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Exploring Faith-based Giving as an Alternative Funding Model for CSOs

by Albert A. Arhin

Jan 1, 2020

Civil society organisations (CSOs) in Ghana are generally fragile and dependent on donor funding mechanisms for survival. Recent studies show that financial sustainability of CSOs is challenging, which has spurred conversations on new alternative funds mobilisation routes, innovative methods and strategies to ensure its sustainability. This scoping report highlights the opportunities and challenges associated with faith-based giving as a domestic resource mobilisation (DRM) strategy that CSOs could explore in Ghana. Specifically, the report highlights the experiences of funds mobilisation, the strategies, the opportunities and successes and the challenges. It draws on in-depth interviews from 6 faith-based organisations (FBOs), three CSOs that have funds mobilisation connections with FBOs and 2 key informants or experts working within the civil society space in Ghana. The report stresses four key messages.

First, the key sources of domestic faith-based giving for Faith-based organisations are: (i) Special collections and offerings collected by affiliated religious bodies to support the FBOs; (ii) Individual contributions, appeals, pledges and gifts from members of religious affiliations (local and foreign); (iii) Allocations from headquarters or the 'root' organisations from which the faith-based organisations were formed and (iv) Volunteers and in-kind contributions from partners and stakeholders. However, faith-based domestic resource mobilisation has not been systematically integrated into the core strategy of domestic resource mobilisation efforts of some faith-based organisations as they draw their funding mainly from external sources.

Second, religious organisations affiliated to Faith-based organisations use multiple strategies to encourage and mobilise funds and resources from givers. Four commonest approaches identified are: i) using education, doctrines and psychological preparation towards giving; b) instituting 'special days' for collection from givers; iii) being accountable and effectively communicating results and iv) effectively communicating mission to givers.

Third, opportunities for mobilising funds and resources from faith-based sources exist because (i) large religious base of the country who are motivated by faith to give; (ii) indigenous systems and culture of giving in Ghana and (iii) growing technologies and digital infrastructure that provide convenience for givers. Strong connections to a 'base'/constituents is important for generation of funds.

However, there are some challenges that constrain the prospect of domestic mobilisation of faith-based funds to boost financial sustainability of CSOs while also promoting socio-economic development in Ghana. Six key challenges have been articulated below: (i) general perceptions of CSOs and development actors ; (ii) culture of giving is skewed towards ad-hoc social welfare causes than long-term development actions that address systemic changes ; (iii) The difficulty of working with rising middle class and high-net worth personalities and (iv) weak transparent and accountable systems of CSOs. Some non-faith-based organisations also find it difficult mobilising domestic faith-based resources because of: (i) unfavourable perception and risk of associating with faith-based organisations and ii) clash of religious doctrines and some principles and values held by organisations.