In Nigeria, the realities on the ground don’t always match up with the way funders operate. What would it look like if there was a system that supported small and local groups doing direct action?

In 2021, a frontline gender rights activist in Nigeria reached out for support. A young woman had been sexually abused in one of the local communities and had gone to the local group closest to the community for refuge. They needed N50,000 (roughly about USD$100) for immediate medical care. The activist hoped that a joint donor-advised fund established to provide rapid response for at-risk persons in Nigeria could help. Sadly, the case, though urgent and compelling, was outside its scope. But there were a few other technical problems with accessing that fund for this purpose. First, the community group requesting the money was not registered and would hardly tick the boxes of requirements needed to access external funding. Second, though the amount requested was small, the process of verifying the case and getting the support across to the survivor through a third party would have taken longer and cost more administratively. Third, the more established Sexual Assault Referral Centers in Nigeria, with access to donor funding are in the city centres, are some distance from rural communities. Though the survivor had reached out to a local group in her community that she knew and trusted, they were not resourced or structured enough to access the needed help.

This raised the question for us if the idea of ‘form follows function’ applies, or rather undermines, community philanthropy in Nigeria – or is there a middle ground? Traditional donors dictate some standard requirements for groups to access funding, which can be too stringent and onerous for local groups functioning in rural spaces. For these local groups to access external funding, there are often questions around the integrity of their work, their accountability, how impact can be measured, and more importantly, the structure and capacity of these organisations (including boards, audited annual reports, and incorporation status).

Read the full article about community philanthropy in Nigeria by Ese Emerhi and Chinedu Nwagu at Alliance Magazine.