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by Phil Bartle, PhD

and Joshua Ogwang



This document describes the wide range of sources of resources potentially available to a community and its community-based organizations (CBOs). It includes several tips on how a community or CBO can raise money and non cash contributions for community based projects.

All resources (cash and kind) should be recorded so an accurate record of internal and external costs can be calculated.

This document does not describe sources of resources that are free unattached voluntary donations. Those are included in the sister document, Fund Raising. Here are listed such sources as local, district and central authorities and governments, donor agencies (NGOs, bilaterals and multilaterals) and ceded funds, where the resources are earmarked for planned purposes.

1. Introduction to Resource Acquisition:

Resources can be financial and non-financial but non-financial inputs can be measured in monetary terms if they are accurately priced, so the total can be expressed in monetary terms.

This document can be seen as an integral part of a set of guidelines aimed at strengthening low income communities. The techniques of fund raising can be used to increase the capacity of CBOs (community based organizations) and local NGOs (non-Governmental Organizations). A strong NGO/CBO movement, and strengthened, involved, participating, engaged communities ─ contribute to the democratization process of any society.

Communities and their organizations need resources (especially money) in order to carry out their activities. The obtaining of resources is therefore necessary for the desired strengthening. If any activity is worthwhile, and people genuinely want to support it, financial support can be found for it.

1.1 Animation and Community Management Training:

Animation means uniting and mobilizing the community to do what it (as a unity) wants to do. To carry out its desires, the community must use resources (or inputs).

Community Management Training takes animation or mobilization a step further, using management training methods to further increase the capacity of the community, or its community based organizations, to decide, plan and manage its own development. Resource acquisition and cost recovery are parts of that management training.

These resources can be both financial and non financial but even the non financial inputs can be measured in monetary terms if they are accurately priced, so the total of resources can be expressed in monetary terms. This document explores several sources that can be tapped to finance community based projects.

1.2 The Purpose of This Document:

This document is for you and for us. Tips and guidelines therefore refer to what you/we should do, or what you/we are advised to do.

These are not rigid rules and regulations. They must be applied sensitively and flexibly in the field. You/we must be aware of the specific cultural and social characteristics of the community, and must be sensitive to the values and attitudes of the communities in which you/we work. Guidelines, therefore, must be modified on the spot in each community so as to be adapted to the differences that characterize every community.

1.3 Finances Are Resources:

When you/we talk about financing community based projects, you/we are talking about the money needed to carry out a project. If the specific objectives or desired results of a project can be called the outputs (eg construction of a classroom, repair of a well) then what goes into the project (eg land, labour, finance, construction materials, tools) can be called inputs. The community, or the community based organization (CBO), must identify, locate and mobilize those inputs.

Some of those inputs will be in the form of cash donations. Others will be in the form of donated labour, food for the volunteer workers, some tools, some advice and training, some land, some material such as sand, or whatever.

Although the non cash donations do not come to the project with a cash value attached, it is important that you/we encourage the community to attach an accurate cash value to those non cash donations.

In the calculation of the costs (inputs) of a community based project, the cash value of all non cash donations (resources) must be calculated so as to correctly record internal versus external resources.

2. The Purpose of Community Cost Recovery:

Obtaining resources is an important activity. Those who carry it out are important contributors to the strengthening (empowering, capacity building) of the community or organization.

Without sources of funds (and non cash inputs) any organization soon ceases to function, and eventually ceases to exist.

2.1 Keep the General Goals in Mind:

Counteracting community dependency is your prime goal. The most important goal that must always be considered is that dependency in the community must be reduced by every action you/we take. When training a community or community organization how to obtain resources, the animator must keep that prime goal in mind and act accordingly. A donor agency should try to avoid giving the community anything for nothing. That encourages dependency.

Always encourage community members by stating that they can carry out the project themselves and you/we are here to offer them some skills and tips, but the work must be done by them. Applying this to financing a community project, you/we must never offer to obtain project inputs for them.

You/we as animators or mobilizers, can give them guidelines as to how to raise money and other resources, how to ensure that accounts are kept transparent and simple, and how to translate non-monetary donations into financial inputs.

You/we must always emphasize, however, that the actual obtaining of the resources must be done by the community or its community based organization (eg executive committee) working on its behalf, not by the animator or trainer.

Remember that no community is a natural unity. There are schisms and disunities in every community(1). All actions you/we take must help to increase the unity of a community.

Footnote (1): Divisions in any community may be based on many factors: clans, religions, class, income, education, land ownership, ethnic origins, age, gender, and so on. The level of tolerance between these divisions may also vary for several reasons. It is your/our job to work in such a way as to minimize the differences, improve community unity and loyalty, and overcome community schisms.

Where you/we offer suggestions as to how to obtain resources for a community project, you/we must not insist on a particular strategy that the community must take; some strategies may contribute to disunity. We must suggest and advise, and ensure that we listen to what the community members say (especially the quiet ones) and uncover negative hints about any certain strategy that might provoke disunity.

2.2 Why Do We Fight Against Dependency?

As their populations grow, governments are getting access to fewer and fewer resources per capita every year. It is simply no longer feasible for communities to be dependent upon central governments for human settlement facilities and services. The same with international donors: rich countries' governments, the UN, World Bank, international NGOs, simply do not have enough resources to give to every poor community, no matter how worthwhile the cause, around the world.

Whereas it was once thought that community self reliance in itself was a good thing, it promoted grass roots democracy, human rights, self development and human dignity, now it has gone much farther than that. If communities cannot become more and more self reliant and empowered, they simply will not develop and so poverty and apathy will eventually destroy them.

The old patronistic (or "pork barrelling") system, where politicians and officials handed out contracts and community services to those who supported them in staying in power, is promoted by the "provision" approach to facilities and services. Those leaders must change or be replaced by genuinely democratic public servants who engage in facilitating community self help.

If an outside agency, be it central Government, an international NGO, a mission, comes to a community and constructs a human settlements facility (eg water supply), it is natural for the community members to see it as belonging to the outside agency. When that outside agency goes away or runs out of funds, the community members will have no motivation to repair and maintain the facility, or to sustain the service. In order for a facility to be used, and used effectively, by the community members, and in order for the facility to be maintained and sustained, the community members must have a sense of "responsibility" for (we sometimes say "ownership" of) the facility.

That sense of responsibility is sometimes described as "ownership" by the community. Unless the community as a whole has been involved in the decision making about the facility (planning and management) and has willingly contributed to the costs of its construction, the sense of responsibility or ownership will be missing. It will not be effectively used, maintained or sustained.

It is impossible to build a human settlements facility or service and not expect that it has to be repaired and maintained. That is like trying to eat once and for all.

3. Types of Cost Recovery:

A community, a project executive, or any organization, has several options for obtaining funds for its activities. We advise any community group that they seek as many different sources of funds as possible, as well as to maximize the use of internal sources. That decreases its dependency upon any one donor.

3.1 Service Fees Versus Donations:

One difference is between funds that are charged as service or user fees and funds that are donated or contributed without expectation of a direct benefit.

Service fees might be in the form of flat rates, as to households who are provided with a water supply by the community. Alternatively they might be in the form of piece rates, as when each collector of water must pay a certain amount of money for a certain quantity of water.

Service fees may be a more appropriate when method the service is visible to each user. Service fees are often collected in order to effect repairs and maintenance of the facility.

3.2 Donors Versus Donor Agencies:

Funds that are contributed without expectation of immediate or individual service, may be made by public donations, or by specific contributions from donor agencies. Public donations are usually gifts that are not tied to specific activities by the community organization. See Fund Raising.

Donor agencies are organizations that, perhaps also among other activities, provide funds to implementing organizations. Donor agencies may range from large and sophisticated bureaucracies such as the World Bank, the UN, aid agencies of the large rich countries or the Government, to small local organizations, such as a church group that wishes to give a donation to a specific local project.

3.3 Similarities of Principles:

While the principles of raising money from these widely ranging sources may be approximately the same, the specific techniques do differ. Obtaining uncommitted donations from the public, for example, usually depends upon some sort of an appeal.

Obtaining funds from a donor agency, in contrast, usually involves a detailed design of the proposed project, and that design incorporated into a formal proposal (request for funds) to the donor agency. What is important to note here, however, is that, while the surface procedures may differ, the underlying principles or general approach, remain the same.

3.4 Donations:

Any contribution from any person or group is a donation. A donation may be cash, land, advice, buildings, ideas, labour, supplies and equipment, donated by individuals, groups or organizations who want to support their community.

3.5 Internal Versus External Resources:

Internal resources are those obtained from within the community that is undertaking a community project. External resources are those which originate outside the community.

External resources can come from international donors (governments, non governmental organizations, or multilateral/UN) or from national donors (central and district governments, national NGOs).

A community is more independent if it uses a greater proportion of internal resources for a project. Our aim is not to make a community totally independent (an economic impossibility), but to reduce dependency and apathy within the community. If a community is in partnership with its central or district government (not dictated to by them) and with NGOs, then it can be seen as interdependent.

If a community has multiple sources of inputs then it is more likely to be more independent of or less controlled by any one donor.

4. Sources of Funds:

The community has many potential sources of funds and other resources. You, as a mobilizer, should not obtain funds for a community group but, to encourage community strengthening, guide the community in tapping these sources.

4.1. User Fees and Maintenance Costs:

Unlike voluntary donations, where the donors do not expect immediate and direct benefits for giving the money, the payment of fees implies the provision of a service.

A flat fee is used where the beneficiary of the service is assessed and charged a regular (say monthly) fee for a service such as water.

A piece fee is used where the beneficiary is charged a fixed amount for a finite quantity of service, like a certain number of shillings for a jerry can of water or a visit to a clinic. It is like the sale of a commodity, although it may not necessarily be for profit, but subsidized by other sources of funds that the providing organization may obtain.

As with other sources of finance for a community or its organization, the charging of fees must be done honestly, must be accountable and transparent, must be fair, and must be justified.

4.2. Project Design and Proposals:

Donor agencies usually require that a formal proposal for funding be submitted, and that the proposal reflect a well planned and designed project. Let us look at some types of donor agencies.

4.3 Governmental Inputs:

This includes partial funding from federal, district or local governmental sources. Sources may also include district development committee participation.

Proposals to this source require following through several governmentally designed application procedures.

4.4 Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs):

These include local community based organizations, churches, international NGOs and other agencies, groups or organizations that are not governmentally based.

They are usually not for profit organizations, in contrast to commercial organizations. Skills in proposal writing are useful in obtaining funding from NGOs.

4.5 Embassies and High Commissions:

Embassies often have small projects funds (eg the Canada Fund at the Canadian High Commission, the Small Projects Office of the Netherlands' SNV), which are available to CBOs and small local NGOs. You/we, as mobilizers and animators, must remember not to obtain such funds for the community, but perhaps provide instructions to community leaders, and training in how to write proposals, and let the communities seek such funds themselves.

Increasingly Governments of the rich countries are putting aside funds for small local, community based projects. Contact all the embassies and consulates in your area or capital city and ask for details on how you must apply for small project funds.

5. Techniques of Effective Proposal Writing:

This series has several documents, including guidelines and training hand outs, on how to write effective proposals. The emphasis is on "effective" because a pretty (ie polished, attractive) proposal that can not obtain the desired effect (raising cash) is useless no matter how pretty it is.

A proposal should be written "fresh" and originally, with input from all, every time a project is planned. Do not copy a proposal or a model of a proposal, because such copying promotes lazy thinking and mental dependency.

The proposal outline follows a logical order, where each chapter relates to the previous one, and there is a flow of argument from beginning to end. Details that may detract from that smooth flow of argument should be put in the appendices. The outline should be as follows:

The Problem (Background)
The Solution (Goal)
Objectives (Specific, Verifiable)
Resources (Potential, Actual)
Strategies (List Several then Select One)
Monitoring (Assess Progress)
Reporting (Communicating Progress)
Abstract (Summary) (Put first)
Appendices (Details, Budgets, Lists)

See Proposals, and Proposal Handout. The details of the proposal may differ; the above is a general guideline. Some donor agencies have specific requirements and formats that must be followed. It is important that each chapter must relate to the others, and the whole thing must flow as a continuous argument.


Whatever our actions in encouraging and assisting communities to plan and implement their own community based projects (including the calculation of financial resources) you must keep the following in mind at all times and to guide all our actions:

  • Remember and work towards the general goal (reducing dependency);
  • Guide, suggest, train, encourage, praise, inform; and
  • Do not promise, do not provide and do not dictate.

The calculation of costs of financing community based projects must be fair and accurate, and estimates must not undervalue non-cash community donations.

When mobilizing a community to undertake a community based project, we should encourage them to identify a variety of outside resources (reducing dependency on any one donor), and to identify and mobilize many (often hidden) internal resources.

Obtaining resources for a community project is an honourable and valuable responsibility; do it with enthusiasm, integrity and confidence.

If you copy text from this site, please acknowledge the author(s)
and link it back to cec.vcn.bc.ca/cmp/

© Copyright 1967, 1987, 2007 Phil Bartle
Web Design by Lourdes Sada
Last update: 2012.06.19

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