Building Local Trust
I met a group of 16 Ugandan youth organizations in Kampala last week, and led a discussion on local and international fundraising strategies they could adopt. In this and similar meetings, organizations say that trust is the biggest barrier to local fundraising.
It is not in our culture in Uganda. There are bad organizations that take the money and disappear, and now nobody trusts organizations.
One member said. Everyone agrees that NGOs have lost public trust because of a few bad eggs, and so they focus entirely on writing proposals to international funders and grantmakers. This is inherently an unstable system, because funders rarely fund the same organizations twice. In both meetings I held that day with about 30 organizations in total, only 2 of them had received funding from the same organization for three consecutive years.
I want to change that by changing the mindset of local organizations about what’s possible in their own culture. If trust is the problem, then we need more training about how to regain that public trust. In a nutshell, my hour-long list of tips and examples boils down to this:
- Make more friends. Tell people what you are doing in the community.
- Build trust through your example. Set a public, attainable goal for your organization (like “pay school fees for 10 local scholars”) and meet it. Then show people you met it.
- Inspire people. Share stories of your demonstrated successes and a vision of what you want to do next to turn early observers into sustaining community advocates. People don’t need to have money to help your organization grow. They have something better: friends. And if they trust you, they will tell their friends about you, and their friends will trust you too.
This process takes time and many people need to be involved: About 400 advocates to get 50 donors on GlobalGiving in one month.
Accountability is often a buzz word people say at these meetings. But when pressed, NGO staff members define this as auditing, bookkeeping, and writing reports to donors.
This is not the kind of accountability that builds trust. Trust is built on the fruit of an organization’s work. When an organization makes a promise to the whole community, and then keeps that promise, it has been held accountable by the community, in the “social contract” sense.
We need much more of this promise keeping. And we need funders who can make these same commitments to communities directly, not to their boards or vision planning committees.
Mapping a network of organizations reveals the true collaborators
I asked each organization to write their name in the center of a sheet of paper, and draw a map of all the other organizations they work with closely. These maps included funders, grantees, and program partners.
I then asked organizations to swap maps, and add any organization connections they know about to the other person’s map.
After organizations had swapped mapps a few times, I put them all up on the wall together. This did not spark much discussion, because there was too much information and it was too small to read and look for patterns. So I promised everyone I would take the 16 maps with me and publish one combined community network map for all the organizations. Here it is:
These 16 maps were not hard to condense, although it is exactly the sort of tedious task computers were designed to do.
- First I scanned all the maps for names of organizations that seemed to appear most often.
- Next I counted these and stored information of who pointed to whom in a reduced notation. (i.e. 1 -> 4, 6 -> 9, etc. I numbered each map and used these numbers to refer to the NGO in the center of each map.)
- Next I checked to see whether any organizations mutually identified each other as partners on their respective maps. In this network of 16 youth organizations, there were only three pairs of mutual-partnerships found! Considering that most organizations knew of other organizations in this room and all claimed to be interconnected, I would have expected there to be more mutual partnerships.
What the community map reveals
- The three true partnerships were: Youth Aid Uganda and UYDEL, YES Uganda and MUCODINET, and finally Shine African Child and African Youth Peace Initiatives. Many other organizations pointed to someone else in the room who did not point back.
- The second key feature of this map is that some of the most interconnected organizations – the ones that truly forge collaborations – were not present at this meeting. These were Uganda Youth Network (UYONET) and The AIDS Support Organization (TASO). Key partners that were present included Youth Aid Uganda and YES Uganda. (Youth Aid Uganda hosted the meeting, so naturally they would appear to be the most connected.)
- Third – these NGOs imply that big international funding organizations like Red Cross, USAID, and Amnesty International are not the hub or the cornerstone of the NGO community; they are the periphery. To be truly in the center, they would need to fund more organizations, and keep doing it year after year. World Vision – the world’s largest non-profit organization – was mentioned in discussions as having been a past partner, but no one thought to put them on his map.
- Lastly, this NGO network map is similar to a human network map, and this provides one with an opportunity to learn what works in fundraising. Each organization retains a set of partners and funders that are unique to themselves, just as each person in a group retains their own side group of friends. This is very important to get across to NGOs at meetings, because they cannot get a lot of donations on GlobalGiving unless they are able to inspire each person to contact his own personal set of connections in the network. Likewise, another important strategy is “tag team” potential donors whom are friends with more than one person in the organization’s social network. Facebook is an ideal tool for figuring out who one’s mutual friends are. A person is much more likely to support an organization, if he or she is asked by TWO friends instead of one.
UPDATE: Four more NGO network maps are now posted in a later story.
Here is a 5-minute video summary of the fundraising portion of the meeting:
Note: You can support this work through the “Pulling for the Underdog Fund” on GlobalGiving: