Ways to Boost Donor Participation for the Ethiopian Diaspora Trust Fund

Advisory council members of the Ethiopian Diaspora Trust Fund during a press conference at the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, DC on Saturday, December 1st, 2018. (Photo by Matt Andrea/Tadias)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: December 17th, 2018

New York (TADIAS) – Under the ideal fundraising projection scenario if the majority of Ethiopians in the Diaspora, estimated to be around 2 million, were to be persuaded to give $1 a day ($365 a year) Ethiopia could easily bring in more than half a billion dollars annually to make a real and lasting impact in the country. Of course fundraising rarely works out according to the perfect predictions and expectations, but as the American author Norman Vincent Peale says it’s best to “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

So far the recently established Ethiopian Diaspora Trust Fund (EDTF), which officially started accepting donations this past October, has done an excellent job of setting up its basic organizational structure, which includes bylaws, an official website, guidance and information for the formation of local chapters, as well as work towards greater transparency when it comes to fund allocation and the fulfillment of other legally required obligations. In a short period of time, EDTF funds have reached the $500,000 threshold with donations from approximately 3,000 individuals, which is half of EDTF’s stated goal of raising one million by the end of 2018. Although their fundraising numbers are not as high as the initial predictions, there is plenty of room for greater civic engagement that is truly one-of-a-kind among the Ethiopian Diaspora.

We believe that the potential and capacity of the larger Ethiopian Diaspora community is waiting to be tapped and suggest that more grassroots efforts to engage individuals through civic engagement activities would help boost efforts to increase donor participation. There are excellent community-based examples of grassroots events that we can reflect on as EDTF moves forward in achieving its goals. In essence, individuals need to feel involved in more ways than one to feel more connected not just to a cause but to its successful implementation.

Below are a few from both the Ethiopian American Diaspora as well as from well-known global initiatives that may be worth learning from:

Tesfa Ineste Campaign – this grassroots campaign chaired by Ms. Abaynesh Asrat collaborated with the Hamlin Fistula USA Foundation to help raise $300,000 to fully finance the building and opening of a hospital in Harar as well as launch one of Ethiopia’s first program for midwife education to further prevent fistula cases. The Tesfa Ineste committee was instrumental in raising 66% of this funding from individual Ethiopians through a social media campaign and a dinner with committee members recruiting friends and supporters across the United States to participate.

Artists for Charity, which was launched by Ethiopian American Abezash Tamerat and until recently hosted annual art auctions, was an impressive social activism model that engaged artists, health experts, and community volunteers to help launch and run one of Ethiopia’s first home for children who were HIV-positive and orphaned.

On the global front, intimate gatherings with global social media outreach such as “Night of a Thousand Dinners” has helped fund programs from landmine removals to support for refugee education. The program entails hosting an intimate dinner for friends and family who donate funds that are then contributed to a campaign. It may sound like a small and simple concept, but when multiplied across the globe the impact is tremendous. Other human rights-focused non-profits like Amnesty International have always encouraged their donors to not only pay membership dues but likewise to be part of their urgent action network and write for rights campaigns where volunteers go off-line to volunteer their time and effort in initiatives that help them to connect to the individuals they are standing up for.

Providing a space for dialogue, events, mixers and forums is a great way to boost the Ethiopian Diaspora’s sense of ownership in the success of EDTF regardless of political or social affiliations. As Ethiopians in the Diaspora we can all agree that participation in causes that provide more access to clean water, education, and the empowerment of our peers is valuable and meaningful. EDTF has announced that they plan to start providing funds to social causes once they hit the 1 million dollar mark. Let’s increase civic engagement off-line to help us get beyond that number and more closer to the original prediction!

Few Takeaways From EDTF Press Conference at Ethiopian Embassy in DC
Interview: Dr. Lemma Senbet on the Diaspora Trust Fund & Chapter Formation
Interview with Dr. Bisrat Aklilu About the Ethiopian Diaspora Trust Fund
A Diaspora Trust Fund for Ethiopia (Tadias Editorial/July 10th, 2018)

You can learn more about the fund and contribute at ethiopiatrustfund.org.

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