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From local to global: how NIGEE raised funds to end child marriage in Kenya

This blog is the first in a blogging series on fundraising for Girls Not Brides members and grassroots organisations with limited access to funding. Here, Godfrey Ochieng Okumu of Nyanza Initiative for Girls’ Education and Empowerment (NIGEE), Kenya shares his tips on applying for international funding opportunities.

“Turning scars into stars” is the motto of the Nyanza Initiative for Girls’ Education and Empowerment (NIGEE). Since 2011, this Kenyan organisation has worked to re-enrol girls who dropped out of school due to pregnancy, early marriage or poverty.

At the end of 2016, NIGEE received two international grants, in recognition and support of their work: a “With and For Girls” award from the Stars Foundation, and a “Community Development Grant” from GlobalGiving.

Securing funding is not an easy task for community-based organisations. Few opportunities are specifically tailored to their needs. With limited capacity, smaller organisations may struggle to provide the information that donors traditionally expect or prove the legitimacy of their work.

We spoke to Godfrey Ochieng Okumu, Programs Coordinator at NIGEE, to learn about their fundraising strategy.

1. NIGEE only started a few years ago. How did you fundraise to get it off the ground?

A lot of people did not have faith in us when we started – they did not know who we were! Sourcing for funds locally meant approaching people around us, sharing with them our dream and convincing them to support us.

We sold panties and bras everywhere, even in churches, to raise money to send girls back to school. Sometimes we would get tenders to supply goods like cereals to schools. We had to follow up for days just to get the payment.

Our visibility really increased when we organised a marathon and a charity festival in the counties, and many girls started approaching us for support with their education. We realised we had to start looking for funds internationally.

2. It’s amazing that you had to fundraise globally to meet the growing demand! What was the biggest challenge in going global?

The time it took to plan, design and get proposals done. Writing excellent proposals demands patience and calls for attention to detail, which is complicated when you have to work on several proposals at once.

3. How was your experience with crowdfunding platforms like GlobalGiving?

We applied to GlobalGiving after seeing it advertised in the Girls Not Brides newsletter. Their crowdfunding platform offered a step-by-step guide on how to fundraise. They provided online training, as well as insights on how to improve our profile, reach out to more individuals and build on our networks. We had an amazing experience with them and raised $15,340 over the first 3 months! To date we have raised $48,127 from 227 unique donors. You can see our page here.

4. How is fundraising online different from more traditional sources of funding?

Crowdfunding is flexible and builds on donor networks. For example, on GlobalGiving, someone who wants to know more about your organisation can click on the links to your website and social media, and share your project.

On the other hand, traditional fundraising targets institutions and this makes what you can fundraise for more restricted. Most of the donors on the online platforms are flexible as long as you implement the proposed idea.

5. What is the main lesson that you’ve learned about fundraising?

  • Determination and patience pay. We wrote numerous proposals to grants we had found online and not all were successful.
  • Know your audience. Each donor supports different causes, so you need to research which donor to target while preparing a proposal.
  • Successful proposals are developed by a team. Collective development of concept is crucial in ensuring that your idea is concrete and systematic.

6. If you had three pieces of advice to other Girls Not Brides members looking to strengthen their fundraising, what would they be?

  • Plan well and design realistic ideas by involving girls. Knowing your audience and understanding the requirements comes in handy. Before writing the proposal/concept note, put the needs of the girls first and ensure that your focus is on improving their livelihoods. Involving girls in this process is key to ensuring their needs and priorities are fulfilled.
  • Be patient and open up for feedback. Chances are you will send proposals to different donors and never receive feedback from most of them. Follow up, try to understand where you fell short, re-evaluate your systems and then apply for others.
  • Don’t let rejections demoralise you. Maybe you did not get that multimillion dollar grant. It doesn’t mean that no one will ever support you. Keep on writing proposals and remember to take feedback on board, because that will make all the difference.
Computer classes in progress © NIGEE

Computer classes in progress © NIGEE