TEA BREAK WITH

Dirkje Jansen

What kicks off your Monday morning?

Amref Flying Doctors is part of the largest African health organization Amref Health Africa, that I have been having the pleasure of working with for the past 10 years. Throughout that time, I have been working with colleagues from and based all over the world, who are as passionate, hardworking and driven towards achieving positive change as I am. I have seen ideas being born, implemented, and scaled to amazing levels. Being part of this African based and led organization is what kicks me off, as I see change happening and it sparks immense hope.

Being part of this African based and led organization is what kicks me offas I see change happening and it sparks immense hope.

Of course, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the past month has been different. I am part of the Technical Team within Amref Health Africa that leads on the response and preparedness in 8 African countries. And I am deeply concerned. Looking at the developments in other countries and the trends in Africa now, the exponential growth is expected soon. In countries where health systems are already overburdened, the impact (human, social and economic) can and will be devastating. We work around the clock guaranteeing our staff are safe and working with governments to spread information, train 600.000 frontline health workers and align with stakeholders.

What inspires you in the NGO and fundraising sector?

I genuinely enjoy working in the international cooperation sector, especially because times are changing. Non-profit organizations are only a small player in achieving the changes we thrive to achieve. We cannot work in isolation. We have to join forces with other sectors and look beyond our own sector, if we want to achieve lasting health change in Africa.

We cannot work in isolation. We have to join forces with other sectors, if we want to achieve lasting health change in Africa.

Also, now in time of COVID-19, cooperation is high on the agenda. There is a clear common agenda: flattening the curve. And a limited time frame that we have, to get ourselves prepared. The collaboration is heartwarming, donors approach us to find out how they can help. Partners share what they do and seek collaboration. We need to do this together.

What helps you do your job well?

I’m an optimist by nature, a people’s person and I love challenges. I think that those three traits of my personality are a powerful combination that helps me be successful as a fundraising professional.

When I see a wall, I like to break it.

I like both communicating through convincing proposals about programs, and working on the ground to implement them. My role is to make Amref’s work as visible and scalable as possible. But what makes me do my job well are my colleagues on the ground, whom I can connect with in a split second and who share their wisdom and knowledge so that I can represent them well. Amref is full of experts, and the connectivity in the organization allows everybody to live up to their potential.

What trends do you see or foresee in the fundraising and NGO world?

In our sector, it takes 5 to 7 years to achieve real change – i.e. lasting sustainable change, with the collaboration of the right partners. Throughout this process, my role is to make sure that financial resources flow steadily towards each project. The fact that domestic resources and other sources of funding are now being leveraged is not only a tremendous shift in terms of how social change is financed, but it is changing both the dynamic and the overall narrative of the social development sector. It gives more power and independence to countries, especially in Africa.

The fact that domestic resources and other sources of funding are now being leveraged is not only a tremendous shift in terms of how social change is financed, but it is changing both the dynamic and the overall narrative of the social development sector.

Added to this trend, the growing complexity of the issues that we are trying to address calls for a multi-stakeholder approach to program development and funding. We all ask ourselves the question ‘If Coca-Cola can be found everywhere, why not a condom or an improved toilet?’ and try to answer it to find ways to scale social innovations. 

What I hope is that this pandemic leads to the recognition of the importance of building systems. This pandemic is not unique. It is not the first, and sadly will not be the last. But those who are vulnerable suffer the most. And if there are weak health systems somewhere on this globe, we are all affected. So I hope that the commitment to strengthening health systems for the coming decade is high on the agenda of donors. It is only fair and in everybody’s interest.

It is essential that donors channel funds towards programs and the organizations themselves.

Last but not least, I would like to emphasize the research that MacArthur Foundation recently conducted on how healthy social purpose organizations can deliver change. This paper led to a growing awareness from strategic institutional funders on the fact that creating change costs money, not only to support the projects implemented, but also the social organizations themselves. As such, it is essential that donors channel funds towards both programs and organizations themselves. Social change requires strong organizations, led by skillful and motivated people.

Which organizations inspire you?

That is definitely my own! Mainly because Amref is truly an African led organization with offices throughout the African continent and a powerful African voice. I am also inspired by the Dutch Postcode Lottery because I can witness firsthand how the way they structure their funding leads to creativity and change. For instance, Amref’s work on female genital cutting would not have been possible without the Dutch Postcode Lottery allowing us to be innovative, pushing us forward, and supporting the program by sharing it in a compelling way.

Not to forget community-based organizations, whom I consider to be the real champions! The people who run those organizations voluntarily are always busy trying to create positive outcomes for their communities.

What do you find important when starting a relationship with a potential partner?

I believe that is it essential to have a profound understanding of the organizational needs on both ends, the donor’s and the grantee’s. This means understanding what the donor is truly looking for, reading through the lines of the actual call and understanding the context in which the call was developed.

You should not forget that donors have more to bring than funds only.

In addition, as a social organization, you should not forget that donors have more to bring than funds only. Their expertise can be a valuable help when it comes to ensuring the high quality of the programs developed or brokering partnerships. This in mind, you should look at donors as sources for information, network and experience that could enrich whatever project you are seeking to implement.

What do you consider the most important quality of a good fundraiser?

Fundraising is a need, not your goal. Your goal is change. I believe that in order to be successful as an institutional fundraiser, you have to be driven by impact. You need to understand the challenges that the people on the ground are facing to be able to raise the funds that they truly need, and you need to understand what works on the ground and what doesn’t. That’s when you make a real difference.

Fundraising is a need, not your goal. Your goal is change.

Dirkje Jansen

Head of Programs at Amref Flying Doctors

About the series

Have you ever wondered whether you had more in common with your peers than just your passion for making a difference? Through informal interviews, we explore the ultimate drives of fundraising professionals, donors and association’s leaders, as well as their secrets for successful Mondays and their insights about the NGO and fundraising sector. Grab a cup and read on!

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