Community-based organizations (CBO) or Community organizations (CO) have been an integral part of the development projects and initiatives since decades. They are indeed the ‘face’ of community empowerment, by virtue of the fundamental principles of democratic processes, building on the social capital, and reliance on community participation.
Many development projects have CBO formation as a ‘model’ inherent in the project principles, systems and processes. Most commonly, CBOs form, grow and stabilize over the years, during the project period. But once the funding support ceases, which usually is a part of the project costs partially or fully, the CBOs face multiple challenges in sustaining their functions. As a result, many such organizations die out.
For continued existence, financial self-reliance, and sustainability of the community-based organizations, exploring new avenues for financial support is very important. These organizations must not depend only on the external funding support, as it might be inconsistent, temporary and based on the priorities of funding agencies/ donors rather than on the real need at the grassroots.
In order to devise an innovative strategy for fundraising, the community organization (CO) must first focus on its current activities, prioritize them and then must diversify accordingly. It must first understand its own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities in front of it and also threats to its resources or existence. In order to attain financial self-reliance, access to financial resources may be sought in more than one way.
There may be mainly three approaches to gain access to financial resources: 1. Accessing financial support from other organizations, like foundations, CSR arms, local resources and support, etc.; 2. Generating income by taking up income-generating activities 3. Making use of resources available to generate funds/ other kind of support, like asking volunteers to raise funds, building and utilizing network and goodwill to raise funds.
All three ways can be used innovatively to raise funds or resources for a CO.
- Accessing financial support from foundations/ CSR/ local resources or bodies is the conventional and most common way of raising funds. Yet, newer and innovative methods and approaches towards fundraising can make a difference. The CO must make its own cause clear to the donor, explaining what activities it undertakes and what impact it is making on the grassroots level. A well- documented impact report, testimonials; third-party evaluations (if possible) can establish the credibility and effectiveness of the organization.
- Taking up income-generating activities is what many organizations have started doing in order to support them to some extent. Such activities may involve selling items at goodwill prices, partnership with other organizations, training programs, and other similar activities. One newer avenue in this regard is eco-tourism, exposure visits, transect walks, and similar tours. Such events enable one to explore and experience the ground realities which are not a part of the daily lives of a normal urban dweller. One very important thing to note here is that such activities must not interfere with the mission, vision and the main functions of a CO. Thus, these must be completely isolated from the main activities of the CO.
- Making use of resources available to generate funds/ other kind of support: like asking volunteers to raise funds, building and utilizing network and goodwill to raise funds. Social media can play a very important role here. A very large network of volunteers and goodwill supporters can be built through the use of internet and social media. A well-made and comprehensive website can also play crucial role here. Free web platforms are available these days where websites can be made very easily. Some amount of training and skill-building for CO will be needed to access this very effective medium of today’s age. Volunteers may also be engaged in direct fundraising support apart from other activities of a CO.
Certain events may also be organized for networking and fundraising support with the help of volunteers. Local resources may also be tapped with their help. Some of the local bodies like Panchayats, Zilla Parishads, and Municipalities in India from which support may be sought for fundraising.