As you may have noticed, Feminist Workshop has been recently creating a lot of the informative content online — Instagram, Facebook, YouTube. Over the past year we put much effort into working at our online image. However, behind the shiny facade these are pitfalls and obstacles we need to overcome. We would like to share some of the achievements and challenges that we face as a Youth-Led Organization (YLO).
Let’s begin from the improvements. Last year we:
- created a communication strategy. It is a profound document that shapes our activities on the Internet. Every word you read or hear from our channels has its purpose and contributes to the goals and mission of the Feminist Workshop – creation of the space for the devlopment of the feminist community in Lviv and Ukraine.
- created a brand book and a design guide. Now our content features our brand colours, and social media feeds and announcements are made in the same style.
- began regularly posting educational content on our Instagram. Now we spread feminist ideas, provide an opportunity to improve one’s knowledge and form the community in an online mode as well. That is our response to the pandemic, because earlier we put most of our effort on working with the community offline.
- initiated cooperation with the What If production. With their production we created a lecture course “Істор(її) мистецтва” (“(Her)story of art”) and several videos about the basics of feminism, women in science and feminist approach in different spheres. New videos on our Youtube channel are coming soon.
We will now describe the obstacles we have to overcome in our work. To make this text more useful we combined our experience with the research «Youth Impact. A toolkit on funding for Youth-Led Organizations». In our post we speak of what is common for us and other youth organizations from around the world. Below we cite the research and back it up with our own experience.
“FUNDING REQUIREMENTS. Many organisations, especially smaller and more informal ones find it hard to meet the conditions for obtaining donor funds. The most common requirements include:
- legal registration of the organisation (often at least three years);
- clear governance structures;
- a bank account;
- a budget above or below a certain amount;
- have previously received donor funding;
- appropriate financial controls;
- financial audits.”
Our organization is officially registered, has a bank account and we have previously received donor funding. But it is not like we got it for nothing. As a youth organization, our staff consists of people with either no previous experience of bureaucratic procedures or with the experience that was questioned by the officials. For instance, it took us several months and the efforts of several people to register a non-governmental organization. Being a pioneers in that sphere in Ukraine, we could not turn to our predecessors to look for an example of the statute of the feminist organization. Later we had to confront legal officials several times in order to defend our right to use feminitives in the statute.
We do not always meet the other criteria. We spend a lot of time on the creation of the “appropriate” governance structure and financial controls, and this work does not look impressive for our subscribers. “We developed a financial policy” does not sound like an prominent achievement, right? Neither does it guarantee getting money necessary for the work that would serve the interests of the community.
“Type of Funding. The type of funding that is offered by donors is also a barrier for youth-led organisations. It is difficult for YLOs to receive core or un-earmarked funds, and the grants that they do receive often put a limit on how much can be spent on staff and/or administration costs (sometimes only 10-20%), or the funds may only be used for a Investing in Youth Impact | 25 “over half of the YLOs that we spoke to believed that there is a fundamental lack of accessible funding for youthled initiatives” specific project. This makes it difficult for the grantee to build capacity over time and to scale-up activities.”
We are lucky to receive most of our funding from great donors that are open to change. That allowed us to develop the organization together with people that joined us and to work on strategies and procedures. However, donors do not offer funding on an indefinite basis. Now in our experience almost every donor that finances the spheres we are engaged in,requires the levels of the governance structure and reporting that are not even close to the funding they are willing to offer to cover the structural work and work reporting.
“Proposal writing and understanding the technical language. Many YLOs reported that writing the proposal is the biggest challenge they face when fundraising. This is often due to the technical language that is used in requests for proposals (RFPs), and which is required when applying. This is compounded by the fact that many YLOs are not applying in their first language. Furthermore, many find it difficult to understand what level of information they need to provide to get their point across without giving away their ideas.”
The country we live in grants little money on the development of civil society. In no way is a work of youth, young women and, in particular, feminists their priority. That is why the majority of the financial opportunities that suit us are in English. That adds to the time spent to write grant proposals, reduces the level of engagement in the implementation of the projects and reduces our chances to get funding. The work of the youth organization is truly complicated and unpredictable, if one chooses to rely solely on grant funding. Still, we keep overcoming the obstacles and looking for ways to work. Actually, one of the ways to continue our work is getting support from the loyal community. We remind you that we receive small regular donations on Patreon. You also may make a one-time donation by transferring money to our bank account.
Text and illustration: Yosh and www.youthdoit.org