I have been working on organizing local giving through the development of local foundations to support the NGOs in our town. I started this project because I found very few organizations receive local funding. Almost all funding for NGOs is international. The few organizations that funded locally usually do collective savings and loans or organize members of the trades or collective income generating activities.
To try and address the lack of local community-based funding, I have started pushing for the creation of local foundations in Togo. Local foundations are organizations to which affluent people or organizations within the community donate in order to support specific causes. The advantage of using a local foundation to organize giving is that three-fold. First, if a significant portion of charitable giving is local, then locals will have more control over the projects of NGOs within their community. Currently, NGOs are constantly seeking international funding; therefore, changes in the landscape of international funding can dramatically alter the services and projects in the community irrespective of the community’s actual needs. Local funding can fill in the gaps and keep programs that are important locally alive, even when they are no longer popular internationally. Second, local foundations pool the money of many donors and direct it to one or two specific causes, thereby making far more of an impact than one donor alone. Third, local foundations ensure that the beneficiary NGOs they select use the funds in an accountable and transparent manner. The foundation accomplishes this goal by requiring the NGO grant recipients to turn in reports and other follow up information with the understanding that if the information is not provided, the NGO will be ineligible to receive funds from the foundation in the future. This is information which a small individual donor could not obtain on his own because the threat to cut off such a small amount of funding would not significantly affect the NGO.
I have developed a series of documentation to help local organizations create local foundations. The documents include a promotional pamphlet, example articles of incorporation, an example ethics policy, etc. I presented on local foundations to a group of other volunteers and their counterparts at our in service training session. The local counterparts were very enthusiastic at the idea.
One of my local counterparts then introduced me to a group of resortissants who were doing a huge needs assessment of the entire prefecture. Resortissants are people who are wealthy and successful and have moved away from their home towns, in this case the Prefecture of Zio, who return on occasion to do good for their communities. This group of resortissants has decided to organize into a group called the “Conseil Superieur de Zio,” hereinafter “Conseil”. The Conseil would like to create a local foundation to implement the recommendations set forth in their needs assessment. Their needs assessment attempted to consider each of the main aspects of life in the prefecture (such as economic development, education, health, agriculture, etc.) and create a series of recommendations for each area of focus. Examples of these projects they would like to accomplish include an ambulance system for larger urban centers, a center for training farmers on the use of technology in agriculture, and various improvements to the public school systems. Many of these priorities will require large amounts of funding, and they are considering creating a local foundation to finance parts of these projects.
They are planning to use the local foundation in two ways. First, they are considering using the money that they raise as collateral for projects that would require municipalities or NGOs to take out large loans which they would otherwise be ineligible to receive. The NGO or municipality would come to the Conseil with a thorough and well thought out application, and, if the Conseil accepts the application, it will help the NGO or municipality apply for the loan by cosigning. While this raises interesting questions about managing the risk of default that still need to be addressed, it would significantly increase the capacity of NGOs or municipalities to bring funds to bear to solve local problems.
The second method that the Conseil has suggested is to use their funds as the community matching funds for grant applications to international organizations. Most international organizations demand that local organizations provide a certain percentage of the funds for any project. The Conseil is hoping that they will be able to use their fund to satisfy this need. Likewise, in this situation, the NGO or government agency would go to the Conseil with an application, and, if the Conseil accepts the application, it will aid in the grant application process.
Sometime in the next month, I will present on local foundations to the Conseil to deal with some of the members’ outstanding questions. This will, hopefully, get the local foundation moving so that we can see results before we leave in August 2010. I am also hoping to organize some people to create more traditional grant-making foundations, but I am still looking for the target population to whom I can pitch the idea.