Movements of Women from the Northeast share fundraising experiences and strategies in course run by CESE

A babassu coconut, a pot of mangaba fruit, a coconut ring, a walking cane, a shawl with a picture of an eye, handicrafts, a paper boat, a string of beads, an afro comb, a flag, a bandana, a blouse, books, a notebook, a pen and a microphone. These were the symbols of the struggle the women brought to the opening of the Fundraising Course for organizations from the Community of Practice that CESE is running via an online platform.

The meeting aimed: to expand recognition of the importance of local/national funds; to present new tools to manage and raise local funds; and to promote the sharing of experiences between the Community of Practice for the Movements of Women from the Northeast, a member group of the “Giving for Change Programme”.

The first stage of the virtual training took place on 05 April – nine organizations and more than 20 women took advantage of the opportunity, including activists, fisherwomen, quilombolas, domestic workers, mangaba fruit pickers, babassu coconut breakers, LGBTQIA+ women, and blind and visually impaired women, all exchanging information and collectively reflecting on the main challenges to reconstructing sustainability within the ethical and political arena, without losing their identity or autonomy in political action within civil society.

The first meeting enabled women’s organizations from the Northeast to begin debating the importance of fundraising, the diversification of sources and potential partnerships.  Carmem Ribeiro from the Matizes Group (Piauí) and Rayovana Santana, from the Popular Cultural Movement from Suburbio (Movimento de Cultura Popular do Subúrbio, Bahia) opened the session with a Roundtable Dialogue about the challenges to and prospects for sustainability within the current political situation.

The invitees shared their fundraising strategies with the group, including campaigns, events, the production and sale of products, partnerships with retailers and freelancers, and free services provided by a communications agency.  However, they also noted the challenges linked to the lack of funds to implement their missions. Carmen Ribeiro drew attention to relationships with the corporate world: “The search for partnerships with the private sector is particularly challenging.  Pride Week is a great activity that provides a lot of visibility and many companies, particularly large ones, only want to set up partnerships for their own advantage. So far, we haven’t developed relationships with any,” she said, noting that the Matizes Group will not compromise its principles and values.

In terms of challenges, Rayovana explained that fundraising involves strengthening not only social and political approaches, but also technical and management ones. She explained that internal organization, the collective distribution of tasks and working to deadlines are strategic practices for maintaining an organization’s activities: “Having your certificates up-to-date and providing accounts, for example, are extremely important for continuity with partners, and when applying for grant funding,” she noted.

Social movements and civil society organizations have suffered periods of financial crisis because of the political situation, and this was aggravated by the pandemic.  Despite the negative impacts, the women’s movements have remained active, confronting the effects of COVID-19 and continuing their struggle. With power and creativity, the women have reinvented their strategic activities by digital means, principally through social media, as Marinalva Santana, also from the Matizes Group, described:

“At the beginning of the pandemic, for three months, CESE supported the People Project (Projeto Gente) to help vulnerable LGBTQIA+ people shine.  Then the funding came to an end and we weren’t able to support everyone.  We had the idea of boosting this project on social media and via mobile phone apps, with cards and images of the distribution of staple food baskets.  With coordination and a lot of dissemination, people were sensitized and in a few days we raised almost the same amount we had received from CESE,” she reported, also sharing an attraction for many donors: “We gave them the Letras da Diversidade (Diversity Letters) book and project masks”.

Reports of experiences and group activities enabled the women to begin reflecting on strategies to attract supporters to their organizations, as well as to outline their difficulties and expand their view that resources not only involve funds.  For Alícia Morais, from the Association of Mangaba Pickers and Indiaroba (Associação das Catadoras de Mangaba e Indiaroba: ASCAMAI), the course came at a very opportune moment for organized women in the Northeast region, and she described the possibilities provided by local fundraising: “We have more autonomy. We are independent of the government and of international funds,” she said. And Lívia Ferreira, from the National Marielle Franco Forum added: “Contributing to the inclusion and publicizing the communities strengthens their feeling of belonging, and legitimizes the organizations in these territories,” she concluded.

The training ,which takes place in April and May, is part of the Giving for Change Programme, whose aims include supporting the adoption of more equitable practices in the international development system, based on ideas for domestic fundraising and community philanthropy.