Fundraising locally: Five tips from an Ethiopian village community

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By Esly van Dam

Project Officer at Wilde Ganzen that specializes in volunteer work. Esly is an expert on local ownership and collaboration between organizations, private initiatives and their partners.

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Esly van Dam supports the call of her Ethiopia partner Yehalem Abebe: ‘If it is dear and near to them, the community can raise a lot of money’. Yehalem Abebe, director of Partners in Education Ethiopia, is very emphatic. “Of course, village communities can contribute to projects. As long as they think it’s important enough!”

Yehalem knows what he’s talking about. His organization, often together with the Dutch private initiative Interchurch Foundation Ethiopia/Eritrea or the Wondem Foundation, supports village communities with starting or renovating schools. The starting point is that the community bears an average of 70% of the costs itself. During our business trip, my colleague Linda and I visited three schools where the communities raised 40,000 to 100,000 euros for their school (within two months).

How do they do that?

Five tips from the members of the community where Yehalem is actively involved:

  1. Ensure involvement and demonstrate the need. Invite everyone to experience the problem and emphasize that we can solve it ourselves. Make it everyone’s problem and make the entire community part of the solution. When everyone is convinced that something can and should be done about it, people will be happy to contribute. And if people do not want to contribute, think about whether this project really meets the wishes and needs of the target group.
  2. Be transparent. Form a committee with people who are widely trusted, open a bank account where you collect all the money and where you can give everyone access to it. And, give out a receipt when someone gives money. In addition to a committee in the village itself, it can also be useful to have a sub-committee in the capital, in a nearby city or, for example, in America. They can then approach people who have moved there but have a historical connection with the village.
  3. Customization is important. For example, use the school’s old registers to determine who can be asked for a contribution. Think about how much money you can ask for per person and how you will do that. Who do you ask for 5 euros or 500 euros? How are you going to handle it? A text from his brother who still lives in the village. Should someone visit to explain everything even better and then ask for a contribution? Are you inviting someone to the school?
  4. Start from what you have. In many villages there is not much money. But what is there? For example, the schools we visited organized a bazaar. For example, the villagers brought in a donkey or a gold chain to be auctioned. Not only people from the village were invited as buyers, but also richer farmers from the region, people who have left for the cities, relations from the local government, and so on. And this works! In one of the schools someone bought a donkey and immediately gave it up for auction again. “If it is dear and near to them…” Yehalem would say.
  5. Look at what the government can do. Is it about the construction of a school? Then make sure that the government is willing to recognize the school and pay the teachers before you start. But the government can also help in other areas. Civil servants can use their networks to invite people for fundraising activities. Another example is a community that was allowed to sell a piece of community land (government property) and spend the proceeds on the school.

Does your partner also want to learn more about local fundraising? They can follow free local fundraising training through Change the Game Academy (

Tip: do the online training together!
For example, agree to take module 1 before January 1 and meet via WhatsApp or Zoom to discuss everything. Research shows that interest from the Netherlands or Belgium has a positive influence on the results of local fundraising.