation. I hope this write up help in stirring ideas that can prompt CSOs to fundraise locally and increase efforts towards their financial sustainability.


NOTE: Opinion expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the West Africa Civil Society Institute.




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