How to raise funds by charging membership fees

Written by Viviane Sebahire, Solidarity of Women for Integral Development, DRC

Can you describe the fundraising situation your organisation faced? 

When it was originally set up, Solidarity of Women for Integral Development (SOFEDI) was made up of people who had previously worked together on the AIDS Prevention project in Bukavu. As SOFEDI began to do more activities and wanted to form partnerships with donors, we decided to formalise the organisation’s legal status by registering it. At this stage we did not have funding.

Why did you decide to raise funds by charging membership dues and how did you do it?

At the same time as registering SOFEDI we also decided to become a membership organisation and charge a membership fee because we had no funding. When we presented the funding situation and the solution to the group they accepted it. They were also very motivated to work together and introducing a fee was not going to stop that. In return, when members participate in the organisation’s various projects they receive a small amount for taking part, although it should be noted that their main reason for participating is their general motivation to do so.

Through these the SOFEDI membership fees we were able to rent an office and meet some of our operating costs such as water, electricity and rent.

From the very beginning, Coalition 14 was established as a membership organisation and members pay a monthly fee. The fee not only ensures that members are committed to the Coalition but also a portion of that fee contributes to SOFEDI’s administrative costs. This is because Coalition 14 benefits from SOFEDI’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) expertise and SOFEDI also houses the Coalition 14 secretariat in its offices.

Membership fees are collected by mobile money or cash, and members receive a receipt.  These contributions are then recorded our accounts.

What have you accomplished?

The financial resources raised by the contributions have enabled us to cope with certain administrative burdens, particularly with regard to state taxes. As members’ contributions remain modest (we charge dues according to members financial means) we also sometimes make a charge to our external partners working in the fields of health, mining, the environment, gender and good governance. 

What did you learn from this experience?

It is often necessary to pool resources to address certain problems in the life of organisations.

What are your tips for someone who is facing the same or similar problems and wants to start raising money by charging dues?

  • A situation is never desperate, and initiatives must be taken.
  • Small and medium-sized organisations in DRC and other African countries that have weak administrative governance, face untimely state taxes. So, asking for member contributions can sometimes solve this problem.
  • Pooling efforts is the key to success.

Have you used external resources to help you solve this problem that you would recommend to other organisations? 

Our initiative was inspired by current practice in organisations that operate as a network or coalition. Examples include the Nairobi-based FEMNET network (website:  www.femnet.org;  email:  admin@femnet.org;  Facebook: FEMNET Secretariat). Charging membership dues also has added advantage of attaching members to the organisation, network or coalition.

Viviane Sebahire, Solidarity of Women for Integral Development, DRC

Viviane Sebahire was born in 1968 in Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  She is married and has 4 children, including 2 girls and 2 boys. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Health.

Viviane has been an activist since 1994, and in 2005 created SOFEDI (Solidarity of Women for Integral Development). SOFEDI is a non-profit association and has around 10 members. It has become the lead organisation for SRHR in South Kivu and has many partners thanks to Coalitionn14 (see below). SOFEDI works in three areas: health, mining and the environment (climate change). All this with gender and good governance as cross-cutting themes.

In 2016, Viviane initiated and set up Coalition 14 which is based on Article 14 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, on the Rights of Women in Africa, also known as the Maputo Protocol. This regional legal instrument emphasises the right to health and control of reproductive functions.

www.sofedi.org

www.coalition14.net