I will never forget this story – I was working with a couple of credit unions in Malawi, mainly around their governance and trying to improve their process. I was standing outside the credit union branch where a fellow was walking, and he had a sewing machine on his head. I guess it was the preferred way to carry heavy objects. I asked him if he was a member of this credit union and how it had helped him. His response was yes, and that he’d been a longtime member.
“It has changed my life,” he said, “So I applied for a loan to buy a sewing machine for somewhat near $100.”
So I asked how one sewing machine changed his life, and his response was so insightful.
“I am my own boss now. I repair garments, going house to house with my machine, on an established route. So once a month, the families know which day I will be on their street with my sewing machine. For example, they know that I will be here on Tuesday and then do their garment repairs and get paid.”
I found that very interesting!
He continued by saying, “I have now moved from renting my home to buying my one. I have been able to pay for my children’s education and medical expenses for my parents.”
Seeing the IMPACT on the ground allowed me to observe the success of CDF Canada’s work more closely.
I was talking to the general manager of another credit union where one branch with 500 members has existed for about ten years. They were part of the rural agricultural financial co-operative, and their annual general meeting was coming up.
The general manager said the AGM is like a celebration. “We get 1000 participants. Members and their families join us. We often rent out the local soccer stadium and have food and music, dancing and speeches from the governor, and receive our financial report.”
So, when I was on the CDF Canada board and took these experiences to them to raise money – it worked. Later, I pitched the idea of inviting CEOs from Canada to the field offices. We did a day trip to Cambodia and raised $250,000!
My journey with CDF Canada started when I went to a conference 15 years ago and they were talking about CDF and CCA at the World Council. The conference really opened my eyes to the international system. I was so excited about how the co-op model worked to help reduce poverty and provide employment.
I began my journey with CDF Canada by contacting the CEOs of credit unions I knew in Western Canada, attending their AGMs, and presenting the impact of CDF Canada’s work. It helped generate some funds, between $5000 – $10,000.
Later, the executive director said, “You know you are good at raising money. But, we think you’d be better, if you went to one of the countries where we have worked on actual projects and came back with some stories to support our fundraising efforts.:
So I did! I went to Malawi on my first trip to help with a strategic business plan with Malawi Union of Savings and Credit Cooperatives (MUSCCO) and worked on a devastation plan. I learned a lot and came back with all these stories on the groundwork and impact – which later helped me raise more money for CDF Canada.
A couple of years later, I was asked if I would join the board to bring a fundraising perspective to the table, because the directors didn’t really understand or like raising money. I did and later joined their coaching program.
I left the board of CDF Canada about six years ago. I get the sense that the challenge of raising money is the same as it was when I was with the board. It is all about the story – people like the story. I think there’s a segment of members that love the story about CDF Canada – about the beginning and how it all started. I don’t believe that is well understood, and it should be part of every communications plan.
So, if I were talking to the board today as a presenter, I would say that we need to redouble our effort on communication and fundraising like never before.
You could say the value proposition for us is the impact that we bring on the ground, and that is what we need to do – that is what we need to sell – CDF Canada’s impact. People care about the beautiful stories of changing people’s lives on the ground.