Funding Partnerships for Advocacy in Malawi with Bessie Ndovi | Ep 5

Season #2

Today’s conversation is with Bessie Ndovi, who is one of four senior regional advisors from the Scaling Up Nutrition Civil Society Network. 

Bessie is based in Malawi and from there is supporting civil society organisations in 15 countries across East and Southern Africa. 

Now, advocacy work is a really hard thing to fundraise for: 

  • it's inherently political
  • it's difficult to measure
  • it can cause friction between partners, and 
  • it takes a long time to demonstrate the impact of advocacy funding which means that it stretches beyond the traditional funding horizons of most donors. 

But Bessie, knowing this, raised the funding to build and sustain an independent civil society organisation in Malawi that grew to ten members of staff within five years. 

During our conversation, Bessie  shares how she did this and sets out clear and simple steps that anyone else can follow to build trust and position for major funding partnerships.

Some of the key points from my discussion with Bessie include:

  • the importance of positioning, of being visible and discoverable
  • the dominance and decline of institutional funding on the operation and cultures of civil society organisations in Africa, so often the only viable option for civil society organisations in Africa
  • the vast barriers that civil society organisations in Africa face when trying to prove themselves worthy to receive northern funding
  • the starting assumption of suspicion from northern institutions that is still grounded in colonial and white supremacist views of Africa and African civil society
  • small, under resourced organisations have to micromanage every part of their work and demonstrate excellence in communications, partnerships, governance, financial management before they even receive funding

I know you’ll enjoy hearing and learning  from Bessie’s inspirational conversation today.

For  more detailed reflections on this conversation with Bessie, head to our blog which can be accessed via the website at

Resources and links mentioned in this episode:


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. 

This podcast has been made possible by the Scaling Up Nutrition Civil Society Network, Care International, the Ashmore Foundation, and our growing community of strategic partners.

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