Matt Roberts-Davies on Digital Crowdfunding in Kenya
General Manager of M-Changa explains how their online fundraising platform is transforming the way Kenyans fundraise.
Matt Roberts-Davies is the Experience Director & Business Development Manager at M-Changa.July 13, 2018
Philanthropy University: Please introduce yourself and the work that you do with M-Changa.
Hey I’m Matt Roberts-Davies and my greatest passion is driving social change through technology, and getting to see the world in the process.
I was born in the UK and used volunteering and internships as a way to travel and gain new experiences. I spent a year on a ship in Southeast Asia called the Logos Hope, 12 months learning business development in Vienna, Austria and 6 months at Kiva.org in San Francisco, California. Interacting with so many different cultures taught me a lot about myself and created in me a desire to support financial inclusion across the developing world.
I later moved to Kenya where I worked in a tech-focused microfinance called Musoni. Attracted by the thriving tech scene and fast pace of the capital city Nairobi, I decided to make Kenya my home for the foreseeable future. Based on my experience at Kiva, which has mobilised over $1bn to entrepreneurs worldwide through crowdfunding, I decided to pursue crowdfunding across Africa.
Seeing donations as the starting point for crowdfunding to emerge, I began working at M-Changa – Africa’s largest online fundraising platform. I’ve been at M-Changa just over a year and I’m currently serving as General Manager.
Philanthropy University: What makes M-Changa different from other fundraising platforms?
In Kenya, harambee refers to the practice of communal fundraising: Individuals contribute and raise money to cover every day 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.
Philanthropy University: What are the biggest challenges facing civil society organizations (CSOs) in Kenya?
Trust. For any successful non-profit, their main goal must be to create impact and to communicate that impact. Unfortunately, for many CSOs in Kenya they have failed to communicate or deliver impact effectively. As a result, there have been many scandals causing distrust between Civil Society and the public.
Current CSOs must work hard to build trust within the community. Otherwise, funding will become increasingly difficult to attain and many CSOs will not be able to sustain their costs.
Many CSOs have never raised money locally, it’s therefore extremely difficult for first timers to know how to engage their community and ask for funds. M-Changa, through its partners, helps CSOs overcome the initial challenges, build a strategy and see how local fundraising can sustain them in the long run.
Philanthropy University: What are the most successful fundraisers that you’ve seen on M-Changa, and what can others learn from them?
Individuals have historically been the most successful fundraisers on M-Changa, particularly when raising money for medical bills and funeral costs. Individuals give to medical and funeral costs typically out of it being a cultural norm. Unfortunately, giving to organisations is not part of that community expectation and therefore becomes much more difficult for the CSO to raise money.
Eunice, a young girl with a rare skin disease, managed to raise $50,000 from over 10,000 local contributors. A local influencer, Ndungu Nyoro, helped to promote the fundraiser across social media.
Influencers are highly effective in fundraising because they built their crowd over time, being very consistent with their communication and engagement. The take-away for CSOs is to be consistent in communicating with potential donors, building relationships first before asking for money. Experience shows that fundraising in this way leads to longer lasting and more sustainable fundraising.
Philanthropy University: Since M-Changa launched, have you noticed any changes in the way people are fundraising?
Definitely, we are seeing signs that individuals are more open to giving to CSOs which is a huge cultural shift. Driving this is more collaboration across the sector, greater openness to technology and seeing transparency as an important element of fundraising.
M-Changa assists CSOs in making fundraising as transparent, secure and easy as possible. The transparency of our fundraising platform helps CSOs to build trust locally.
By collaborating with Philanthropy University, GlobalGiving and Aga Khan Foundation, M-Changa has been able to reach more CSOs across Kenya. By bringing together key stakeholders, including the CSOs themselves, there have been many lessons learned about philanthropy that have allowed M-Changa to develop the right tools for CSOs to mobilise individual giving.
One of the unexpected benefits of CSOs using M-Changa to raise funds has been the in-kind support they have received whilst promoting their campaigns online. In many cases, in-kind support has been higher than the money raised.
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