Episode#1: Prologue

In Episode #1: Prologue, I talk about my mother’s activities as a legendary community-based fundraiser and why we need to focus on community-based fundraising to bring about sustainable change. I also talk about why I am advocating for defining an “exit point” for development aid.

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I believe we can achieve a truly sustainable world if we put the community at the center of our development programs.

Hallo – This is Somaye Dehban, a networked Dutchified Iranian who is on a mission to bring about financial stability for every community based organization and initiative.

I am the creator and host of Your Funding Network, a podcast for anyone who is devoted to their community and want to bring about lasting change at the local and global level.

Join me every 3rd Tuesday of the month to hear about the role of community based organizations in achieving sustainable development goals, and how to diversify funding resources of your local initiative and increase your self-financing for a sustainable and durable change.

Now let’s get together for this episode of Your Funding Network.

Welcome to the first episode of Your Funding Network. Thank you for showing up and tunning in.

I have been a fundraiser for over a decade, and I ran my own consultancy in the field since 2012. I worked with small NGOs, International NGOs and even some start ups to help them raise the funds they needed for their projects. I have written hundreds of proposals and raised millions from institutional donors and foundations for international projects. 

However, over the last couple of years, I came to a different view on what fundraising could mean, and what could or should be done to make it sustainable. And that is the story I want to share with you in these podcast series.

I thought the first time that I came across fundraising was when I wrote my first funding proposal, back in 2010 or 2011. At the time the only activity associated with fundraising was proposal writing, at least at the organization I worked for. Later on when I started educating myself on the subject and learned from trend-setters like Linda Lysakowski who wrote the bible of fundraising, I realized, that I have been exposed to fundraising much earlier in my life, back in my childhood.

My mother was actually a fundraiser for her community:

my mother would organize “Iranian” high teas to raise money or auctions where everyone would bring something from their home, and others would buy it at a good price. She also raised funds from the local business for less privileged neighbors who did not have sufficient financial means to pay for their medical bills or buy school supply of their children.

I remember that my mother had placed donation boxes at various local shops like our main super market or at the butcher or dry-cleaner, and every month she would go to those shop and open the donation boxes, count the money in front of the shop owner or other clients and customers present and inform them how she was going to distribute that money (of course without mentioning any names).

This worked so seamlessly all because my mother was trusted in the neighborhood and the neighbors knew each other rather well, and they were each others network of support.

My mother also raised funding from the local municipality in form of construction material like bricks and cement for a sport center at one of the local high schools. The tale of my mother raising that amount of money is legendary in the community as she persistently followed through on the pledge that the mayor made

over 6 months. After over 30 years, that sport center is still standing and functioning.

The fundraising domain of my mother was not limited to our local community, she engaged my father and his network as well. One of my father’s contacts had a factory in producing special forms of metal bars, and he was willing to donate tones of those bars that were over produced for a charity.

My mother, searched in her network to find another business owner who needed those special metal bars and was willing to buy them from the owner at an above the market price for a good cause. So in this way, two business owners out of her extended network were engaged in a good cause and she could raise considerable amount of money for a charity she was supporting.

After some years, my mother also set up a local fund, with some of the neighbors. Every month they would contribute a fixed amount to the fund. At the end of the month, one of the members would receive the amount collected and start repaying it back on top of her monthly contribution without any interest rate. In this way, the neighbor who needed an extra financial support, due to an unforeseen financial cause or wanted to have a lump sum to invest, was helped by her community.

All these years, I was witnessing how fundraising at local level works and it took me quite some time to realize why the way we are raising funds is not the right and sustainable way. And by we, I mean those of us who are working in the development aid sector.

As a quick clarification, it is very important to make a distinction between 1. Humanitarian Aid, 2. Development Aid, and 3. International Development (or Development Cooperation). The distinction between Humanitarian Aid and Development Aid is usually clear; however, a lot of (I)NGOs mix up Development Aid and Development Cooperation and count themselves as an International Development Organization whereas they are merely a Development Aid Organization, meaning that they exist based on receiving funding from various sources (such as the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and through their activities they support/help a community in a developing country.

“Development Aid” is also referred to as Official Development Assistance (ODA). Looking at the history of Development Aid, “The historical beginnings of official development assistance are firstly, the development activities of the colonial powers in their overseas territories; secondly, the institutions and programs for economic co-operation created under United Nations backings after the Second World War; thirdly, the United States Point Four Programme and lastly, the large scale support for economic stability in the countries on the periphery of the Communist bloc of that era.

The success of the Marshall Plan created considerable and perhaps excessive optimism about the prospects for helping poorer countries in quite different circumstances through external assistance.”

The development aid was supposed to be a temporary solution and after all these years, there is no sign of  closing this temporary solution because the way we have supported our target groups has not been sustainable. That’s why I advocate for developing sustainable fundraising mechanisms for the community so they can sustain their own projects; projects that are by the community, for the community and with the community. And I have decided to  advocate for defining an “exit point” for ODA to truly move towards a Sustainably Developed International/Global Community where all the goals defined under SDGs are achieved. and that’s at the core of these podcasts.

I have developed a synergistic methodology through which we can not just define an exit plan but also implement and sustain it. I will be sharing this model with you in the upcoming episodes.

Fundraising is not my only interest or occupation; beside being politically engaged, I am also a PhD researcher at Rotterdam School of Management, and absolutely enjoy being a mother of two energetic and loving boys, along with my partner.

Next to these, I run my own consultancy firm as a Nexus Strategist where I combine Harmony and Progress to bring about Positive Impact. I developed this concept because I have a vision – call it a dream if you will.

And that dream is that I want to live in a world with true personal freedom of choice, equality of opportunity and the ability for people to thrive, which is balanced with a personal responsibility to contribute to the collective good.

I believe this world is possible by taking an integrated nexus approach to challenges and opportunities. This approach needs to  focus both on individual components as well as the inter-relatedness and inter-dependencies of the entire system. Only in this way we can reduce trade offs and create and hence leverage synergies.

That’s why through Nexus Strategies, I bring (back) balance and harmony to the context in which we operate and apply change leadership to build a coalition of unlikely allies to collectively develop a pragmatic strategy.

My vision for exiting development aid as it is and any other activity that I undertake is linked to the dream I shared with you. And I believe we can achieve a truly sustainable world if we put the community at the center of our development programs.

What was the take away of this episode for you?

Did you hear about something that intrigued you and encouraged you to apply it at your own community based organization?

I hope you are motivated to bring about a sustainable and durable change for your community.

Want to hear more?

Sign up for my thematic newsletters to get notified about each episode and more. You can do this by going to my website: somayedehban.com/newsletters

Until the next get together – bedrood.