Lately, we’ve had people say, “Go after the large funders, individuals are too strapped during this pandemic.” However, in good times and in bad it’s the small donors that are important to nonprofits like Nikela.
Three Reasons Small Donors are more valuable than Large Funders
It may seem counterintuitive at first, but over the years we’ve learned that for nonprofits like ours small donors are key. Here are three main reasons why…
When large funders give money there often are strings attached. Ever big organization has a mission. This mission is naturally going to be somewhat different from that of the smaller receiving entity.
For instance, we’ve seen fancy buildings equipped for education stand unused. What the receiving small organization lacked was adequate volunteer quarters. But the money they received was earmarked strictly for an education building.
We’ve seen impressive electric fencing erected to keep wild animals away from wildlife in rehab… even though this was never a problem. What the small receiving organization really needed was monies for their day to day operations, for food and veterinarian expenses.
When large funders give money it may be exciting and look grand, but essential activities and equipment may go wanting. Can you imagine how frustrating it is when there is money in the coffers, but it can’t be used for what your project needs most? Receiving a large sum of money is fabulous, however, if the small organization is required to use it for activities or items outside of their mission’s scope…
Small donors give from the heart. They see the value of what their chosen project is doing. They give to support what is being done and what the wildlife conservationist right there on the ground deems most necessary. When a small donor gives $20 to help Moses rescue endangered pangolin they know exactly what is being done with their gift… and that’s perfectly okay. Small donors give simply to help where needed.
Conclusion: Control is the first reason small donors are more valuable than large funders.
Large funders generally have experts on their staff. Although these experts may be good at what they do, it may not necessarily be applicable or work in other parts of the world.
In Malawi we found a deserted trout farm. This farm had been constructed and operated with the best of intentions. However, when the grant expired and the foreign folk in charge left… The trout were eaten and the ponds ran dry. In Eswatini foreigners established a glass blowing company. It all worked well for a season. Once the foreigners pulled out everything collapsed.
In this latter situation there is a happy ending. At a grassroots level the concept was revisited, revamped and finally became a thriving local enterprise.
Even water projects have been abandoned. In Botswana potable water was brought within meters of a village. However, the villagers didn’t have the pipes needed to complete the project. You guessed it, the women continued to draw water from the same green stagnant pond they always had.
We’ve learned it’s crucial to follow the lead of those on the ground, not the ‘experts’ that are miles removed from the situation. It’s so easy to say, “Here, take a look at it through my glasses.” However, those of us not on the ground, in the trenches, generally really don’t know the how to solve local problems… At least not for the long haul.
Moses in Uganda found a successful unorthodox way to stop wildlife poaching. He trades spears for shovels! His methods are hand-to-mouth but he gets the job done. At first we tried to show him a ‘better way’ but, quickly learned taking his lead was much more productive.
One of our small donors said, “I have long followed Nikela’s interactions with Moses’ efforts… Nikela’s goal isn’t to play savior, or continue colonialism, but rather to partner in empowering communities to take the lead in finding realistic solutions while maintaining their cultures, values, and living harmoniously with their environment.”
Conclusion: Small donors support grassroots efforts and allow them to evolve.
In large funding organizations a small donation is a drop in the bucket. Whereas small donors make a huge difference when given to the right place. Large funders deal with huge budgets similar to a big company. Small donations simply can’t make much of a difference. Whereas with micro organizations small donors make a huge difference. Here small donors who give as little as $10 monthly can help feed a rescued animal. $10 can go a long way to help pay vet bills or defray fuel costs. $20 a month can help protect individual lion, rhino and elephant.
Small donors are more likely to run a fund raiser on Facebook. Start a crowdfunding project or donate to charity when shopping online with AmazonSmile. Most recently a small donor who supports Moses’ reformed poacher project raised $416 to celebrate her birthday. This was able to buy much needed supplies to finish the fish house (part of the fish farming project providing an alternative livelihood to stop the poaching of wildlife.)
Conclusion: The opportunities for the small donor are endless when it comes to making a difference.
To summarize, small donors are more valuable than large funders. They allow the service entity to be in control, operate grassroots and provide opportunities that make a difference right there on the ground.
“Small donors… we love you!”
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Nikela is a fundraising non profit on a mission to help people protecting nature, especially doing wildlife conservation.