Do Funders Exploit Community-Based Organizations?

Funders need to take community-based organizations much more seriously Horizontal philanthropy--a reference to how the poor help each other--is strong in Africa. Indeed, we should not discount that orphaned children get 90 percent of their support from their community, including their extended families. At the same time, community-based organizations (CBOs) have not gotten the attention that they need.

There’s been a move among funders to fund the small projects and then keep them at that size, which is not sustainable. This keeps women in small activities and misses opportunities to grow movements. Boxing in ‘community development’ boxes in organizations without ever positioning them to scale up. Part of the problem is of one of perceptions because larger funders never talk about how they carry out their work through community organization.

The language used to address community-based organizations is skewed because there is an amplified voice about the about lack of capacity at the CBO level yet never a celebration of their strength and impact.

Another problem is that funders focus on urban spaces and fear to venture into rural spaces. According to one contributor to the conversation, “Funders don’t recognize the civilization that is thriving in rural areas, yet they always want to build on civilization that already exists”. This preference for urban spaces fails to recognize the real contributions and potential of community-based organizations.

Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg is a scholar and activist particularly interested in the nexus of  philanthropy and African realities. A professor of Politics and founder of a non-profit organization, she blogs at