On this page:

  • Challenges faced by fundraisers in community-based NGOs
  • Basic fundraising concepts
  • What to do before writing a proposal 


One of the most frequently asked questions to any forum for community-based organisations in developing countries, is how to fundraise.

With that frequently asked question and the difficulties of fundraising in mind, volunteers for Aid Workers Network compiled this report from information available on the Internet and from personal experiences to help small organisations in raising funds.

Every donor organisation has its own requirements and ways of evaluating requests for funding - otherwise known as proposals. Read those requirements carefully before submitting a proposal.

However, our hope is that the suggestions below may help community-based non-governmental organisations in developing countries to raise funds more successfully. A small organisation must normally take these steps before it starts fundraising, so as to be better organised and to have a greater chance of success.

The suggestions are basic guidelines only, and point people to other resources that can help them in their fundraising.  They are by no means comprehensive and should not be taken as a guarantee of success.



The work of community-based NGOs in developing countries is vital to millions of people. However, fundraising for these organisations is particularly difficult for several reasons including:

  • There is often great competition among numerous local groups for scarce local financial resources.

  • International funders are reluctant to fund community-based NGOs directly because of a perception of lack of accountability, difficulty in establishing credible references, practical issues with resource transfers and even numerous tax questions.

  • It is harder for donors to fund a large number of small organisations than a small number of large organisations.  So, to reduce their own workload, they tend to fund larger organisations - who sometimes then pass on funding to smaller organisations.

  • Some community-based organisations lack what donors regard as the necessary structure for being able to process donations, financial or otherwise.  For many organisations this becomes a “Catch 22”: resources would permit the necessary administrative changes to become more donor-compliant but they cannot get those resources without making the changes.


Basic Fundraising Concepts

Successful fundraising is often an extension of successful networking.  “Networking” in this context refers to the ability of one organisation to link with others, potential donors and partners both, who share similar goals.

A good fundraising strategy is to build your own network of positive connections and to start as locally as possible. As well as organisations that share your aims, perhaps there are others that could benefit from association with your organisation's good cause.  Who are the largest employers in your city, region or state? How many small businesses are in your area? Do all of these organisations know what your organisation does, and what difference your organisation makes in the community? Do they know not only about your organisation's needs (money, resources, volunteers, etc) but also about your organisation's impact, value and results?

Showing potential donors the strong link between your organisation's work and positive, measurable results is the best, most effective way to generate grants. If you can build on your reputation of making a difference in your community, and if local businesses and employers "endorse" you through their donations, your organisation will become more attractive to international donors.

For all donors, remember that relationships are not formed through request letters: call them and make an appointment to discuss your work and how it fits in with their work.

A newly established NGO relies on the reputation of its professional staff. If you don't have the professional experience, then you must have a known name, for example a celebrity, who can ask for funds. But in both cases you must invest some money first.

If you don't have much experience or good connections, then it may be better not to approach any major donor agency at this stage. Start on a small scale at grassroots level, and build up a record: then approach major funding agencies. Finally, if you are in a hurry, then a very novel idea might work. But that idea has to be very novel.


Before Writing a Proposal

  1. Know Yourself:  you should be very clear about what you are, who you are, why are you doing the work that you do and what you want to achieve. If you don't already have a statement of your overall mission and specific aims, then write them down. Sometimes, you only have 5 minutes to make a presentation to a donor, so use this time well. Having documents about your organisation helps - you can always give them a copy to take away.

  2. Know the Donor:  know who the donor is, what are its areas of interest and what it wants to achieve. What kind of help can it give you (financial, capacity building or in kind)? Finally, know their requirements and only apply if you can fulfil them. If you don't know, and can't find out through a policy document or website,  then ask. The donors  will always be more impressed if you can share your knowledge of their work and how it fits in to yours.

See for further tips on obtaining funding and how to use funds properly.

Tags: Advocacy