Story and Fundraising with Cambodia NGOs

By: Jesse Jaeger – EmpowerMT Operations Director

Today I was able to have the opportunity to present to a group of local NGO leaders here in Phnom Penh at the Development Innovation Center. There were a diverse group of organizations represented including human rights organizations, disability rights organizations, organizations working for women’s empowerment as well as youth empowerment. There were also several organizations who work with people impacted by landmines that have been left over here by the past wars as well as an organization working to support Cambodian’s who are migrant workers in other countries in the region.

My topic was talking about fundraising and how to develop a fundraising plan that is grounded in the mission of your organization and that effectively utilizes stories to help engage donors into that mission. My fundraising work at EmpowerMT has been heavily influenced by Marshall Ganz’s “Public Narrative” organizing strategy. Marshall Ganz is a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School but started as an organizer with the United Farm Workers Union. I was introduced to his work by my friends in the Student Immigrant Movement who a group DREAMER (undocumented youth) activists in Massachusetts.

As with all good organizing frameworks it has implications not just for community organizing but for any type of community communication work you might be doing including fundraising. As a group we talked about how we can craft a “Story of Self”, a “Story of Us”, and a “Story of Now” into a unified communication strategy to engage donors to support the mission of our organizations.

One of the big things I learned while meeting with these leaders is the struggle they have with building donor support from their local communities. A large percentage of their donor base comes from international foundations, foreign government granting bodies like USAID and foreign donors. They are working hard to build a base of giving within Cambodia’s growing middle class and wealthier communities but it is a struggle.


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