Advocacy / Collaborative Funding / Human Rights Community

A Million Ones: Building Local Support for LGBTI Rights in Africa

Contributed by Shekeshe Mokgosi, Public Engagement Manager, The Other Foundation-

The Other Foundation is an African trust dedicated to advancing human rights in Southern Africa, with a particular focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. It works as both a grantmaker and a fundraiser to expand resources available to defend and advance the rights and well-being of LGBTI people in the Southern African region. IHRFG asked the Other Foundation to share more about one of its initiatives, the A Million Ones Campaign.

What is the A Million Ones Campaign?

A Million Ones is a grassrootsShekeshe Mokgosi campaign run by friends and supporters of the Other Foundation to build a community of support for LGBTI rights in Africa. Supporters host pledging dinners in their homes with the support of the Foundation and get their friends to sign up to give regular donations to projects that defend and advance the rights and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. The dinners are personalized, intimate, and extra special with guest chefs and smart table arrangements – they can be customized to the hosts’ preference. This is a sociable way to build giving by LGBTI communities and their friends, especially in urban settings.

The campaign helps to build our diverse community. This is in line with the Other Foundation’s vision of being an African community foundation. The campaign aims to build up to raise R1 million a month. The ask is small so that everyone can participate in it: R1 a month from 1 million people. Many people do, of course, sign up to give more. Guests who come to a dinner are asked to do two main things: make a giving pledge, and host a similar A Million Ones dinner for their friends with the support of the Other Foundation.

Why did the Other Foundation start this campaign? 

Overseas financial support for the rights and wellbeing of LGBTI people in Africa is tricky because it is often seen as promoting a foreign agenda and way of life, sometimes unintentionally alienating African LGBTI people from their own societies. To avoid these harmful risks, it is necessary to build social giving in Africa to support LGBTI community organizations, research and advocacy groups in a more sustained and credible way, and at a larger scale. This will give a big boost to the movement for the rights and social inclusion of LGBTI people in Africa.

What is the current culture of giving in Africa? What challenges have you had to overcome?

A recent study on the New Narratives for African Philanthropy, commissioned by the African Grantmakers Network, revealed the following four categories of African philanthropic activities: (i) High net worth and institutional giving, which is private resources aimed at recipients beyond their immediate personal circle; (ii) Mobilized giving, whereby a range of givers contribute to address the needs of beneficiaries outside their immediate personal circle; (iii) In-kind service, which are donations of intangible efforts and non-financial resources (e.g. time); and (iv) Community-based giving, where a group of people mobilize resources to deal with a specific need within the community. Current trends show that Africans practice mostly the last two of these categories.

African philanthropy is largely informal and difficult to track, hence the lack of literature on it. Communities support initiatives that have a direct impact on their lives. Most givers are already practicing one-to-one giving supporting close family members and find it difficult to extend their resources to others outside their immediate group. This has resulted in an increase in communities coming together to support campaigns that address key human rights problems that affect them directly.

What have you learned from this campaign? 

These trends in African philanthropy show that communities support causes to which they feel connected. The public is keen on giving and supporting initiatives such as A Million Ones, and they want to stay engaged.  They would like to be kept informed on how their support is utilized. There’s also been large support and interest from all communities (including religious). Social media is a key catalyst to implement mass-based giving platforms such as A Million Ones.

To learn more about the Other Foundation or A Million Ones, visit their website or contact Shekeshe Mokgosi.

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