In December 2012 Ben Haagsma visited two Indian NGOs, with a long funding history with one of their main funders in the Netherlands. These NGOs implement integrated development programmes. Recently this funding had been decreased drastically and this funding will decrease even further in the near future.
This institutional funding allowed these organisations a lot of flexibility in the spending of their development programmes. The preferences of most other funding sources are project based. This situation requires a reflection on a new funding strategy and on the focus of the organisations. Key questions: does the current focus provide a sufficient basis and confidence for other funding sources? How can this focus be improved in order to become more attractive for other funding sources?
We discussed the focus question by emphasizing the quality of results: as long as the actual results (= changes for the target group) achieved in the field can stand the test of quality (efficient, effective, relevant, etc.) for this sector, then apparently the focus is secured. It means that the organisation has enough technical skills and experiences which guarantee the quality of results over a prolonged period. Two specific programme components were studied:
- Watershed management and
- Lobby and Advocacy regarding to smallholder farming.
For watershed management we briefly visited some watersheds where implementation had stopped some years ago. In all watersheds this has led to a greater farming dynamics, leading to more diverse and stable farming, higher yields and more secure access to markets. The quality of results was therefore beyond doubt. Nevertheless, one main suggestion for improvement was made:
- Make an effort to establish the Rate of Return: comparing watershed investments with farming yields and incomes. This is a fantastic marketing instrument for other funding agencies
For Lobby and Advocacy (L&A) an extensive discussion was held with people’s representatives of village, block and district levels on the success of these L&A actions and campaigns. Their stories of change and underlying strategies were exchanged and investigated, and the facilitation role of the implementing organisation. These stories are convincing and can serve well as evidence based L&A. In order to raise the quality of these stories, it is however necessary to:
- Make the Theory of Change more explicit and share these with external stakeholders. This will increase the credibility of such L&A and the potential response of funding sources.
Both organisations agreed their results must be better externally communicated, as this is the key component of their funding strategy. Annual reporting should focus less on activities and more on results, and in particular on the annual trends of results. Link the results of previous years with those of last year. Update the problem analysis, so that it becomes clear which problem has been tackled successfully and which not yet. Make a credible estimation of the multiplier effect to which the programme has contributed.
During this mission Fair & Sustainable Advisory Services served as the effective ‘communication’ bridge between the two implementing organisations and the external funding context.