How to Attract More Funding


Assistance to local organizations should focus not only on technical expertise, but also on empowering these organizations, whether civil society, private sector, or government, to become self-sufficient and sustainable. As we all know, donor funding changes over time, but local organizations are established to serve their communities for the long-term, and a key role of international assistance should be to partner with local organizations to help them transition from dependency to self-sufficiency.

This is especially critical in places where there may be donor fatigue, or where there is an overall decline of international aid – as is the situation for the mine action sector in Sri Lanka. After a civil war that lasted three decades, estimates are that approximately 1.6 million land mines were laid. Since 2002, Sri Lanka has been actively clearing mines and, with donor support, has made significant progress. The work is not done, however, and ongoing funding is required to achieve the new government’s ambitious target of being “mine free” by 2020.

Recently, KANAVA’s Carol Yee and Kelly Vaena joined GICHD’s Marc Bonnet and Lea Tries to co-lead a four-day resource mobilization workshop for the Sri Lanka National Mine Action Center (NMAC) and other stakeholders from the mine action sector. This project was implemented by the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) through funding from DFID. NMAC had previously developed a National Strategy with assistance from GICHD.

With the imminent finalization of the National Strategy, the Sri Lanka mine action sector is focusing on how to mobilize resources to achieve the new targets, in the context of the challenges and opportunities the country is facing. In the lifecycle of funding for mine action, Sri Lanka is increasingly taking local ownership of mine action activities as it moves toward assisted development, and with this transition comes reduced funding. Sri Lanka is thus at a critical juncture to mobilize resources beyond current funding sources to realize a “mine free” Sri Lanka by 2020. Additionally, as land is cleared, internally displaced persons and refugees return and put the land to use, requiring continued mine risk education and opportunities for economic development.

For local organizations, any discussions of resource mobilization center on the following questions:

  • How much money is needed?
  • How can you better tell your story to attract funding?
  • What is your approach?
  • Who should you target?

Depending on where you are on a funding lifecycle, these questions will illicit different responses.

How much money is needed? To realize strategic plans, an accompanying budget is needed, even if it is a detailed budget for the first year and an estimate for the following years. Once you have a budget, you can better determine how much of it is covered by “committed” funding from current projects. The resulting shortfall is the budget gap that you need to mobilize new resources in order to achieve the strategic plan.

How can you better tell your story to attract funding? In order to attract additional monies, whether from current donors or new sources, you need to be able to tell your story in a compelling, consistent manner. What have your accomplishments been? How have you impacted people’s lives (you need to tell the human interest stories)? How can you demonstrate your successes in order to attract new monies to continue your mission? How can you demonstrate that you are trustworthy and have the support of your communities? What have you done right and what do you still need to do?

What is your approach? Should you target the same donors? Should you target new donors or previous donors that no longer fund the sector? Are there private sector companies that conduct shared value or corporate social responsibility activities that you could tap into? Could you partner with civil society organizations on activities? Can you provide value added activities to different sectors and development priorities, including economic development, agriculture, health, and tourism? Can you undertake fee-for-services activities?

Who should you target? Once you decide on your general approach, then you can specifically target the “who.” Which donors currently fund your type of activities? Are there private sector firms that can provide in-kind contributions, such as uniforms or transportation? Are there private sector firms that may want to benefit from good publicity in the country?

Resource mobilization is a crucial activity for any organization, but especially for those that are transitioning from a donor environment to a new one in which funding may be uncertain. External consultants can assist these organizations by providing them with the tools and processes to spur new ideas and develop new or different ways to mobilize resources so that they can achieve their mission and vision.

Kanava International