Photo Credit: Chidi Koldsweat
Chidi Koldsweat is the Founder, Acting CEO, Donors for Africa, where she works to break cycles of poverty by strengthening the capacity of African social innovators, non-profits, impact led businesses and social enterprises to access funds, achieve their vision towards the SDG’s and build sustainable organizations. In this role, she has trained 315 non-profits, raised thousands of dollars in funds through grant writing and income generating activities, provided technical support to over 40 women led organizations and reached over 12 thousand people weekly via the organization’s learning platform. Chidi Koldsweat has over twelve years of experience in the development space, working across sectors such as health, gender (women and girls in leadership, business, and politics), organizational management and sustainability strategy.
In 2011, she was selected amongst Africa’s 25 most outstanding emerging women leader under the Moremi Initiative for Leadership (MILEAD). In 2013, she became a Vital Voices Lead Fellow and was also nominated amongst the 100 unseen women changing her world. In 2014, CEO Global gave Chidi an award as a Finalist, Africa’s most influential woman in management, business & public service (civil society category). In the same year, she was nominated by the Chinese Embassy to participate in the 3 weeks cultural exchange program under The Chinese Association for International Understanding. In 2019 she flew the Nigerian flag at the launch of the Arab-African Youth Platform, was selected to pitch her organizations work at the World Bank during the World Bank Youth Summit.
She continues to focus on creating long-term solutions that improves the lives of Africans through policy formulation and implementation, actively working with governments and leading organizations to implement change at the grassroots.
Who is Chidi Koldsweat?
Chidi Koldsweat is an International Development Professional and the Founder of Donors for Africa Foundation with a passion to help African non-profits run profitable and more sustainable organizations. She achieves this by working with Governments, donor agencies, local and international NGOs, public and private organizations, and a growing team of experts to break cycles of poverty. We strengthen the capacity of these non-profits and innovative enterprises to access funds, achieve their vision towards the Sustainable Development Goals and most importantly build sustainable organizations.
Chidi has over twelve years’ experience in the non-profit sector, working across sectors such as health, gender (women and girls in leadership, business, and politics), organizational management and sustainability strategy, she is intentionally changing the narrative about non-profits and how they work towards achieving the SDGs. For a long time, there has been a narrative that non-profits are designed to consistently beg for funds to run their programs; however once we can understand the important role everyone plays including businesses and key stakeholders, we can accelerate the achievement of the goals and increase impact in local communities.
Background story to founding “Donors For Africa.
I have been in the non-profit sector for over 12 years and I have watched increasingly the rise and fall of non-profits. One minute you have a skilled technical partner doing well and the next minute they are no longer in existence due to funds, wrong internal processes and skillsets I knew I was very efficient at, fast forward a few years later, I worked with a pan-African organization and I saw first-hand how a combination of the right processes can help an indigenous organization thrive.
After a combination of experiences, I decided that rather than launch another non-profit struggling for the same funds; I would work in a largely uncommon area which is building partnerships for the goals that are all-encompassing, allows me to utilize my skills and support other non-profits working in a specific area.
I strongly believe that there is so much more I could do for the sector. One increasing difficulty I witnessed was the huge difference between non-profits that were effectively run, the results they achieved vs smaller non-profits that struggled so I decided to bridge this gap by helping more non-profit achieve the results they need to achieve the SDG’s but most importantly build sustainable solutions that are centered on the peculiarity of the African market.
A lot of people believe that funds are core issues, yes it is but our internal research has shown that over $5billion is pumped into the system annually and what is lacking is not funding but well-developed ideas in the hands of competent leaders.
To ramp up achieving the SDG’s we strongly believe in increased investment in Africa. Thus our solution is to call for increased investment in the human capital especially for development professionals working at the grassroots. If these grassroots organizations are well assisted, many of them will survive and in return help other upcoming start-ups to be successful.
Measured impact and achievements with Donors for Africa
Oh, we have done quite a bit.
To commemorate International Women’s Day, we launched the premier award announcement announcing and celebrating 50 African women in development. These are women we refuse to refer to as unseen, but rather the invisible thread that holds the tapestry of development together.
Last year, we also launched our Social Innovators Boot Camp where 30 innovators were selected from over 232 applications received. They are currently going through a 12 weeks immersive training where they will receive support and from different professionals. After this training, they will pitch their projects before sponsors and the shortlisted candidates will receive funds to implement their programs.
We have also trained over 400 non-profits, provided direct technical support to over 40 women-led development organizations, raised thousands of dollars in funds and continue to reach over 12,000 people weekly on our learning platform where we share information on global development trends as well as the knowledge that can catalyse the impact of their work.
Within the time we have launched, we have helped non-profit leaders go from confusion to clarity and then impact. We have helped them generate funds for their organizations and most importantly teach them how to. We are designing solutions that allow African non-profit leaders to build sustainable organizations for the long term. Ones that do not rely totally on external funding to do all their work. If we empower non-profit leaders and organizations, then they can be around for more years and in turn, their solutions are more lasting and impactful in the communities.
Motivation and Inspiration behind Donors for Africa
Our motivation and inspiration behind Donors for Africa are to provide a long-lasting solution to global challenges on the African continent by strengthening the capacity of mission-driven African Social Innovators to access funds, achieve ground-breaking results and build sustainable organizations.
We are building empowered institutions with the right internal structures and processes armed with a clear road map for action.
We are raising transformational non-profit leaders who are skilled and competent. These leaders access training through a blend of virtual and onsite training and funding opportunities.
Our motivation is to raise organizations that generate own funds as well as access available opportunities
We advocate for increased partnerships with donors to not only amend the stringent rules that come with funding but also increase their trust working with development organizations. We support their work internally by helping them implement indigenous programs and campaigns.
We are also motivated by research, fundraising and all forms of impact investment.
These areas are extremely important because there is a gap that we believe we must bridge if we truly intend to achieve the 2030 agenda. Our solutions are designed for Africans with intent to impact indigenous communities and we are passionate about helping to find long term solutions to ensure equal opportunity for individuals on the African continent.
Challenges and Lessons learned
You have to believe hard enough in our dreams to keep going. It is important that you constantly evaluate your processes, what works, what doesn’t? What do my beneficiaries need and what don’t they need? More so when you are working in an unpopular sector and solutions not as common; you must invest in seeking information either from local or international coaches. If you will not invest in your dreams, why should anyone invest in you or your organization?
You must fight FEAR! Fear hinders you from achieving all that you ought to achieve, think of the millions of people who will never gain clarity or achieve purpose simply because you were/ are afraid to pursue the dream In your heart.
Then you must see money as a tool. A very important tool that you can send on errands. It is not an end because you can never have enough of it but you can multiply it by being willing to re-invest it in areas that can increase your brand visibility, marketing, learning and whatever needs to be done.
There is always the challenge of having a team when you start. In addition to working long hours, we worked with volunteers in our first year who provided their expertise and technical support which helped us achieve a key milestone.
Then you have to be authentic. To own your truth, to find your voice and use it. You must understand your unique journey, and pace your self. It would be wrong for you to compare someone else’s chapter 7 with your chapter 1. Learn from others as much as you can but realize that ultimately there is a path that you have to go through and lessons you must learn along the way that is uniquely yours. Always remember that success requires a high level of discipline, consistency, boldness, and focus.
Memorable moments and highlights in the course of your work?
We have had quite a few highlights, but you always remember your first. The launch of our first Social Innovators Bootcamp was truly remarkable as we had spent so much time working in the background and finally held a physical event that brought together over 200 people. We spent time discussing the challenges in the sector as well as mapping out actionable solutions.
From the selection process to the final launch; it was truly a highlight for us.
Also, our biggest surprise was achieving a 3-year plan in 1. From 2018, training over 400 non-profits and see their faces when they achieve clarity, get a sense of direction, get that grant or close that partnership. This means everything to us.
Your work spans across different sectors, health, women in leadership, public service, etc. what is most fulfilling about the impact you make?
The fact that we get to create new solutions for diverse problems either in the government or public/private sector. From mentoring programs to interventions, designing media campaigns and much more. To me that’s impact! That we get to design solutions, strategies that shape policies and the impact it has on the lives of people from indigenous communities.
At DFA, I am fulfilled when I see people who we have supported achieve new things, get new loans and grants, access global opportunities, build in the required structures and generally become more excited about their projects. This is extremely fulfilling on all levels. It has become the fuel that keeps you going.
With how far you’ve come, and your success, what achievements do you hope for in the next 5 years?
Quite a lot, we plan to open offices in other parts of the world especially Africa. Run training schools that are certified, become key technical influencers working closely with funders, donors, governments and becoming leading technical experts that influence government when they make decisions around the SDG or any key development issues. So many other things we cannot share at this time.
Can you share briefly, some women you consider mentors?
There are quite a number of them that I look up to for different reasons:
Halimatou Hima, Hajara Pitan, My mum, Saran Kaba Jones, Ini Abimbola, Osayi Alile, Ndidi Nwuneli, Detoun Ogwo, Ibukun Awosika and many other African women on the continent.
These are women that have owned their journey in their respective careers.
Do you have a life philosophy, personal mantra perhaps that keeps you steady when the going gets tough?
Treat every opportunity as the opportunity of a lifetime. Don’t sit around and wait for things to happen to you, go out and create them. Embrace your lessons.
Find the courage to be more, to do more so you can have more and become more
This too shall pass.
When faced with a tough situation that’s beyond my capability, I simply pray about it and hold on to my favourite scripture verse Philippians 4:6.
The Leading Ladies Africa weekly interview series focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.
Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we just might feature her.