Category: Funding and Support

Grant Money Is Not Free Money

Communications 17 November 2021 0

By Lucy James Abagi

With the trend of diverse social issues plaguing the world, the development sector has witnessed  a steady rise of innovations including research and program designs. Existing organisations are looking for global solutions that are fundable and scalable for a diverse stream of donors whilst start-ups are struggling to match their innovations and ideas to a result-oriented framework which would attract big donors to support their grassroot efforts. International organisations and the donor community are seeking solutions that are people driven notwithstanding the area of available funding as sustainability is at the root of every funding ecosystem. 

After years of studying the donor ecosystem, framework, interest and program design, I thought to share some few guidelines that will support start-up organisations in accessing funding for their innovation and keeping investors satisfied.

Are you salivating yet? Let’s start with this key point – ‘Grant money is not free money!’

CODE’s Senior Programmes Manager, Lucy James Abagi at work on her computer

There are incredibly huge responsibilities that come with donor funds, and the need to sustain the relationships. As a startup, you must be deliberate and intentional in your approach, just as you must equally keep a business mindset. Of course, all donors are business investors with stern requirements to ensure every penny translates to sustainable, tangible impacts.

Now, let’s break down the process.

Conceptualization Level

The magic of resource mobilization rests solely on the power of ideation. The bulk of the work starts in reframing our thought process and thinking through different strategies that lead to a successful proposal. The thinking process, although very demanding, provides the pathway to synchronise an idea in line with the donor’s interest, mission, vision and resources. Personally, it takes me two – three weeks to conceptualize an idea. A lot of time needs to be invested into research, analysis and information gathering, as this helps answer the following questions about the problem you seek a solution for: “Is it a Novel, doable and affordable idea?” To answer this question, indepth research in line with your area of interest will further uncover diverse interventions carried out in your field and this will help mainstream your idea, identify gaps and provide a basement for your ideas to be adopted as an innovation amongst other existing platforms. 

The Big Question- Who can fund my idea?

This takes you into another aspect of research where you would need to answer some more questions around the available donors and fundings that tie to your ideas and scope. At this stage you also need to be sure that your idea can actually be funded by a specifically identified donor. Remember that, at the  conceptualization level, you should have been able to answer these questions: how much do I need for my idea? How much will my idea cost or what are the cost implications of my idea?  

When you answer these questions at the conceptualization level, you will  be able to identify funding ecosystems and donors that have the available resources that you need for your idea.  It is important to note that you may not get the total amount of money that you need for the execution of your ideas so you may need to break down your ideas into stages or phases based on available funding.   

Moreover, from my experience, most donors, especially if they have not worked with you before, would want to ensure that their risk analysis is within a controllable level. Hence, they may not fund a new or start-up organisation above $50,000-$100,000.  Every donor would want to be sure that they are putting their money in the right place with systems and strategies that can manage their resources to achieve expected outcomes or results.  Fundings received from any donor must be accounted for, as you are expected to show some level of transparency and accountability  in the utilisation of every penny received and spent. 

The Pencil Stage

Nothing is as frustrating as having a great idea but being deadpan when it comes to articulating it on paper – to attract funding. The act of writing a winning proposal comes with a clearly set up design that will stimulate the reader to fully assimilate and capture the idea of the writer and vividly understand laid out steps in achieving the result. 

I have witnessed good thinkers and speakers who can barely interpret their thoughts into a readable and clear format. Here is a quick look at the composition of my proposal team at Connected Development. Busayo Morakinyo (BOM), is my thinking partner, great thinker and public speaker who possesses good ideation and presentation skills. BOM helps to frame our thought process and present a short pitch of this idea to prospective donors. 

Kingsley Agu, comes with clear project implementation skills, he supervises the first draft of every proposal, giving a clear direction on the required steps to achieving the project goals. Other team members would always contribute in co-drafting, brainstorming, reviewing and setting the proposal in motion. 

Hamzat Lawal- Hamzy- is our partnership and network guru. Hamzy’s role demands using his network to ensure these ideas are presented and submitted to identified donors.  I am citing this here to paint the picture that a winning proposal demands teamwork. You need to build a composition of team members with multiple skills that will aid the smooth delivery of the proposal. Always keep in mind that a successful grant proposal is one that is carefully prepared, planned, and packaged. 

In my next series, I will go deeper into the act of proposal writing. I encourage  you to sign up for my class on Grant and Proposal Writing, as I will share more tips on writing a winning proposal.

CODE Holds Management Retreat to Enhance Corporate Vision

Communications 31 May 2021 0

CODE Holds Management Retreat to Enhance Corporate Vision

During its management retreat, CODE made deliberations and endorsed new policies to improve its internal structures and strengthen corporate vision.

The exercise, which held on Friday, May 21, 2021 during a four-day management and trustees meeting also witnessed the amendment and ratification of other relevant policies to realign with the mission of the organisation.

The assessment was conducted by the Lagos Business School (LBS), scrutinised the organisational structure including the relationship between the management and board members and reviewed corporate governance gaps and financial crisis that rocked the organisation in 2019, coupled with the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that shutdown many socio-economic activity globally in 2020.

Acting Board Chair, Anthony Agbor and CODE CEO, Hamzat Lawal

Papers were presented on the state and strategic plan of the organisation as well as the 21st century role of non-profit board of trustees and management towards organisational efficiency, productivity and social impact.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of CODE, Hamzat Lawal, while shedding light on some of these challenges that made his corporation to adopt the new policy, said the report revealed that there was need to reposition the corporate outlook of his establishment. “As much as we were excited about our work and we thought everything was fine,” Lawal said, “but that assessment and some of its key findings showed that we needed to fix some things if we have to scale-up and grow in our next phase.”

The group’s helmsman disclosed that the summit was organised to bring the management staffs and board members together to bond and brainstorm on how best to direct affairs of the organisation. He told the participants that the many setbacks that CODE faced in the past few years actually fortified and took the organisation to its current height of success and fulfilment.

“In 2019,” according to him, “we encountered serious governance issues and at that time for us we thought that would have been the end of our organisation because we were not operating with best practices.”

Management and Trustees during a presentation at the retreat

However, he clarified that with support from the LBS and commitment from board members who worked tirelessly in reshaping the organisational corporate policies, CODE was able to come back stronger with one of the best financial systems across the continent.

Acting chairman of the organisation, Anthony Agbor, while giving his remarks at the event, thanked the participants for their loyalty and commitment in engaging grass roots communities especially during the COVID-19 saga that almost crippled all human activities.

He urged the team to maintain its focus knowing that the future of Nigeria and the continent rest on the activities of the organisation. “We should not relent in our commitment to reach out to the grass roots and empower them to see reasons to rebuild the focus of this country and get us back on the part of glory,” Agbor submitted.

Broadening Impacts through Strategic Accountability Approaches

Chambers Umezulike 28 April 2017 0

[During one of our townhall meetings at Uratta Umuoha Community, Abia State – a key social accountability strategy through which we have enabled communities organize stakeholder engagements to facilitate the implementation of projects intended for them]

On the 11th of April 2017, the boardroom of MacArthur Foundation Nigeria was filled with several civil society actors on accountability, transparency and civic engagement. In attendance were over 30 representatives from domestic non-profits who are MacArthur grantees. They were there for a conversation with two accountability scholars, John Gaventa, and Walter Flores. An event in which staffers of MacArthur Foundation Headquarters joined virtually from the United States, the aim was to share ideas and have grantees move from tactical accountability approaches to more strategic approaches. As one of the representatives of Connected Development [CODE], I went in with several expectations which were met.

The conversation started with a presentation, Dancing the TAP Dance: Linking Transparency, Accountability and Participation, by Prof John Ganveta who teaches at the Institute of Development Studies, United Kingdom. He started with sharing key governance issues that led to the rise of accountability and transparency movement globally. Most of them encompass accountability deficit, democratic deficit and impecunious active citizen participation in governance. He then went on explaining how several tools such as ensuring service delivery, improving budgetary processes, ensuring open government, aid transparency and NGO accountability can be utilitarian in addressing these challenges. Addressing these challenges would consequently lead to better services through monitoring, improved democracy, reduced public service corruption, empowerment, human rights, greater access to information and challenging inequality.

Another presentation, Citizen-led Accountability: Power, Politics and Strategies, was by Dr Walter Flores of Center for the Study of Equity and Governance in Health Systems (CEGSS) who took time to share his organization’s works on accountability and challenging inequalities in Guatemala. He emphasised that the roles of transparency and accountability in curbing inequalities include turning citizens from passive to active users of services who can demand accountability from the government. According to him, when they started, they first of all started collecting data on how a particular faction of the society was being marginalized in getting services in drug stores and hospitals. The data was collected through sms, audio/visual evidence and they embarked on advocacy and engaged the government with such evidence for appropriate response. They also created channels of engagement for such citizens to discuss problems and implement solutions.

At a time, politics came into play and they were challenged by governmental authorities for not having the legitimacy to advocate for the communities. They then were forced to decentralize their operations to let citizens and communities lead it through their building capacities. Communities were then organized for monitoring. In a presentation in which he shared most of their successes, he finalized by stating that social accountability is crucial for accountability to work. And that in such work, it’s better to start with community organizing and rights literacy, while collective and participatory interventions, strategies and results are imperative.

After the phenomenal presentations were questions, comments and commitments from organizations present. In line with Dr Flores presentation, I made a remark on the effectiveness of his social accountability strategy which we use at CODE. At CODE, in tracking governmental expenditure in rural communities for service delivery, we start with rights literacy in the concerned communities and co-organize town hall meetings with their community leaders for conversation around the particular projects with implementing governmental agencies and contractors. The town hall meetings have helped to embed community ownership in our works and within the chain of our participatory strategies, communities are empowered to ensure these projects are implemented long after we have pulled out. Also in the same line, for sustainability, decentralization of our strategies and community ownership, we activated to mobilize young people in these communities to ensure governmental accountability themselves.

The conversation was quintessential and more of it are crucial with respect to capacity building of the civil society and sharing of ideas.


Chambers Umezulike is a Programme Manager at Connected Development and a Development Expert. He spends most of his time writing and choreographing researches on good and economic governance. He tweets via @Prof_Umezulike.

Engaging Legislators on #MakeNaijaStronger Campaign

Ijeoma 5 December 2016 3

Connected Development [CODE] in partnership with ONE Campaign and The League of Progressive Ambassadors of Nigeria (LEPAN) organized a one week outreach to engage legislators on the #MakeNaijaStronger campaign which is a national health campaign to draw attention to the urgent need for increased public investments to improve health and nutrition outcomes in Nigeria. The Campaign amplifies the calls of various Nigerian organizations that have called on government to priorities increased health investments to help strengthen health systems and save lives.

The aim of the outreach was to get the legislators to sign the petition which calls on the government needs to ensure full implementation of the National Health Act, including more resources and better spending to ensure all Nigerians, including the poorest are able to access health care.

The National Health Act was signed into law by the president on December 9, 2014 with the aim to establish a framework for the regulation, development and management of a National Health System, to set standards for rendering health services in the Federation and other matters concerned, it also provides that there would be improved funding of health care services at the grass root so that people don’t have to travel far to access medical services.  This Act will also ensure that states participate in improving health centers through a counterpart fund that would enable them benefit from the consolidated funds.


Getting the legislators to sign the petition was not an easy ride as most of them could not be found at their offices. Those that were around were apprehensive and bluntly refused to append their signature, while some will verbally support the cause and refuse to sign the petition. We also understood that it was a very difficult time for them as previously they just experienced a total blockade of the complex by an aggrieved group and therefore there was little acceptance given to advocacy groups at the moment. Notwithstanding a total of 84 petitions were signed by the legislators.

This shows that 34 distinguished senators and 50 Honourable members are also joining CODE, ONE Campaign, LEPAN and the Nigerian citizens to call on the Government to fully fund the National Health Acts and its provisions, Increase transparency in health programming and spending and also scale up investments in the 2017 budget for areas that can have the greatest health impact for Nigerian citizens in other to #MakeNaijaStronger

CODE :The Future We See through Follow The Money Newsroom.

Hamzat Lawal 19 July 2016 11

A non-governmental organisation Follow The Money, an initiative of Connected Development (CODE)Connected Development (CODE) is set to launch “Virtual Newsroom.

The products from the Virtual Newsroom is set to further engage and empower more marginalized people in rural communities to enhance their livelihoods.

DOTUNSpeaking at an In-house training organised by CODE, the monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Oludotun Babayemi said Follow The Money is planning  a virtual newsroom that will run 24 hours – several times in a month with the objective of strengthening the voice of 95 million Nigerians leaving in rural communities in Nigeria, while increasing their participation in governance.

He said it’s important to have a participatory kind of discussion on how the newsroom is meant to look like, who’s doing what and create a larger workflow other than the one we have been using.

“We are talking about a newsroom that has over 60 reporters reporting into it from remote places. This means we need a robust, scalable and efficient framework other than the one we were using before. We thought it will be good to have a meeting to deliberate, discuss, make comments and suggestions about how the newsroom is meant to look like and also decide on the future of Follow The money,”he said.

The Monitoring and Evaluation officer, said Follow the Money is always motivated by stories from rural communities, which never gets into the mainstream media, adding that  every time there is a visit , they hear about new stories, not just for the success alone but of  failures of communities that are still ailing other than the ones that  are focused on.

He added that it is always motivating  that the group  can do more and  can have more people to do more.

“We are looking at the massive strength in the young people that we have, we can engage more of them and we can also have more communities that will be proactively vigilant in ensuring transparency and accountability of funds meant for their communities as well. These are the motivation for Follow The Money,” he said.

Speaking on the challenges, Babayemi said the challenges the movement  might face is keeping that of  retaining human resources and availability of financial resources

“Some people might leave at some point  because  we can’t bring in 60-75 people and expect them to only be focused on our mission and goal. Some people would think of something else such as thinking of another movement from there. Both are the critical challenges we are looking forward to as we move on.,”he said

He further called on the general public to be on the lookout for new radio programs that will come up especially Follow the Money radio, adding that radio is what people in the rural communities rely on to get information.

Mr. Babayemi explained that Follow the Money radio will be used in increasing rural community participation on governance as it concerns implementation of funds meant for capital projects in their communities l.

“ They should look out for some of our bulletins and prints that we would want to share with them on the money we are following and money for the community and also on what the government is saying about such money should be something interesting the communities should be looking forward to,”he said.

Well in the next 15  years, the vision will be to see the present 95 million Nigerians living in rural communities listening and engaging their leaders through the Follow the Money Radio, likewise, seeing 50%  of that population sending in feedback to Follow the Money via SMS and our various online portal. Mr Babayemi noted

He said these target audience  could also be able to read about  Follow the Money In  online and offline bulletins or magazines.

“In essence, seeing  Follow the Money as a community mechanism where they can also read about their own community, and get their voices amplified is the future we see through Follow the Money and I hope that we will be able to achieve that,” he said.




Sustainaware: CODE, YEN Synergise to promote Project #SwitchBags in Zambia and Subsaharan Africa

Hamzat Lawal 4 June 2016 4

Leading Youth Organisations in Africa such as Connected Development (CODE) in Nigeria, Youth Environment Network (YEN) in Zambia as well as other youth organisation in Malawi, Zero Waste Centre for Africa and No Excuse in Slovenia have agreed to synergise in the fight to save our planet earth by signing up to promote ‘Project #SwitchBags’, a campaign on the ban on single-use of plastic bags in Zambia and Sub-Saharan Africa. The urge to synergise in saving our planet earth became imperative at the last Sustainaware Regional Partners Meetings (RPM-Africa) in Lusaka, Zambia. The meeting which was scheduled to be a two-day roundtable meeting on Global Partnership towards attaining speedy implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at various countries of Africa and other Europe, Asia and across the globe, which is part of the objectives Sustainaware seeks to achieve, gave African youths opportunity for dialogue on the action plan towards addressing myriad of challenges confronting the continent.

Project Coordinator for #SwitchBags, Luwi Nguluka while speaking during her presentation at the meeting said the campaign also seeks to educate people across the globe on the hazardous impacts of plastics waste (non bio degradable) to our immediate environment, with the intention to ultimately cause reduction in the use of plastics bags that are non-bio-degradable and encourage the use of biodegradable bags.

Tomaz Gorenc, Sustainaware Coordinator and Team Lead for No Excuse, a youth campaign organisation based in Slovenia, who applauded this initiative coming from young people in Africa said “the impacts of young people would never be felt until platforms and opportunities for global partnership such as Sustainaware are being made available to them”. He added that the Sustainaware project having being funded by the European Union (EU) has, in the last five years focused on how young people across the globe can be the agents of change within their various continents by providing solutions to emerging challenges in the 21st Century.

Hamzat Lawal during his presentation on SDGs

Hamzat Lawal during his presentation on SDGs

Billy Lombe, Founder and CEO of YEN said, YEN has since its inception single-handedly led several campaigns on environmental sustainability, Gender Equality and Human Rights issues in Zambia. “YEN has a mandate to mainstream Gender Equality and women empowerment in all programmes and projects”. He alluded further that YEN workds to uphold this mandate: facilitating inclusive development, catalysing the achievements of the SDGs.

Chief Executive, CODE, Hamzat Lawal who made an excellent presentation on SDGs highlighted the roles of the youths towards actualising each goal. He said the role of young people cannnot be overemphasised in the implementation of SDGs whether in Africa or Europe.  “ it is our future and until we realize the need to work in partnership, we may never be able to achieve much” citing several impacts of Follow The Money and other CODE’s projects in Nigeria as major contributions any youth organisation could offer its country.

#WaterBachaka: Bachaka, Still a Shadow of itself in the hands of GGW Agency

Hamzat Lawal 27 May 2016 0

Sequel to our past findings and reports on the challenges militating against the #WaterBachaka, Follow The Money (Bikudi) Team once again visited Bachaka community to engage the people on the progress so far and whether GGW Agency has eventually looked into the issue of inadequate provision of Water for the dry crops and Orchards within their community. The responses we got from them were documented below:

The Head of the community who is also the Maiyaki of Bachaka Community spoke us first. “We are just waiting for them to complete what they started, they came callings on us to make the GGW project a success by getting our women and youth involved, yet they are the ones that have messed up the project themselves because most of the trees and plants in the Orchard are dying off due to unavailability of water source to wet them”. he explained.

Alhaji Barmu Liman, Head of Farmer in Bachaka bore his mind on the plight of GGW water project, “I even persuaded my wife to support the project since inception when they came. During the launching they brought two tractors that have tank for watering the Orchard, when the Orchard were at still nursery stage. But after sometimes we didn’t see them again. We later discovered that those tractors are still within a nearby community close to Bachaka. They have been abandoned there, he explained.

Speaking as the head of farmers in Bachaka, he said their annual yields and farm produce have dropped since they do not have water to support their plants and crops. “we have to wait for raining season for us to plant any crop because without adequate water supply they might dry up” he affirmed.

“Myself and other women within the community were given some portion of the Orchard which consist of varieties of plants at the nursery stages such as oranges, watermelons, mangoes, tomatoes, Dongoyaro trees to wet and nurture till they grow big, but they have refused to build more water sources to ensure the success of these project. They promised us that we wont lack water to wet those Orchards since there would be several water sources for us, till now we are yet to see those water sources” said Hajia Hauwa Barmu Liman.

She added that Bachaka women suffer to access potable water on daily basis, we have to spend more than N1,500 monthly to buy water. Our fear is what if the only borehole we fetch water from suddenly pack up what will become our fate?, she lamented.

Hajia Barmu Liman, Bachaka Women Leader

Hajia Barmu Liman, Bachaka Women Leader

GGW Local Supervisor in Bachaka, Yayah Mohammed in his comment said, GGW States Representatives had come with good intention at the beginning but refused complete it. “We were given quite a lot of assignment to do but they wouldn’t compensate us” They promised to provide us with accommodation close these Orchards for effective and proper monitoring, they are yet fulfill it. he affirmed.

Saliu, who is an unskilled labourer, has a different story to tell, he said, himself and other community youth were employed as labourers and as securities at the commencement of the project, but they have not paid their entitlement and wages till now.

We are appealing to the National Agency for Great Green Wall in Kebbi State, to come and fulfill their promise to Bachaka, and also to save these Orchard from drying up” Currently the only source of water is solar powered water tank which is not enough to cater for these Orchards, another major barrier is transporting the water to Orchards to the nearby communities to wet the plantations. No vehicle is available to do this said Salihu, APC chairman Bachaka Community.


Having engaged the Bachaka community previously to know the efforts that GGW Agency in Kebbi state has made towards reviving the dead Water Sources for the GGW projects within their community, we further engaged the major stakeholders of the GGW projects in meeting at Modiyawa Hotel in Birni Kebbi on the 25th May 2016. The meeting commenced exactly 10am. We had representatives from Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Water Resources, more than five representatives from Bachaka Community and Media houses such as Kebbi TV and NTA Kebbi.

The stakeholders meeting was interactive session aimed at getting the Kebbi State GGW Representatives to interface with people of Bachaka and also to suggest possible way out.  Engr. Aminu Umar from Kebbi State Ministry of Water Resources, who gave vivid explanation of the involvement of Kebbi State Ministry of Water Resources in GGW project. “Ministry of Water Resources was never part of GGW project we only came in to help built borehole and  water Tank for the project at the initial stage of the GGW project, which we later got compensation from GGW” In other words, we were paid back the money spent in building the borehole at Bachaka Community.

When asked whether he is aware of the condition of borehole, he said, he knew the borehole got spolit later when the GGW project began, “Initially, it was built and powered by solar but some unscrupulous people stole the solar panel, till now we couldn’t find the culprit. In spite of this we were able to provide them with small generator which they to pump the water for use, yet they refuse to fuel it.

Representative from the Ministry of Environment, Alhaji Umar B. Diggi, he is the Head of Forestry and also double as the Spokesperson for GGW project in Kebbi State, commenting on the issues of #WaterBachaka, “We knew from the outset of this project that such incidence of vandalism and theft may occur that was why we made the project a community owned project, giving them sense of belonging in GGW project,”

When asked the efforts of GGW to revive the water source, he said, “I want you to know that GGW doesn’t have an office in Kebbi, it is just a programme that is being run under Ministry of Environment, so there are still many challenges confronting this project, “There is institutional challenge for GGW project in Nigeria”. Although GGW is gradually becoming an Agency on its own, despite this, at state level we are still struggling.

He also gave some spending analysis on 10 million Naira that was released for the project in Kebbi state. He said the money were divided according to the communities that are beneficiaries of the GGW project. “We did water projects in several other communites in 2 Local Governments, namely:(Arewa LGA) which includes Koro Ango, Bachaka and Tsulawa; (Dandi LGA) which include Agwa Hassan and Tukuruwa amongst others.

Diggi stated further that there are plans on the part of the Federal Government to collaborate with the 11 frontlines states in the North where GGW project is ongoing. “There is a deliberation on the collaboration between the 11 states involved and National Agency GGW for counterpart funding agreement, albeit yet to implemented still in the pipeline” We are hoping that this collaboration yield good results he said.

Boiling with anger, Head of Women in Bachaka, Hajia Barmu Liman, asked the State Ministries in Hausa what have they been using the funds meant for the GGW for? “What have you been using all the money government has been releasing for GGW for? Who is eating the money? We cannot continue to use our money to fuel the generator after giving our lands to support the GGW projects” She said.

There was an intense interactive session between the people of Bachaka and State Ministries Representatives, however they recommend that People of Bachaka could form a committee that would manage the borehole and Water Tank by raising funds to buy fuel to power the generator to pump water temporarily, pending the state government and possibly GGW Agency’s intervention.

Regarding the non-payment of securities and labourers they said they have disengaged them temporarily because of the issue of funding. And promised to pay them as soon as it is resolved.