A group of adults stands smiling next to a wall covered in signs
The team at AgriBioTech

OMG Funding!

Segal Family Foundation

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By Sylvia K. Ilahuka, Communications Officer

Yes, there is cause for excitement when talking about multiyear general operating dollars — MYGOD. Think of the benefits of receiving a salary instead of a wage: it’s reliable, makes it easier for one to plan long-term personal finances, and consequently guarantees a certain peace of mind. For many similar reasons, MYGOD is the sensible thing for donors to do. It’s also the kinder approach to grantmaking. Since 2021, the majority of Segal Family Foundation’s established grant relationships have been multiyear, which is based on our values of Trust and Fighting for Fairness. In giving grantee partners assured funding over an extended period, we are saying that we trust that they are going to keep doing what they do well; in a world where donor monies are difficult for African organizations to come by, it’s also a move towards fairness by leveling the philanthropic playing field.

AgriBioTech director Merida Smuts describes multiyear grants as “the bread and butter that frees you up to go look for jam.” Where donors typically have particular stipulations, these open-ended grants allow organizations to do what needs to be done — like covering overhead costs, which are often excluded from acceptable funding usage. They may seem minor but are actually important, because so much time is spent writing proposals to secure overhead funding instead of doing the main work. Multiyear funding also gives social impact leaders confidence to plan for longer programmatic activities knowing that the money will be there. For the South Africa-based AgriBioTech, whose first grant came as a handwritten check from Segal Family Foundation founder Barry Segal, non-prescriptive funding has made it possible to have a real impact. In Smuts’ words, the consistency of MYGOD allows for better annual planning and the ability to say, “You know what, we’ve got that covered.” And then to identify what’s not covered and look for that elsewhere.

Workers prepare food in an industrial kitchen
Food for Education has experienced rapid growth.

Over in Kenya, Segal Family Foundation was an early funder of Food for Education. Fundraising lead Liviya David joined Food for Education two years ago, at which time about 33,000 children were being fed through the program; today they feed 300,000. Growth has been rapid and, per David, would not have been possible without flexible multiyear grants. The funding structure has allowed the organization to focus on strategic hiring and to be quick on their feet; nonprofits go through a lot of change, and guaranteed funding provides muscle to face those changes head on. “It’s given us a lot of peace of mind,” David said. These sentiments are echoed by Angela Ilomo, acting director of RLabs Tanzania, who says that multiyear grants “feel like we’ve got someone in our corner.” According to Ilomo, MYGOD is “incredible” and has allowed for freer thinking about all aspects of the organization, making it easier to test models and aim for scale while still covering overhead costs. Prior to becoming Segal Family Foundation grantee partners in 2020 (which has consequently paved the way for other donors), most of the team had been working in a volunteer capacity. Having this funding brought a security that has given them confidence to refine what they do and expand — and license to get creative. Given how it can take up to a year or longer to secure funding from a prospective donor, multiyear grants relieve the burden of waiting and allow for operations to continue even as other funding sources continue to be sought out.

Three African adults smile happily at the camera together
The team at RLabs

As a grantmaker, the value of multiyear unrestricted funding is also evident from our side of the relationship. Virgile Bahujimihigo, one of our senior program officers, points out that many smaller nonprofits have their staff on one-year contracts; with MYGOD, they can secure staff commitment for longer periods, which tends to improve the quality of programming because the team can focus on work and worry less about survival. It also helps with leveraging other funders, who tend to support organizations that can show long-term investment from prior sources. Bahujimihigo gave the example of Grace Initiative in Kenya, training teachers who later end up being hired elsewhere by institutions that can offer longer contracts. Multiyear funding has made it possible for Grace Initiative to pay their teachers better and invest in specialized staff roles such as monitoring and evaluation — which has enabled better data collection and analysis, allowing the organization to carry out targeted fundraising efforts. Oh MYGOD, what’s not to love? To our peer funders, we do understand that transitioning to multiyear funding can feel daunting; talk to our Equitable Giving team for how and why Segal Family Foundation made the transition.

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Segal Family Foundation

Social impact funder and advisor building a network of visionary local leaders and global donors to advance positive change in Africa