In this recorded audio program from the Foundation Center-Washington DC, Niamani Mutima discusses funding trends affecting and influencing foundations that are currently funding in Africa. Mutima is Executive Director of the Africa Grantmakers' Affinity Group (AGAG). AGAG is a membership network of foundations that are currently funding in Africa or are interested in funding in Africa.
Ms. Mutima notes that there is no single foundation approach as far as African issue-based funding is concerned; NGOs seeking grants must determine how their program interests and "theories of change" match the funder that they’re hoping to partner with.
A theory of change, she explains, refers to how funders think about a particular problem, what they view as the appropriate solution to address issues on the continent. Funders' theories of change may differ widely from those of NGO grantseekers. She gives an example of HIV/AIDS work; some funders may focus on increasing access to antiretroviral drugs, while others are tackling the rise of orphans in the disease's wake, while still others seek to address systemic issues in the healthcare system overall.
Ms. Mutima goes on to describe the diverse funding strategies of specific grantmakers belonging to the AGAG network. Some funders, for instance, work with grassroot organizations that are embedded within a community. They may hire or work with "local advisors" to help them identify grantees, and they may support advocacy efforts (public policy or community change) in addition to direct services in order to ensure that situations can improve over the long-term.
Other funders, like the Ford Foundation, have staff and offices overseas that carry out due diligence and grantee relations directly. Due to IRS requirements regarding equivelency determination and expenditure responsibility, many other funders work through intermediary organizations. AGAG's report, Making the Right Fit examines interviews with funders on their motivations for funding directly vs. using an intermediary.
Ms Mutima also provides many concrete suggestions for researching African issue-based grantmaking, including tips for getting on the radar of foundations that don't accept unsolicited proposals.
The continent of Africa is not broken, she points out; it doesn’t need to be fixed. The wealth of people and resources on the continent is immense, and Ms. Mutima adds that most NGOs successfully working there operate with little external money, getting their resources from volunteers or community funds.