Get It Right First Time When Fundraising Across Africa with Dr Lilian Mabonga | Ep 3

Season #1

Today's conversation is with Lillian Mabonga, MBA, who is the straight talking Regional Grant Specialist in Africa. She works for Living Water International, the US faith based nonprofit that works in the field of "WASH". That's international development speak for programmes that work with communities in the areas of water, sanitation, and hygiene. 

Now, I first met Lillian when we were co-presenting a session at a virtual conference on fundraising across borders, during which she talked about her love of studying and collecting qualifications. 

Lillian was originally a civil engineer. She started her career in project management, working on a multibillion dollar project to upgrade the infrastructure of Kenya's main port. Now, she's currently adding a development Studies PhD to her MBA and many other qualifications. Her research is focused on COVID-19 vaccination uptake amongst pregnant women in Kenya. 

Now, Lillian has a wealth of experience in fundraising and delivering grant income, and this is blended with a strategic and project management mindset. She deeply understands the role of visibility and careful positioning that increases the likelihood of organizations like Living Water in Kenya and across Africa, of getting funded. 

Lillian always offers practical insight into how to build and deliver high quality, solidly funded programmes, and she always keeps it real about the tactics, the practical, real life tactics that organizations can use to be visible and successful in building these partnerships with global institutions. 

Today's conversation takes place during the recently imposed curfew following the political riots in Kenya, and Lilian talks about the challenges of managing donor visits of Burkina Faso, for example, after two recent military coups.

These illustrate that political violence is another contextual challenge that fundraising organisations based in many countries in the global south and their donors that support them must navigate together, and the additional challenges this adds to donor visits and day to day programme delivery. 

In this episode we talked about

  • Lilian’s clear guidance that "random proposals rarely get funded" and "as a fundraiser, keep your word" and, when it comes to donor stewardship "do it right first time".
  • The challenges of fundraising and learning from our mistakes
  • Working with donors that are mission aligned
  • The importance of understanding and considering the whole costs of programmes
  • How working better and smarter with the types of donors you already work with rather than pushing to diversify to new types of donors
  • Making it as easy as possible for donors to fund you and to ensure that they can continue funding you


Resources and links mentioned in this episode:

Living Water International

Find Lilian on LinkedIn


I hope you've enjoyed listening to this episode of the Fundraising Radicals podcast and that this conversation has challenged, informed, and maybe even inspired you and your fundraising leadership practice. 

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