How to set up and formalise your organisation

Written by Lawrence Kamuchungu and Sarah Chirwa, Dignitate Zambia

Please describe the context in which your organisation interacted with AmplifyChange

AmplifyChange has been our biggest donor over the past four years. Our organisation has received three grants from AmplifyChange:

  • An Opportunity grant in 2017, focusing on sensitisation of the media to the LGBTIQ community
  • A Strengthening grant in 2019, focusing on stigma and discrimination towards LGBTIQ group in Zambia with regards to legal framework
  • A Renewal Strengthening grant in 2020, focusing on funding a consortium working on access to comprehensive SRHR services, tailored to sex workers and LGBTIQ people.

Our team has been interacting with AmplifyChange extensively during the due diligence and pre-contracting process. This proved to be as a real capacity-building exercise for our organisation and a self-assessment of our own internal procedures and controls.

We have also communicated frequently with AmplifyChange during the duration of our grants through reporting, and monitoring calls and visits.

What did you do to make your organisation more financially sustainable following the recommendations from AmplifyChange?

When we received the Opportunity grant from AmplifyChange in 2017, we were using a fiscal sponsor as our organisation was not registered and did not have a bank account.

Due to the theme, we were working on and the punitive laws in force in Zambia regarding LGBTIQ and sex workers community it was too risky to register our organisation

We did not have an office space and the office equipment we did have was very limited. AmplifyChange recommended that we register our organisation and they provided resources to help us improve the office equipment.

However, in 2018, two members of the organisation decided to give it a try and finally registered the organisation as a Youth Organisation for Services Delivery under Public Health. We then got our own bank account and applied for a larger, Strengthening grant from AmplifyChange.

AmplifyChange raised several recommendations or ‘Special Conditions’ during the due diligence process of our first Strengthening grant.

These conditions included:

  • A fully functional Board
  • Hiring qualified people to strengthen staff capacity (we went from 3 to 8 staff members)
  • Improving the filing system and documentation track record
  • Implementing basic policies and procedures.

Following AmplifyChange’s advice we managed to implement all these recommendations.

How did the implementation of these Special Conditions from AmplifyChange help you as an organisation? What benefits did you identify?

We were a new and fragile organisation until AmplifyChange came on board. Through the capacity strengthening and technical support from the AmplifyChange Team, we were able to significantly strengthen and bring stability to our organisation, which is now an established and well recognised NGO within the community. AmplifyChange basically handheld us through every step of the process, to help us achieve what we wanted to do.

Our organisation became eligible to apply for other funding, thanks to AmplifyChange capacity strengthening and the funding itself. It also gave us more confidence as an organisation to collaborate with other big organisations. We were able to use our track record of working with AmplifyChange as a reference to demonstrate our capacity to partner with other big organisations.

Thanks to our work with AmplifyChange we have been able to bring together local community members and religious leaders to speak about safety and security issues within the LGBTIQ community.

We have also been able to engage with key stakeholders, such as government officials, private lawyers and clinical personnel, which has also helped with LGBTIQ issues within the country.

The grants we received from AmplifyChange also allowed us to increase our resources – to afford for example, an auditor to certify our financial statements and better office equipment.

What are your tips for an organisation facing the same or similar issues?

An organisation needs to have a proper structure based on basic policies, procedures and controls as well as a comprehensive filing system. This will give confidence to donors and partners you want to engage with as a starting point.

Then the organisation needs a clear strategy, with an appropriate timeline that shows the direction that the organisation wants to go and the objectives they want to achieve. Once this is in place the organisation needs to focus and stick to it. The timeline will allow the organisation to measure progress and achievements.

We also recommend being resilient. You will face challenges and difficulties. It is not easy to run an organisation but, from our own experience, we can say that if you manage to find trustworthy partners and you focus on implementation, it really become easier with time.

What did you learn from this experience?

We learned that nothing is impossible, and you always have to try. Trying is the best way to learn and everything can be done.

We have also learned the importance of flexibility and consultation. We have always engaged and communicated with AmplifyChange to get guidance or clarification when needed, and it has been a key factor to the successful implementation of our different projects.

We reached significant milestones with the implementation of the different recommendations from AmplifyChange and other auditors we have been working with.

The whole process with AmplifyChange made us grow as individuals and as an organisation. It made us get out of our comfort zones and keep questioning ourselves.

Lawrence Kamuchungu and Sarah Chirwa, Dignitate Zambia

Lawrence Kamuchungu is the Executive Director of Dignitate Zambia Ltd. He is a gender- and human rights activist who has a strong interest in the well-being, human rights and social justice of all human beings. Lawrence has worked in the LGBTIQ+, Women and Gender sector for 10 years, and within his role, responsibilities, and deliverance of work, he has focused on the Sexuality, Gender and SOGIESC movement at a national, regional and international level. 

Sarah Chirwa has been the Chief of Operations and Administration of Dignitate Zambia Ltd since 2020. She has strongly supported the organisation to set up and operationalise finance and governance processes and procedures. Sarah is an integral lead in project planning, execution and reporting, proposal writing and interaction with all partners on all projects, ensuring the successful closure of running projects. Sarah ensures that the organisation satisfies its obligations to donors, benefactors, stakeholders, partners, and members on all matters of project management and reporting.