Across the 3 events, GFMD had participants from over 50 organisations, with our small and medium-sized members strongly represented in our Spanish and French events. During the events, we discussed the ever-present challenge of navigating short-term, project-based funding while trying to keep your organisation afloat in a cut-throat funding environment, as well as how donor priorities affect your ability to carry out effective, relevant media development work.
Challenges of fundraising
The key takeaway from our talks is that most of the sector faces the same challenges:
- Insufficient resources to do core work
- Insufficient resources for fundraising
- Being obliged to apply for funding that does not necessarily match key competencies
- Funding earmarked for media and media development being directed towards emergency situations instead
Our Spanish-speaking and francophone members and their partners, tuning in mainly from Latin America and Africa, also mentioned:
- Difficulties in finding international partners with whom to develop projects
- A very competitive environment for fundraising
- A lack of visibility in the international community
- Weak infrastructure (such as a good internet connection, the necessary equipment, etc.)
These difficulties are intrinsically linked, the difficulties in finding partners to develop projects go hand in hand with this competitive environment which does not always encourage collaboration. Some participants also raised the greater visibility of Anglophone organisations in the eyes of donors, often to the detriment of Francophone African organisations.
Other challenges discussed included:
- Donor buzz words dictating priorities within the sector rather than media development work being led by the needs on the ground
- Too much money being thrown at specific topics often results in a dilution and duplication of the work being done
- Chasing projects that are not compatible with core competencies does not lead to sustainable organisations
- Partnerships with international organisations that put local organisations at a disadvantage, leading to loss of ownership of the project
- Media in exile and organisations located outside of target regions for security or legal reasons often have a difficult time applying for funding earmarked for local projects
Our members and funding experts shared tips on how to mitigate some of these challenges. Here are a few:
- Stick to your competencies and trust the capacities of your organisation. Don’t go chasing projects that you aren’t qualified to implement.If you, against all odds, do get the funding, you may end up spending a lot of time and resources trying to live up to donor expectations in terms of monitoring and evaluation, taking that time and those resources away from your core work. Applying to multiple small grants requires a lot of work that may not be cost-effective in the end.
- Find partners and collaborators for your projects – develop relationships with organisations that are more experienced and have a longer track record of working within your area – this will enable you to hang off their coattails in the start, allowing you to get into the market and develop a portfolio – and to, with time, demonstrate experience enough to apply on your own later on. Don’t just look for larger international organisations, look for partners that work on the local and national level or regional partners.
- Prioritise fundraising resources. Without language skills, budgeting skills, and planning skills, you are at a disadvantage. As an example, many independent media organisations find it impossible to apply for international grants because they have to be in English. If you aren’t an English-language organisation, make sure you hire in someone who has those language skills.
- Diversify your income. You cannot only rely on grants to run your business. Membership models, subscriptions, and advertising all play a big part in keeping your organisation afloat.
For more expert advice on how to improve your fundraising capacities, visit the Fundraising Guide and resource centre.
Recommendation to donors
Some recommendations were also made, directly aimed at the community of donors and funders for better sustainability of the media:
- Increase the availability of long-term, core funding that aims to support the sustainability of the individual organisation
- Fund the media as a sector, and not based only on “fashionable” thematic funding. Donors must also try not to impose too rigid a straitjacket on the media so as not to go against their editorial line
- Encourage, promote and enable South-South partnerships
The town halls were a unique opportunity for our smaller members to be heard and to share their experiences with others facing the same challenges. Your contributions to this conversation can help guide GFMD’s efforts to formulate and share with donors a set of best-practice recommendations on funding calls for the sector.
If you would like to share your own fundraising journey or participate in our case studies on how the sector experiences the funding application process, please contact programmes and project manager Anne Marie Hammer at email@example.com.