Branding and fundraising are both of crucial importance for the sustainability of NGOs. Through strong branding NGOs ensure that their stakeholders feel involved and committed to their organization and its activities. But what if your NGO focusses its activities on people who have a ‘lower level of cuddliness’? This is a particular challenge for Mainline’s Asian partners Laras Indonesia, Youth Vision Nepal and Nai Zindagi Pakistan, all three partners in the Bridging the Gaps project for People who Use Drugs. Led by Nai Zindagi and Mainline, they have joined forces and developed a road map towards optimal branding and fundraising of their organizations. An interview with Mr Tariq Zafar (Nai Zindagi, Pakistan) about this collaboration.

What makes branding so important for organisations such as Laras, Nai Zindagi and Youth Vision?

Our organisations offer lifesaving services to people living with and vulnerable to HIV, including sex workers and people who use drugs. In order to sustain these we need to shift from a ‘charity mode’ to a ‘business mode’, with resources from the corporate sector and community rather than sole dependency on donors.

How do the key populations that you represent benefit from good branding and fundraising strategy of your organization?

People who use drugs, sex workers and particularly the ones living with HIV face high levels of stigma and discrimination in our countries. Creating more visibility about their issues and needs is crucial to increase accountability from the general population and to encourage them to come forward with support (through employment, resources, skills training, etc.).

What are the challenges that you come across in terms of fundraising?

Organizations such as ours have been too long solely dependent on donor support and fear venturing into the corporate sector or general community. Our beneficiaries are often considered as ‘less deserving’ compared to for example street children or abused women. This represents a difficult sell to the corporate sector and general community. Moreover, some businesses would not want to associate themselves with this segment of society and would not support harm reduction thinking it may be linked with promoting drug use. Therefore, educating the corporate sector and general communities is a must.

There is no need to re-invent the wheel if it is already invented – of course we can all improve upon it

For this project you visited partner organisations in Nepal and Indonesia. How did you experience this?

We all agreed that it was needed to work on our branding and fundraising strategies. It was nice to see that Youth Vision and Laras were so open and ready for jointly exploring new ideas to improve their current image and vision.  It would be very helpful if the branding project could be further linked up with organizations that have managed to establish a good image and mobilized resources from the corporate and general community. There is no need to re-invent the wheel if it is already invented – of course we can all improve upon it.

Will you continue to follow up with each other on your branding and fundraising strategies? What are the next steps?

Our first findings are pulled together in a branding report ‘A new vision on Change’.  In July there will be a meeting to reach consensus on this. After that, we will develop a one year work plan and get started in terms of improving our image, renewing our logos and establishing our websites.