Financing Big Change Networks

I was leading discussion by a half dozen executive directors of Global Action Networks on the topic of competencies critical to success when we turned to the question of resource mobilization. I was surprised that none of the leaders thought of financing as a major issue for them, in comparison to the other competencies.

“But what if you think about barriers to your network really flourishing and realizing its goals?” I asked. That moved the issue of financing to the top of the list of challenges.

The question of financing is wrapped up with stage of development discussed last week and featured in a webinar March 3. At early stages, less money is required and the question is about finding a venture investor to explore possibilities. Later stages require more funds and a sustainable business model.

Gathering finance information is very complicated for a network, since it requires defining what part of the network the data cover. As networks develop, most increasingly depend upon sub-parts (regional, particular program) raising their own funds. In May last year I surveyed 11 networks[1] ranging from 8 to 15 years of age with the initial question:

What was the total income (revenue) that came to/through the Secretariat for the most recent fiscal year including funds that may have gone to other parts of the network?

The response ranged from $500,000 to $11.4 million, with the average of $3.6 million.

Sources of Income

But the finance question is also wrapped up in strategy. Being multi-stakeholder, the networks could be expected to have tax-based contributions from government, civil society-based funding from foundations and revenue generation from services and fees. Table 1 gives responses to the question:

Please indicate the approximate percent of funds that flow to/through the Secretariat that come from the following sources.

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