The Guidebook was prepared by the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI), the hub’s Regional Connector for West Africa, and is based in part on discussions at the Best Practices for Financial Sustainability workshop in Accra, Ghana from November 26-28, 2018. The Guidebook will raise awareness of best practices and broaden CSO understanding of financial sustainability. This includes a review of the various types of activities CSOs can undertake to diversify their finances including providing consultancy services, asset building, organizing events, charging membership fees, starting social enterprises, engaging in micro-finance or fiscal sponsorship opportunities, issuing social or green bonds, fundraising via crowdfunding, and more.
In Africa, many civil society organisations (CSOs) depend on donor funding to sustain their work. However, over the last decade, donors have started reducing their financial support as a result of shifting priorities. In order to be sustainable, CSOs are now being challenged to find alternative means of generating funds for their activities. There are multitude of factors inhibiting their abilities to acquire financial support beyond donor aid. Specifically, CSOs face a diverse range of contextual factors in their environment which challenge their capacities for strengthening financial sustainability. Restrictive government regulations, poor economic conditions, lack of local philanthropic culture, competition between CSOs and inadequate skilled labour, all limit the ability of CSOs to operate independently. Moreover, internal dynamics such as organisational culture, management capacities, internal governance structures and financial planning mechanisms can severely impact an organisations’ ability to build financial sustainability. Considering these issues, different stakeholders have explored and used different approaches to overcome these issues, to improve financial sustainability. Diversification of revenue sources has come to the fore as one of the key methods of achieving financial sustainability. Acquiring a mix of external and domestic funding sources help organisations to sustain their financial viability. These sources could comprise of donor aid and/or other sources of funding such as consultancy, social