Community-Based Groups: From Beneficiaries to Fundraisers for Their Own Cause
*María Martha Escobar |
Calling for solidarity in order to save the life of a sister in the struggle, the need to visit communities, addressing social problems like discrimination and repression through film, or creating an itinerant feminist school to help young girls be free and feel safe, were some of the hopes for change that mobilized the campaigns designed by some of the partner organizations of the Central American Women’s Fund (FCAM) at the end of 2017. The goal of these campaigns was to find ways to contribute to community needs and organize our first experience in crowdfunding.
For my women’s collective, EnRedadas, using the internet for a positive social impact is a daily desire and feminist longing. And to be invited by FCAM to participate in a capacity building workshop together with the digital crowdfunding platform for non-profits, HipGive, was the perfect opportunity to make this longing a reality. So now we join the regional campaign #GoMujeresCentroamérica.
As women in Nicaragua, we decided to design a campaign to create EFIMera, an Itierant Feminist School. In it’s first tour, the school trained 75 young girls and adolescents in 5 municipalities in Managua about digital security, as a strategy to help prevent and mitigate misogynist violence on the Internet.
Our colleagues in El Salvador were moved to action to seek donations for a fellow activist facing serious health problems. She was in need of financial support to get treatment for her illness and improve her quality of life.
And the girls of LEMOW organized a campaign to raise funds for the equipment needed to produce and project films made in Guatemala. They are firm believers that movies can be a means to encourage social transformation.
What we learned and want to keep learning
Reaching our fundraising goals was key to making our proposals a reality, but even more important than that was how this first crowdfunding experience funtioned as a hands-on school for each one of our collectives. Through the process, we were transformed from being beneficiaries of grant-funding to fundraisers for our own causes – a skill that we all need to develop to support the future autonomy of our groups.
Through this process we all learned many things, but a few lessons stand out:
- The fundraising campaign allowed us to acquire the skills and abilities needed to coordinate, design, develop, manage, monitor and evaluate the process of income-generation and fundraising campaigns on-line.
- This first crowdfunding experience invited more people to support our work, included the wider community in trying to solve the problems that affect women, and even helped our organization to gain social recognition.
- Developing everything needed for a crowdfunding campaign takes time and strategic planning that includes thinking about how to spread the word about the campaign through a variety of media and platforms. By recognizing the unique potencial of each social network, the time investment becomes worth it and the results more fruitful.
- Our networks of contacts and constant digital communication with people who can support our campaigns, are key to enhance possible donations.
- If people are not familiar or comfortable with online transactions, you must facilitate alternative payment methods they can use for their donations: through bank deposits, wire transfers, or even through in-kind donations.
- You need to be transparent about the use of funds and keep every single donor informed. This is key to the growth of our campaigns and projects.
Sustainability and Raising Our Own Funds
It may sound like a utopia to talk about the economic sustainability of feminist collectives during times of crisis, and it demands a lot more work of us. In addition to living within unfavorable social and political environments, it requires us to be extremely creative, build up networks of support, and encourage solidarity. Yet, being able to raise our own funds is key if we aspire to have a certain level of independence.
Typically, it is unheard of for community-based women’s groups or feminist collectives, and traditional donors, such as international aid agencies, to have a relationship with each other. In our countries, traditional donors have strict funding rules and usually only fund organizations that are legally registered as non-profits or NGOs. For new or emerging organizations, it becomes impossible to access funds for the topics and problems that we address through activism and small projects.
In this context, there is a growing need to re-think, find, and work through strategies that help combat inequality, exclusion, and the violence that affects us. Crowdfunding is a demanding strategy, but at the same time an exciting one, because it invites everyone in society to be a part of the solution and not part of the problem.
This beautiful initial experience as fundraisers for our own causes through a user-friendly digital platform like Hip Give, will make it possible for EnRedadas, LEMOW, the women from Santa Martha and other women’s collectives in Central America, to develop our own initiatives.
EnRedadas (Interweaving) art and technology (Nicaragua): $3,464
Young Women’s Association of Santa Martha (El Salvador): $2,589
LEMOW Collective (Guatemala): $442
*Total amount raised in 6 weeks, thanks to individual donors and with matching funds from Hip Give)
The experience through our #GoMujeresCentroamérica campaign planted a seed in us to be fundraisers for our own causes, and to invite our friends, people we know, and other contacts to be a part of our initiatives. What we are working towards is social change, but in order to achieve that, we need many more people to be convinced and willing to join us.
*The author is a social communication, feminist activist and university teacher. She is also the co-founder of EnRedadas for art and technology since 2013.