Social Enterprises, Durbars, And More: Creative Local Fundraising Strategies Succeeding In Sierra Leone

You may be surprised to know that local fundraising is a common practice in many countries in West Africa. But if you’ve never raised funds from your community, where do you start?


I heard it more than once during my travels in Sierra Leone with GlobalGiving’s Field Program: “It is impossible to raise funds in Sierra Leone. The average salary here is just 500,000 leones (about $50)—people here are poor.”

While there are some significant barriers to local fundraising, such as income levels, trust issues, and competing interests for individuals’ money, I met with numerous organizations in West Africa that have tried the strategies outlined below and have had success fundraising from their local communities.

1. Build trust by demonstrating your impact and showing appreciation.

This goes a long way to help build your reputation and credibility and makes raising funds locally easier. Write thank you letters and meet donors where they are to show appreciation when they donate to your project.

Example: Street Child, a Sierra Leone-based organization, raises funds locally by running a restaurant so a portion of the proceeds support their work. From time to time, Street Child shows how operating this restaurant helps them run their projects by displaying pictures and figures on a board inside the restaurant.

2. Develop a SMART plan and map your network of supporters.

Raising funds successfully, whether in your community or online, requires designing a SMART plan, which provides your organization with focus, direction, and a process for checking in on milestones.

Example: A nonprofit in Sierra Leone called Commit and Act involves everyone on their team—from the board of directors to the entry-level workers—in their decision-making process. They map out strategic people inside and outside the communities they operate in (Freetown and Bo) who will not only provide them with cash, but also influence and contacts to reach out to. They send letters, inviting these identified people to their offices and share with them intended use of funds.

3. Take advantage of local events and seasonal trends.

Events are good ways to raising funds locally in West Africa, especially in Sierra Leone. There are many events that local nonprofits can take advantage of to raise funds locally, such as health screenings, durbars (ceremonial gathering of dignitaries in a community), galas, and marathons. Before you try raising funds locally, you will need to take your geographic location into consideration and strategize. Ask yourself what kind of events people in your community are most excited about. Which seasons do they give most?

Example: Commit and Act organizes a local fundraising event during Christmas and Easter called Bazaar or Raffle in Bo and in Freetown.

This is how it works: They first collaborate with local businesses to buy goods for the raffle at cheaper costs. Secondly, they print out the raffle tickets as well as write numbers on the items or prizes. Alongside religious and community leaders, they spread the word about their raffles and what buying this ticket means for the sexually abused girls in their care.

Finally, they choose a certain day where they bring these items—clothing, laptops, bathing soaps, among others—for the ticket buyers to pick numbers and win these items. Last year alone, this fundraising event raised 3.8 million leones (about $450).

Join Commit and Act and Street Child on GlobalGiving by applying to join the Giving Season Accelerator.


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