Towards innovative fundraising strategies for think tanks

29 May 2018

Fundraising remains a challenge for most organisations, and the need to explore innovative ways to remain sustainable and competitive is imperative. In this digital age, organisations are continuously exploring new approaches to fundraising to remain relevant in an increasingly dynamic landscape. Non-profits are no exemption from this pressure, as they continue to face multiple sustainability challenges. As non profits engaged in the production and dissemination of ideas to inform policies, think tanks are currently facing serious existential challenges which require innovative solutions.+ The challenges faced by think tanks come from both the demand-side and the supply-side of the market for ideas.

On the demand-side, policymakers- the ultimate users or audiences of the outputs of think tanks- are demanding less of the typical evidence-based research outputs that policy research centres are used to producing, and moving towards informal, shorter, and more interactive outputs. In Africa, the appetite for evidence among policymakers remains low and mainly influenced by ideological and political concerns. On the supply-side, think tanks are lagging behind in adopting innovative communications techniques that capture the interest of policymakers. In addition, scarcity of flexible funding and increased pressure to meet the requirements of donors and clients have created doubts on the objectivity of the outputs of think tanks. The donor behaviour since the global economic crisis of 2008 has narrowed spaces for funding, prompting increased competition among think tanks for available resources, sometimes at the expense of independence and objectivity.

How can think tanks reposition themselves and structure their operations to keep major funders interested in supporting them while limiting intellectual interference? The present document highlights a unique fundraising strategy developed by the fundraising team of Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa (CSEA).

While the Centre places emphasis on the production of high quality research, and on building sustainable relationship with other policy stakeholders, a well-defined resource mobilisation and fundraising strategy is required to provide guidance towards approaching targeted and potential funders.

Watch the video of a webinar with one of the authors:

This document is a part of the new OTT Best Practice Series. If you would like to submit a piece on best practice for research and policy institutes, please get in touch.