The challenges of donors'
requirements, and small
income-generating initiatives

Priscilla (she, her, hers)
Youth Harvest Foundation, Ghana

This story is part of ‘Resourcing youth-led groups and movements: a reflective playbook for donors and youth organisers.’ You may listen to and/or read Priscilla's story down below or jump to the proposed exercises for donors or to those for youth-led groups and movements.

Priscilla is the executive director of Youth Harvest Foundation Ghana (YHFG), a youth organisation in the Upper East Region of Ghana that supports young people’s personal and professional empowerment. The organisation has existed for 17 years and has established a good track record, particularly on supporting young women and providing education on sexual and reproductive rights.

A year ago, Priscilla stepped in as YHFG’s new director. In this story she speaks about the organisation’s resourcing strategy and shares her thoughts about the future of its sustainability.

You may also listen to and share this story on SoundCloud and YouTube

Priscilla shares how it feels to have donor restrictions on asset usage

Over the years, my predecessor learned how to negotiate our specific needs and establish open relationships with donors. We still have some challenges. To me some situations are very frustrating

For example, recently, we have been able to acquire a car as part of a project with a multilateral donor. This has been very helpful given that we work in rural areas, where access to transport is limited.

A local youth group that we have been supporting and collaborating with has voluntarily offered to organise regular women’s circles around reproductive health in a remote community in an underserved rural area. The girls in the local community would benefit greatly from having this space of reflection. The youth group is also really excited about the prospect of gaining experience and connecting with a community that is five hours away. The group has asked us to help cover transportation costs and have offered to pay for fuel if we make the car available. The problem is that the donor does not allow the car to be used for projects other than the ones they are sponsoring.

Youth-led groups and movements report that they frequently struggle with the prohibitive restrictions that come along with access to grant money.

I have not been able to negotiate with the donor. Their argument is that if we use it for other projects, the vehicle may break down within a shorter timeframe and therefore increase the cost of maintenance before the completion of the project cycle.

I don’t know how to manage the situation because I do not have any unrestricted funding in the budget. We have a car, and we can’t use it.

YHFG is taking small initiatives to generate resources

Ninety-five per cent of the work that we do is through grants. All the grants are project specific; we have not managed to obtain any core funding yet. I think that in the future access to grants will become even more unreliable. Our team and board has been thinking about how to increase the amount of resources that we can self-generate. It’s not easy though, especially when working in a rural area where people have little income. Here are some of our experiments so far:

A computer centre and a cafe

We have recently opened a cafe where we sell natural fruit smoothies. A few years ago, we managed to accommodate a computer centre to provide internet access in the rural area. We recently got funding to refurbish it to have faster internet connection and a printer. People walk in and can use computers in exchange for a small fee. These two initiatives generate a small income for the organisation and offer a service to the community at an accessible fee.

Youth centre

We manage a girls’ remedial school that hosts up to 50 girls who are given six months’ remedial tuition in order for them to rewrite their senior high school exams. These are girls from deprived rural areas who would have otherwise been unable to further their education due to their inability to pass some of their subjects. We provide access to teachers, educational material, meals and some sanitary products.

We have had a foreign partner to fund the centre, but this year they told us they did not have funds to support it. The communication was good: they told us that they needed one year to fundraise themselves and will then go back to supporting the centre next year. Nevertheless, it made us aware of our dependence on donors.

We are implementing some strategies in the hope of making the centre more
self-sustaining. For example, we have an alumni network. We organise a day each year when past beneficiaries of the programme meet with other girls to share their experience. Our graduates get a chance to reflect on their journey, and the young girls get inspired.

We hope that one day these girls will be very successful and will be willing and able to help us sustain the centre.

Exercises for donors, allies and enablers

Do you provide core funding?

Do you provide core funding?
Great! Whom is it made available to? Are youth-led groups/movements eligible if they are not legally registered?
If you plan to provide core funding for a fixed period, do you have an exit strategy?
If you don’t provide core funding, what are the reasons behind it? Have these reasons been re-thought in light of the sustainability challenges of youth-led groups and movements?

Thinking beyond grants

YHFG is becoming aware they need to think beyond grants, but they are not able to sustain their work with the income-generating activities they have launched. How could you support youth-led organisations to become more sustainable?

Prepare some questions you could ask YHFG to find out what would be most useful to them.

How restrictive are your conditions?

Review and question your grant restrictions. Are these restrictions having real-life consequences that are unreasonable? If so, what would it take to amend or rethink such restrictions?

Exercises for youth-led groups and movements

Building long-term relationships

For Priscilla, organising alumni events is a way to keep nourishing the relationships that the organisation has with the people who have passed through their youth centre. By keeping them engaged with the future of the youth centre, they also hope one day to convert them into supporters and donors.

Make a list of any allies for your work, including past participants and partner organisations, that you could engage with more meaningfully. What do you have to offer to them? How could your relationship transform over time?

Create a map of the best and worst donor relationships you’ve ever had. What did they do? What did you do?

Best relationship we ever had with a donor
What we did
What the donor did
Worst relationship we ever had with a donor
What we did
What the donor did

Did you do some of the exercises above? How did the story of Elena inspire you to view your role as a donor or youth organiser differently? You can let us know your thoughts by writing to us at

These and other exercises and stories are also available in the pdf version of ‘Resourcing youth-led groups and movements: a reflective playbook for donors and youth organisers.’