Fundraising in Emerging Markets: Challenges and Opportunities
In the last few years, I have conducted sessions on fundraising at about 20 workshops in 14 “developing” countries — in Latin America, Africa and Asia. I’ve met amazing people and come across many examples of successful local-resource mobilization.
There’s some very sophisticated fundraising happening in Latin America and Asia. Much of the cutting-edge work is being done by international NGOs like UNICEF and Greenpeace, but there’s also a growing band of indigenous nonprofits that are using professional fundraising techniques.
If you’re surprised reading this, that’s understandable. The environment for fundraising in these countries isn’t easy. Challenges include issues of credibility and culture, practical difficulties, unhelpful legal systems, and a shortage of people with the necessary skills. Yet despite this, a growing number of organisations across the world are demonstrating that fundraising in developing countries is possible.
One of the biggest challenges these fundraisers face is that the nonprofit sector suffers from a lack of credibility or, worse, is seen as unreliable and even corrupt. There’s good reason for this. For example, in India it seems to be established practice for retired government officials to set up dubious NGOs, which then attract state funds — one of the ways generous government spending on social programmes fails to reach the poor. There’s even a local saying, “NGO is good business.” (In case you missed it, that’s sarcasm.) Unscrupulous opportunists also take advantage of public generosity during times of disaster to solicit funds, which they then simply pocket.
With no effective regulation of the rapidly expanding nonprofit sector in these countries, opportunities for corruption are rife. Standards of transparency and accountability are poor, with few nonprofits disclosing information on funds received or how they were used. The media regularly carries stories of charity scams.
But despite the general public scepticism, nonprofits with solid reputations based on real track records are attracting support. Donors can tell the good nonprofits from the bad.
Related story: Responding to the Global Marketplace