CSOs Beyond Foreign Aid: Local Fundraising for Financial Sustainability

CSOs Beyond Foreign Aid: Local Fundraising for Financial Sustainability

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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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Fiifi is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Communications and Information Officer at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. He joined the Institute in December 2020.


Nancy is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Programme Officer in the Knowledge Management unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. She joined the Institute in January 2021.


Agnes is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Head of the Administration unit in the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2021.


Doris holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social sciences (Economics and Sociology) from the University of Cape Coast. She is passionate about impacting young lives hence co-founded Impart Foundation. A non-profit organization which seeks to empower young lives through education, technology and entrepreneurship.


Prince Akowuah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Assistant in the Translation Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


Maxwell Apenteng is a Ghanaian and joined WACSI in September 2010. He provides gardening and janitorial services at the Institute.


George Adu-Mintah is a Ghanaian and currently the Protocol Assistant/Driver at the West Africa Civil Society (WACSI). He joined the Institute in October 2006.


Ibrahim Kwaku Gbadago is a Ghanaian. He joined the Institute in 2008 and provides janitorial services and assisting the institute's errands. Before joining the Institute, he worked at the Palestinian embassy in Accra, Ghana.


Ruth Yakana is from Cameroon and currently the Receptionist at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


Bethel is a Ghanaian. He provides technical and IT related support to the Institute. He joined the Institute in October 2006.


Whitnay Segnonna holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Management from the University of Benin. With 2 years of experience, she has a strong knowledge of organizational and project management. Combined with her bilingualism, she is very passionate about her work. She joined WACSI as Project Assistant on Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) for the Capacity Development Unit.


Stella Yawa Wowoui holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Translation Studies. She has a perfect grasp of both French and English, as well as an intermediate level in Spanish. She is currently working as a Project Assistant on the Techsoup Project.


Kwame is an experienced IT Consultant/Software Developer. He is skilled in Web Applications Development, Digital Security, Database Management, Digital Marketing and Brand Management. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology and is a Microsoft Programme Alumni. He is currently serving as a Marketing and IT Officer on the Techsoup Project.


Grace Akpene Ziggah is a Togolese and currently the Logistics Officer and also assists in administration duties at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in June 2009.


Lilian Dafeamekpor is a Ghanaian and currently the Assistant to the Executive Director at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


John P. Frinjuah has expertise and interests in civil society, international development, democracy and governance, conflict, crisis, and security. He has extensive experience working with civil society and international development organizations where he supported and managed research, programmes, and provided technical assistance on a variety of themes around public policy, governance, and development. He is an alumnus of the University of Ghana and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy - Tufts University in the United States, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from two institutions respectively. John speaks English, French and several Ghanaian and regional West Africa languages.


Gervin has extensive international development experience, including 5 years of policy advocacy and capacity building of grass root organisations. He has implemented over the years a combination of agriculture value chain, livelihood, food security and governance and rights programmes.
Prior to joining WACSI, Gervin worked on two USAID projects focusing on agriculture value chain development and governance in northern Ghana
Gervin holds a master’s degree in development & Governance from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany as well as a Masters in Global Studies from the Universities of Vienna (Austria), Leipzig (Germany) and California (Santa Barbara), USA. He is passionate social justice and inclusion.


Leandre Banon, Beninese, joined WACSI in September 2014 as Capacity Development Programme Assistant. Since then, he has worked in various units within the Institute to support operational and institutional capacity strengthening programmes for civil society in the region. Currently serving as Capacity Development Programme Officer at WACSI, his main responsibilities involve designing, planning, implementing and monitoring capacity development programmes for civil society constituents and grouping across the West Africa. Leandre is a certified Change the Game Academy Programme Trainer. His background lies in the areas of economics and development planning.


Samuel Appiah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Officer in the Finance and Administrative Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in May, 2016.


Jimm Chick Fomunjong, Cameroonian, joined WACSI in May 2018 as the Head of the Knowledge Management and Communication Units of the Institute. He has over ten years’ experience as a journalist and a development communications expert. He has a vast experience in supporting African organisations to strengthen their internal and external communications, building and sustaining relationships with the media and, leveraging on the power of social media to promote their mission. He is also excellent at supporting organisations to set up and operationalise functional communications and knowledge management systems. He has a deep passion and expertise in supporting Africans and African civil society organisations to document their praxis, share and learn from experiences documented from the African civil society sector.


Franck Sombo is a development practitioner with the drive to lead self and others to influence productivity and efficiency. His work involves supporting organisations to develop strategic plans, design monitoring and evaluation systems, develop and use relevant performance measurement tools to track progress, assess organizational growth and institutionalise learning. Franck has eight years of experience working with WACSI where he currently serves as the Head, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning. His academic qualifications include Masters in Organisations’ and Projects’ Management, and in Business Sciences and a High National Diploma in Finance and Accounting.

Franck is a Fellow of the International Program for Development Evaluation Training (IPDET) and a graduate of the Graduate Training Institute (GTI) - Ghana with specialization in Strategic Management and Corporate Leadership. He has a rich experience in Project Management, Capacity Development, Strategic planning, Data Analytics, Monitoring and Evaluation, Training and Facilitation, Mentoring and Coaching among others.


Omolara is a development practitioner and advocacy strategist with over 15 years of progressive experience in development programming targeted at strengthening civil society in West Africa.

She joined WACSI in November 2009 as a Regional Advocacy Consultant and later became the first Policy Advocacy Officer of the Institute in 2010.

She was promoted to Head of the Policy Influencing and Advocacy (PIA) Unit in 2015. As the Head of the PIA unit, Omolara offers strategic direction to the Institutes’ ambitions to connect and convene groups of organised and organic civil society actors; and influence regional and global discourses on crosscutting policy issues including—civil society regulations, sustainable development goals, civic space and enabling environment, aid effectiveness, gender equality, and civil society accountability.

Previously, Omolara served as a Programmes Associate with the Women in Peace and Security Network-Africa (WIPSEN-Africa), where she worked with her team to design and implement pan-African programmes on—multidimensional peace support operations and gender mainstreaming in security sector reform in Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

She also served as a Service Development Marshal at TVQ Consulting Group, a customer service firm focused on designing strategic customer relationship and business growth plans for private and public financial institutions in Nigeria.

Omolara is a social justice advocate, a network weaver, and a convener. She has a postgraduate degree in Peace and Conflict Studies; a degree in International Relations and History, from the University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria respectively.

She also holds executive certificates in Behavioral Science in Public Policy from Harvard University Executive Education in Cambridge and in Citizen Advocacy from the Coady International Institute, St Francis Xavier University in Canada.


Kwabena Kroduah is a Ghanaian and currently heads the Finance Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in January 2008.


Charles currently serves as the Head of the Capacity Development Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). Charles has over 10 years of experience working in international development and social justice issues in Africa. Charles has expertise in strengthening civil society and public agencies including the design and implementation of governance and leadership programmes, development of knowledge pieces and policy advice. Charles was the founding Board Chair of Innovation for Change (i4C)-Hub Afrique, as well as the founding member of the International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), an initiative of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC. Charles currently serves as the Member of the Governing Board (Coordination Collective) of Africans Rising. He is a Member of the Development Studies Association, United Kingdom. Charles is a 2017 Stanford University Fellow for Nonprofit Leaders and a certified Change the Game Resource Mobilisation Trainer.


Nana Afadzinu is a Ghanaian and currently serves as the Executive Director of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2010.