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Lessons in survival from the sport for development sector

Author: Steve Fleming

Lessons in survival from the sport for development sector

Through the new RAFT support programme, Steve Fleming shares innovative solutions from the sport for development sector, as organizations respond to the impact of COVID-19.

When the impact of the pandemic started to hit hard in March, it did feel a bit like being thrown into turbulent white waters without a lifejacket. At Kick4Life we were faced with the immediate cessation of our programmes and the closure of our hospitality social enterprises, losing 25% of our regular income overnight. Would our funders stand by scheduled payments if we could no longer deliver as planned, how would we fill funding gaps from events that could no longer happen? What's more, we had no idea how long the river was, nor where it was headed. This was sink or swim, and like sport for development organisations around the world, we started to kick.

We acted on instinct, only later realising that we had begun working through a process. First, we looked at where savings could be made and negotiated with some of our suppliers to reduce costs. This included cutting our internet bill to reflect a dramatic fall in usage, and returning some hired equipment that wouldn't be needed for the next six months (at least). 

We also started to think about how we could adapt our programmes so that we could fulfil our grants in a different way - eventually leading to some animations which will continue to complement our work when on-field programming resumes. 

We explored new ways to fundraise, applying for emergency grants where possible and changing approaches, such as moving our upcoming annual gala in New York City to an online event. And we didn’t lose focus on trade, using the time to make improvements to our social enterprise infrastructure and systems so that eventually we can come back stronger.

It has not been easy, and there is still great uncertainty ahead, but through that process we had built a RAFT, and were no longer thrashing about in the water.

Over the last two months, in partnership with Common Goal, streetfootballworld and the Sport for Good Response Fund led by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and Beyond Sport, we have created a RAFT tool through which we have begun supporting 14 sport for development organizations across the world, through a structured process designed to help them move from survival mode to diverse and robust long-term financial sustainability.

Every project has faced a unique set of challenges particular to their environment, structure and funding balance, but all have found innovative ways of responding to an unprecedented crisis - protecting their organization's existence and doing what they can in extremely challenging circumstances to look after their staff and continue serving their participants, who are now more vulnerable than ever.

I've been inspired by the resilience of our sector. There is Angaza in Kenya, who have created a new programme to provide the local community with masks and hand sanitisers. Future Stars in Tanzania has been delivering food parcels to participants, and IDYDC, in the same country, is taking the opportunity to work towards a guesthouse social enterprise. In Ukraine, the League of Tolerance is creating online sessions to promote exercise and entrepreneurship. Free to Run is staging virtual events to replace planned fundraising activities to support programmes in Afghanistan. Moving the Goalposts in Kenya is revisiting their future strategy and developing social enterprise plans. Pure Game in the USA has been finding new ways to reach young people and fulfil their mission. Play Soccer Ghana has created fitness sessions to temporarily replace football activities, communicating effectively with funders to reallocate budgets. And Open Field who have conducted a national TV health education campaign in Cameroon. 

The response has been phenomenal, and it is uplifting to be working with the leaders of these organizations, among others, to play a part in strengthening their funding sustainability and financial resilience heading into 2021.

To express interest in receiving RAFT support please contact steve@kick4life.org

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Tuesday, September 29, 2020 - 18:03