In Ghana, nonprofits must combat a widespread misperception that they have all the resources they need to succeed, writes GlobalGiving Field Traveler Dalila Sumani, who views local support as the missing ingredient.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve visited 17 nonprofits in Ghana through GlobalGiving’s Field Travel Program. The most widely discussed plight throughout all my visits is an inaccurate perception about the financial strength of NGOs among local communities, making it challenging for Ghanaian nonprofits to win local support. However, these local communities are often wrong: This perception does not match up with the reality of nonprofits and the state of philanthropy in Ghana.
As one nonprofit leader told me, “Most people in Ghana think we have money, so they do not want to support us.” Another leader put it this way: “Most Ghanaians don’t even trust our work.”
The myth in Ghana that nonprofits have enough money and can do it all on their own highlights the need for organizations to be more transparent with their financial situation within the communities where they operate.
For the future of philanthropy in Ghana, nonprofit leaders must be transparent with their local communities—and not only with people who give them financial support. This will help change these perceptions and spur more local giving and support for their projects.
Here are four ways that I believe Ghanaian nonprofits can build local trust offline and combat common misperceptions:
1. Balance your offline and online activities.
Of the estimated 30 million-person population in Ghana, only 10 million are Internet users. This means that there are more Ghanaians offline than online. It behooves Ghanaian nonprofits to make their impact seen and felt. They should maintain a balance between offline and online communications and interactions. GlobalGiving offers valuable resources to build robust online communications. Why does GlobalGiving, for example, ask organizations to submit four quarterly project reports in a single year? It builds donor trust to regularly hear about the impact of a donation. Why does GlobalGiving vet organizations before they join the online community of donors, nonprofits, and companies? For credibility! Being part of the GlobalGiving community is a signal of trust to donors and companies. GlobalGiving also provides easy-to-use tools, such as ‘thank you’ notes that can be sent to donors with one click, to help organizations regularly engage and build relationships with donors. We also help them build a strong online presence by providing learning resources, including our Peer Learning Network and our Learn Library. These tools will help build trust, change perceptions, and inspire continued giving. But this is just one piece of the puzzle! Continue reading for suggestions on building your offline communications.
2. Practice community-led approaches to win local support.
Community-led organizations are accountable to the vision and priorities set by the community. A community-led approach puts the people most affected by the work in the lead, ensures diverse representation in decision-making, mobilizes the community’s own resources, and uses feedback to improve. Taking a community-led approach invites your community to feel invested in your success. Think of your community as the “watchmen” over your work.
Consider Child Research for Action Development Agency (CRADA), an implementing partner of Action Against Child Exploitation (ACE). This organization works in Kwadomah, a community with a population of about 200 people. Their team celebrates and mobilizes their local assets. How they do this?
First, they focus on education and invite discussions, allowing the community to feel even more invested in the outcome. As a result, it puts the local community in a better position to find their own solutions and implement them. This allows for smooth collaboration with the local folks in the community. For example, the community started a crowdfunding initiative to support a school which was on a verge of collapsing in Kwadomah in the Asunafo district of Ghana. CRADA also puts the interest of their local communities first, holding inclusive meetings with members of the community, opinion leaders, and chiefs to identify their needs. They select and train interested individuals from the community and organize them into groups who then act as advocates and spread the word about the organization’s work.
4. Showcase your impact offline and make local fundraising a priority.
Local donors may think you have all the money if you never ask for their help. The key? Call to actions in person! Communities are willing to look inwards. Involve your communities—ask them for help and encourage them to support your work. For instance, show people the work you do—where they are. An example is organizing local durbars in communities and inviting staff and the people your nonprofit serves to talk about the impact of your work.
Africa Youth for Peace and Development organizes a local gala where local drummers and artists perform. They invite the local community to help them raise funds for their projects. Communities take more ownership when they have some skin in the game—when the local community has contributed their time and resources, they feel invested in seeing the project succeed. A community where Child Rights International works contributed about 20% of the cost to help build the junior high in Barimayena Da School in the Atwima Mponua district in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. As a result, local support and ownership of the project increased.
5. Be accountable and transparent.
Do what you say you do! Stick to your vision and objectives, use monies for the exact purposes for which they are solicited. Listen, Act, Learn. Repeat. Be open about mistakes, what you learn, and how you will adapt and improve. Transparency is fundamental especially when serving community needs. Make financial data easy to find. Give your community a sense of openness by having local voices in the lead.
By being present online and offline, by giving community members decision-making power (representation and leadership roles), by celebrating and mobilizing community assets, and being transparent about how money is used, you will win trust and local support. By following these four principles, Ghanaian nonprofits can change perceptions and inspire local giving.
Featured Photo: Build School Infrastructure in Ghana by Child Rights International