M-Changa is an online mobile fundraising platform in Nairobi, Kenya that provides the tools for individuals and organizations to create awareness and receive funds.

Harambee for the Digital Age

In Kenya, harambee refers to the practice of communal fundraising: individuals contribute and raise money to cover everyday financial needs, such as medical expenses, funerals, and school fees. M-Changa is a digital fundraising platform in Kenya with a mission to change the way Kenyans fundraise. To date, the platform has attracted 290,000 unique contributors, who have given to 23,000 Kenyan fundraisers. In contrast to other crowdfunding platforms, M-Changa has focused on simple mobile technology to appeal to the Kenyan market. One of the great success stories in financial inclusion has been the mass adoption of mobile money across Kenya. By adopting mobile payments, anyone in Kenya can contribute even without owning a smartphone, having access to the internet or having a bank account. In the traditional harambee, those who are fundraising typically meet at a physical location in the local community. By integrating across social media platforms, M-Changa supports fundraisers in reaching both local and international audiences quickly and easily. To build trust and transparency; M-Changa takes all fundraisers through a vetting process, requires treasurers and provides donor updates via SMS. Having collected fundraising data since 2012, M-Changa has identified several patterns of why Kenyan donors give. The three main fundraising drivers can be described as:

  1. Obligation: A giver contributes funds as a form of informal insurance for the future; the giver expects the recipient to one day reciprocate when a need arises;
  2. Reciprocity: A giver pays back a previously received kind act; and
  3. Altruism: A giver contributes purely out of kindness.

  In contrast to fundraising for individuals, where much of the community feels obligated to support, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) find it much more difficult to fundraise locally. Due to the immense challenges, M-Changa’s focus is building the right technology to assist CSOs to engage their local community and raise funds through individuals. Seeing collaboration as key to sustainable development, M-Changa regards itself as one of many necessary players to build a thriving philanthropy industry across Africa. A significant proportion of donor support for NGOs and CSOs has come from outside Kenya. Unfortunately, donor support is dwindling due to shifting donor approaches and mandates, forcing CSOs to look elsewhere for funding. In partnership with the Aga Khan Foundation, M-Changa has worked closely with 47 Kenyan CSOs attempting crowdfunding for the first time. The most successful campaigns were able to see crowdfunding as part of their long-term fundraising strategy. They focused on engaging their local community through well-planned campaigns and frequent updates. Local fundraising in Kenya is a challenge due to the lack of disposable income and urgency of other demands such as paying for school fees or medical bills. Corporations and foundations can effectively motivate local donors to give larger amounts and give more frequently by matching funds. The reason matching is so effective is that donors see their original donations as having a greater impact, and they also get to see corporations giving back to the community. Training is another important factor in whether CSOs are able to fundraise locally, particularly in the areas of engaging the local community and building trust. Thanks to Philanthropy University, CSOs can now access a range of free, high quality and relevant courses online including Fundraising Strategies, Connecting with Donors, and Social Impact: Planning for Success. Finally, M-Changa has collaborated with GlobalGiving to learn from their 16 years’ experience with organizational fundraising. The first stage of the partnership will enable GlobalGiving fundraisers in Kenya to receive mobile payments through M-Pesa, enabling CSOs to fundraise seamlessly from individuals in both local and international markets.   To summarize, there is natural tendency in Kenya to be generous and give according to need. Civil Society Organizations should learn from the success of individual fundraising in order to lower dependence upon international grants. M-Changa believes the philanthropy sector in Kenya is quickly and necessarily changing, collaboration for the benefit of local organizations will achieve the greatest impact.