Our Theory of Change

Our Theory of Change

First of all, iMPACT direct envisions to contribute to systemic change, which is:

  • A strengthened civil society in Africa, starting with the frontline African NGOs we support. In the coming years we want to grow our impact in terms of the number of NGOs we support, amount of unconditional grants per NGO and in technical assistance to NGOs.
  • A so-called shift of power from Northern iNGOs towards having local experts and communities included in decision-making on an equal basis. We do so by being a living example of how it can be done differently – unconditional donations and thus having local experts in the lead – as well as by sharing our story and stories from our partnering NGOs and the communities they support.

Secondly, we aim to contribute to improving lives at a community level. We do so by supporting frontline African NGOs and their projects. Having local experts in the lead will lead to better solutions, more successful projects and more impact in international development. As we believe that local experts with local communities come up with solutions that have more impact and are more cost-effective than those made behind far-away desks. Moreover, we see from our first year’s results, as well as from research (Small Grants, Big Impacts, Both Ends, 2017) that relatively small direct donations are realising impact in just weeks or months, because it is a match funding to the NGOs’ own resources into community interventions they already have established.

Needs analysis

Individual donors face ‘aid fatigue’ which includes a choice overload in which a multitude of good causes are presented from which it is not very easy to find or to understand projects that are impactful and which aren’t (especially when you’re in a different part of the world). Although donors are looking for ways that are actually impactful. (Better Giving Studio)

In addition, something that does not contribute to a realistic understanding of northern donors on the African context are the prevailing negative stories from northern NGOs and media that perpetually depicts Africa as poor, corrupted and helpless. Research shows that these single stories are affecting donors’ willingness to support on the long-term; after repeating simplistic solutions (e.g. €1 to save a child) for 60 years now, people conclude that their donations obviously didn’t bring any positive change and, consequently cause the much-needed donors to question and lose trust in the work of NGOs. (Bond UK and Wilde Ganzen, 2014)

From our talks the past months with a dozen of institutional donors, funds and/or organisations working in Africa – all based in the Netherlands – we’ve learned that organisations encounter difficulties finding professional, verified African-led good causes. They are looking for reliable African-led NGOs, but fail to find them, because of lack of network, expertise and/or manpower. Or put it differently: here is a disconnection between the organisational donors and the frontline NGOs.

Frontline African NGOs may have great solutions to local problems, but often can’t access international grants. ‘Because of their small size […] organisations cannot meet the bureaucratic requirements set by major international funds, donors and financial institutions, or these groups are simply invisible. Moreover, some of them cannot operate openly for security reasons.’ (Both Ends, 2017). 

On a systemic scale African-led NGOs face exclusion or weak-decision making power in their collaboration with northern NGOs. The sector funds globally ‘more than 99% of humanitarian and philanthropic […] to predominately white-led international NGOs. Despite Africa’s growing and dynamic social sector […]’ (Guardian, 2021) Looking at the Netherlands, the situation is similar: only 1% of the Dutch budget for development cooperation funds local NGOs in Africa, Asia and Latin America directly, excluding local experts from decision making.

Altogether, it affects effective and cost-effective projects in Africa.  

Community members (i.e. the people benefiting from the interventions of the NGOs we support) are women, men and children living in disadvantaged communities. They are for example, Kenyan orphans or secondary-school students who failed to access governmental services in terms of education and housing; or Ghanaian women and their families in fisher communities who face degrading nature and a reduced fish stock, affecting their health and livelihoods.

Although, Ghana and Kenya are both lower-middle-income countries (World Bank), poverty levels (especially among the less fortunate) are on the rise. The global Covid-19 crisis pandemic has negatively impacted global economies, including in Africa, where it is estimated that the economic setbacks will push the continent back 10 to 30 years. Presently Africa is going through a disastrous increase in poverty levels for the first time in 30 years. (ILONRCOxfamFD

Moreover, research shows that community members often are not included in project evaluation, according to Willem Elbers (sr researcher at the Centre for International Development, Radboud 

University Nijmegen). This leaves them without an opportunity to add valuable insights, as well as to hold the iNGOs accountable for their interventions.

A root cause affecting both community members and NGOs is a shrinking civic space – a decrease in fundamental democratic rights – in favour of space taken by governments, multinationals and/or radical movements. Although it’s a global phenomenon, the situation differs per country or region. Shrinking civic space for example is causes by terrorism or tackling it (i.e. counterterrorism), by raising legal and financial barriers, by censorship and spreading fake news, or through bureaucracy and corruption (CIVICUS and Partos, 2017). 


To be able to tackle above problems and realise the envisioned outcomes, our strategies include:

  • For individual donors direct donations and direct relations are important, that is why we provide them with:
    • Reliability: An overview of credible local NGOs
    • Trust: Building relations of trust between donors and NGOs and communities, for example by organising online events where they meet.
    • Transparency: NGOs directly publish updates and reports at our website.
  • For organisational donors the connection to communities via credible local NGOs is important, that is why we provide them with:
    • Reliability: Finding credible local NGOs
    • Impact: More value for funding, because local solutions bring more impact to more people for less budget.
    • Trust: Facilitating continuous conversation between donors and NGOs.
  • Providing frontline African NGOs with:
    • A platform recognizing the NGOs’ local solutions
    • Access to grants (both individual and organizational)
    • Technical Assistance up to ‘Graduation’.
  • All supported by: Enabling unconditional direct donations from (individual) donors to frontline African NGOs, ultimately benefiting the communities the NGOs work for.

Outputs, outcomes, impact

We regularly report about the results per campaign. For 2020 results, please find our Annual Report 2020.

Business Model Canvas

Yesterday iMPACT direct team spent the entire day working on our Business Model Canvas – to work towards a sustainable organization. That’s what we need if we want to realise our ambition to support more local NGOs, in more countries and through that making a change for many more people.

The workshop day gave us new insights for few additions to what we already said before, for example about our unique value for donors, NGOs and communities. That’s why we also changed some of the wording of the Theory of Change (compared with our the earlier version of it).

CHANGE the story


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