Navigating Game-Changing Grants

Stakeholder Communications

Case Study
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Case Study: Adeso

A humanitarian and development organization based in Kenya, Adeso has been challenging the narrative on international aid and advocating for a shift in how people think about and deliver it. With an overarching vision to empower and believe in the resourcefulness of people, Adeso aims for a world that is not reliant on aid-based systems. In recent years, the organization has made a conscious effort to move away from restrictive, bilateral funding, reflecting, and practicing the principles of decolonizing aid, which they advocate for, within their financing streams. Stephanie Heckman, Chief Development & Partnerships Officer at Adeso, calls the financial windfall transformative. “Together, we are building a movement, and to shift donor mindset[s] to recognize how their gifts can be transformative,” Stephanie says. “And [we’re] showcasing how meaningful it can be to fund courageously and trust generously.” The windfall gift has enabled Adeso to be intentional in accepting only those funds that support their vision and programming, build financial reserves, encourage creativity and ideation, allowing them to truly build community-led service delivery in their Somalian operations.

In discussing the importance of communication strategies for Adeso, Stephanie believes that every organization’s path is unique and distinct, with communication content and modes differing by goals, donor base, and immediate circumstances. For instance, she talks of the power of social media announcements to attract funders and instill trust in organizational mission for those with a large, private donor base but points out that this strategy is unlikely to work for others with a different donor portfolio.

According to Stephanie, three specific dimensions characterized Adeso’s communication strategy:

  1. Make it personal: Adeso prioritized a core group of donors who were brought into communications soon after news of the grant was received. This process involved meetings, convenings, and individual calls to connect with each of them directly. She says, “The networks and donors were a part of imagining the opportunity, articulating, and defining it together. Not only was it a moment of reflection, but it was also one of celebration, enjoying the moment and the recognition.” It offered the space to reaffirm commitment, be visionary about future goals, without limiting the funds to accelerate current activities alone.
  2. Make it strategic: “What does this gift mean to the sector?” asks Stephanie. She describes that this was one of the fundamental questions they were concerned with since it tied directly into the advocacy for the decolonization of aid/ philanthropy which is an integral piece of Adeso’s work. “This grant is a learning opportunity for the sector.” It was important that communications about the grant captured this sentiment and persuaded thought.
  3. Make it catalytic: The driving question for Stephanie was, “Where should the communications be focused?” Unlike other organizations reliant on individual funders, this would not be with mainstream or social media for Adeso. Instead, they channeled their efforts into reaching out to philanthropic media to strive for systemic change, advocate for unrestricted funding in the sector through publications, reports, and conferences, and by influencing the agenda at convenings. Stephanie question, “By making it catalytic, who are we influencing and how?” The message of decolonization ties into philanthropic media and helps Adeso find private funders who align and believe in their message. Although they have been successful in leveraging other funding since, they have continued to receive restricted project funding. “It is still not as unrestricted as we would have hoped,” Stephanie continued. “More conversation has happened, but not in dollars yet.”

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