Fundraising in ECD – how to

Non-profit organisation fundraising is a very competitive space in terms of corporate social investment (CSI), but CSI funding is often the best sort to get, as it isn’t hampered by the same political considerations as state and international institutional funding are.

CSI funding is local too, and thus likely to stay in partnerships for longer. And much of what is done in CSI in especially the top 100 JSE-listed companies is done professionally and well.

But there are all sorts of sometimes not-so-obvious difficulties in winning a new funding partnership.

These include:

  • Most companies are in long-term relationships already
  • A trend to fund fewer projects but at greater scale (more peacocks and fewer sparrows because that’s easier to administer and risk-manage for funders)
  • The problem of “funding fashions” as we saw in years past with the ascendancy of HIV/Aids-related projects, and later with widespread social investment in maths and science teaching
  • Many businesses looking primarily to their own backyards (meaning lopsided support for things in Gauteng, the Western Cape, and then KZN)
  • Companies (sometimes unwisely) insisting on supporting only things that are somehow “business-aligned” – to their operational communities, employee base, product-type, or consumer base; and
  • With an increasing emphasis on things more easily measured.

Even so, there are some things running in favour of attracting funding to projects in early childhood development (ECD).

One is the current funding fashion for ECD. That comes from a growing CSI realisation (obvious, really) that it’s pointless to chase better educational outcomes by focussing at the high-end of schooling, when it’s the early educational stages that need to be got right. Another is an increasing weariness with maths and science being thought as the main SA educational challenge, and so a greater willingness to see education in more holistic ways.

All of this is to the good, not least because education, broadly-defined, attracts just over half of all CSI funding, as we see in the annual Trialogue Business and Society Handbook reporting.

Thus, ECD fundraisers will want to emphasise education in their funding applications. And a critical thing is for the person deployed by an NPO as its fundraiser to have the time to take this effort seriously, rather than having it as just an add-on to another main job.

Fundraising needs an intelligent targeting of those funders who are most likely to have appetite for ECD, to read their annual reports carefully and so to message funding applications in ways that speak to their direct interests and in the language they themselves use to describe their particular CSI strategies and goals. That’s a lot of work, but it beats the shotgun approach hands-down.

Always, the message that underlines a funding pitch should be compellingly different to competitors, by emphasising the project’s excellence above its neediness. Private sector funders haven’t the wherewithal to respond to needs alone and so they must pick-and-choose NPO partners. If they’ve got any sense, they’ll back perceived champions.  

For starters, Trialogue’s “Business and Society” CSI Handbook should be read fully for the background it gives on current CSI practices and trends. Chapters 1 and 2 are especially important, with listings of company spend, developmental sectors supported, and the reference documents/annual reports listed per company.

Fundraisers should look at the annual report listing, see which ones list matters related to ECD as CSI foci, and then study those particular reports. Then model the language and emphases used in any approach to particular companies accordingly. There is a free download of the Handbook at

Lastly, it may be worthwhile looking at other ECD NPOs (funding competitors) to see who their supporters are. That’s another whole process of identifying others in ECD, reading their annual reports to see the funders listed, and then targeting these too.

Paul Pereira, WHAM! Media.   

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