Sustainability of a civil society organisation depends on many things – the organisation’s strategy, its people, values, ethos and long term vision. Financial security also plays an important role in its sustainability; and to pursue these an organisation may depend on high-net-worth individuals, corporate funding, foundation grants, government support, Individual funding etc. Since I have worked in the space of individual fundraising for the past 14 years, most of it with Greenpeace, I would elaborate on that.
For non-profit organisations, stability in its financials not only supports projects/campaigns but helps in evolving their own long-term vision which goes above and beyond projects. Although in practice it has been found that raising funds for projects is reasonably easier, but raising funds for the organisation itself becomes a challenge. Further it is generally assumed that non-profit organisations works on the principles of altruism, and hence are expected to work on limited resources thus adding to the challenge. Beside the projects and campaigns, it is important to invest in capacity building, research, technical know-how, care for staff and its systems and processes; and these are often difficult to include in grant proposals. However, it is noted that individual supporters are more empathetic to such realities of the organisation as compared to institutional donors.
An individual funding in this case would mean getting small contribution on a monthly basis from large pool of supporters over a significant time. In turn it also adds credibility to an organisation. The objective in Greenpeace is not to be the richest but doing people-powered campaign, which then feeds into the fundraising strategy. None of this comes without challenges, the initial years can be taxing, where a new organisation first tries to understand a donor psyche, creates awareness about its issue and themselves. But once the funding starts to flow, the NGO could then build a sustainable model, depending on smaller amounts, rather than unsecured large amounts – where there is a possibility of funding getting stalled.