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In the vast landscape of philanthropy, where resources often flow through well-established channels, small and remote Community-Led Organizations (CLOs) located outside of typical NGO-hubs find themselves navigating a labyrinth of challenges.


Driven by a commitment to their communities and armed with a deep understanding of local challenges, CLOs often encounter formidable barriers when seeking the financial support and resources necessary to realize their visions. We believe it’s time to peel back the curtain and provide a pathway with new funding models.

Enter Solidarity for Her Education and Empowerment Organisation -SHEEO- (formerly named AHIRD) (The Awakening Horn For Inclusive Rural Development) — a community-led organization nestled in the rural landscapes of Mwanza, Tanzania. Through initiatives aimed at empowering vulnerable girls, SHEEO embodies the ethos of community-driven development, where local solutions drive lasting impact. It was a fortuitous “cold” email exchange in 2021 that first brought AHIRD to the attention of Anne Wadsworth, Executive Director at Girls Education Collaborative (GEC), recognizing our shared mission. Despite limited resources, SHEEO aims to bring their community together to understand that women and girls deserve a chance and a seat at the table, always ensuring that support reaches those in need. In their own words: “SHEEO is in a good position to promote the community’s well-being. We always make sure that all the small contributions we are getting are reaching those vulnerable people.”

GEC’s Program Manager Guillemette Dejean recently sat down with Josephina D. Joachim, one of SHEEO’s Founders and Treasurer, and Gloria Rwegoshora, their Executive Director. Together we explored the persistent challenges confronting small organizations. Their candid insights into these hurdles offer a rare and valuable perspective — an opportunity for funders to gain deeper understanding and support organizations more effectively.

Looking For Funding: A Daunting Task For Small Organizations

Josephina is quick to highlight the daunting task of seeking funding, shedding light on the challenges that SHEEO encounters. She begins with seemingly straightforward hurdles, such as fake application links and applications which impede their funding search.

Program expert Gloria calls out “funding preferences,” i.e. strictly restricted funding, which dictates resource allocation, increasing the risk of programmatic adjustments to meet specific criteria. In contrast, funders often keep approval processes opaque: “We take a lot of time when we are writing to different journals. We want to learn and get better. But if we hear nothing back, what can we do?”

“Small acts always have manifold impacts when they reach the hands of those who need them
the most. It’s a common thing now in the communities we serve that girls miss out their
school due to lack of sanitary pads. They go to school with dirty uniforms due
to lack of means to afford to buy just a bar of soap. Self-confidence is a key for
the academic success of impoverished rural girls in school.” SHEEO



More than anything, the steep competition that small organizations like SHEEO encounter means they are often unable to match the requirements set for larger counterparts. “We need audited records, we need 50 donors, and other intricate criteria; sometimes as small organizations, they do not believe much in all that we are doing.” William Johnson, SHEEO’s Administrative and Finance Secretary, echoes these sentiments, acknowledging the challenges faced by small organizations:

“What we see is that the known funders fund those organizations who already have money.”

In response to these challenges, as well as a growing desire among philanthropists to directly support proximal leaders, GEC launched The Ally Funder Alliance (AFA) in 2022. The AFA unites like-minded philanthropists and organizations, providing unrestricted funding tailored to the needs of community-led organizations. Its goal is to support Ally Organizations with the flexibility to pursue their missions, placing trust in local leaders to drive meaningful change.

“With the funding the AFA sent to us, there are some impacts that we can realize for vulnerable girls that we are supporting. Through remedial classes support and providing school supplies, the attendance of these girls has been improving over time. Also the academic performance is improving, they are doing very well. It’s a good position to turn their dreams into reality.”

From June to August 2023, SHEEO met with secondary school girls to help and assess the immediate change
which the project has made to their lives. And surely it’s like boom amazing stories are all over the mouths of
these girls. ”We are committed to build girl power through education. One girl at a time. Assured future.”


The ‘Funding+’ Model: Funding & Allyship

When asked which funding or grant created the most impact for SHEEO, Josephina highlights the need for transparent and cooperative funders. She dreams of “positive funders of whom we can work together and share everything with them, and they also share some ideas.”

The ‘Funding+’ model we promote through the AFA is GEC’s response to this need: a model that is flexible and responsive, and provides unrestricted, multi-year financial support as we walk by their side. Through deliberate relationship building we get to know them and their work more deeply and can then better support their capacity development, expand their networks, shine a light on their work and foster connections with other funders. Many years ago, we started referring to this as Allyship.

As Josephina reflects on their interactions with GEC, she emphasizes the value of constructive dialogue and idea-sharing: “You were so cooperative. Ideas you gave to the organization were positive — we can work with those ideas. For example, we discussed how the community faces numerous challenges, but we can’t solve them all at the same time. You helped us tackle the challenges of prioritization, recognizing the importance of aligning efforts with available resources and community needs.”

Left: Gloria Rwegoshora (second right) and Josephina D. Joachim (third right) with Guillemette Dejean, GEC Programs & Partnerships Manager. February 2023.Right: William Johnson (SHEEO) during in-person visit with Anne Wadsworth, GEC Excecutive Director. February 2024


Disrupting Typical Philanthropic Approaches to Ignite Community Level Social Change

As Allies, this ongoing dialogue fosters mutual learning and understanding. As we reflect on this, and the stories shared by Josephina and Gloria, it is clear that the traditional philanthropic model is ripe for transformation if we are truly committed to getting resources directly in the hands of local change-makers.

Through strategic resourcing and amplifying community-led organizations who support some of the most underserved communities, the AFA aims to drive philanthropic efforts towards equitable and sustainable change. During a recent visit with the SHEEO team, William suggests that we’re heading in the right direction:

“It was really hard to get people to trust us and invest in us, but when GEC’s Ally Funder Alliance showed up, it opened our doors to others.”

SHEEO’s Administrative and Finance Secretary William Johnson and Executive Director Gloria Rwegoshora


Is SHEEO aligned with your philanthropic goals?

The AFA can offer further information and facilitate an introduction. We welcome you to reach out to Guillemette Dejean guillemette@gec.ngo

Interested in joining the Ally Funder Alliance?

The AFA is a collaborative philanthropy initiative with a limited number of remaining openings for additional funder members. Reach out to Anne Wadsworth anne@gec.ngo

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