6 Questions with Sarah Scarth, Africa Director

We recently sat down with Sarah to learn more about impact of the Resource Alliance in Africa, and to get the latest news on the IFC Pop Ups: South Africa.

With 20 years of experience in the non-profit sector, working locally and internationally, Sarah Scarth is an experienced fundraising and communications practitioner, who is passionate about helping non-profit organisations create diversified and integrated fundraising and communications programmes which ultimately build sustainable organisations. 

1. Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself and how you came to be a part of The Resource Alliance?

It all started in 2011 when I was head of Resource Development for the Cape of Good Hope SPCA here in Cape Town and was selected to attend IFC Holland as a bursary delegate – a dream come true. My first IFC was a life-changing experience. Being among so many other fundraisers from across the world was amazing, but to be interacting and chatting during and after sessions with fundraising experts who I’d admire and looked up to for years, was incredible. I met so many wonderful people and couldn’t get over how willing people were to share so generously to help me be successful. The learnings I gained not only helped me grow as a fundraising leader but the SPCA enjoyed the benefits almost immediately and the changes made then and the new programmes introduced are still reaping benefits for them today.

Post IFC the CEO of the RA reached out to me and invited me to join the Advisory Panel tasked with putting together IFC 2012. It was a huge honour to work alongside other fundraisers from around the world to craft a rich and diverse programme, which would be valuable to anyone attending – regardless of whether they were from a small organisation in a developing market or an iNGO operating in multiple markets around the world.

After serving a three year term on the panel the RA invited me to continue working with the organisation to help them grow their programme work in Africa. As I had just stepped down from my position at the SPCA it was a well-timed offer and I jumped at the opportunity to help strengthen more social impact organisations in the region.

2. What is unique about the role of The Resource Alliance in Africa?

Before we did anything we conducted research to better understand the challenges and needs of social impact organisations in Southern Africa. The results pointed to a need for quality resources and learning opportunities that could be easily and affordably accessed. We also learnt that leadership development was neglected, usually due to lack of resources and that to effect real change, there needed to be more opportunities for organisations to be supported and mentored over a longer period.

This insight helped to frame our programme development and led to us piloting our first IFC Pop Ups in 2016, with the support of Nedbank Private Wealth, who continue to partner with us today to deliver world class resource mobilization learnings through our IFC Pop Up programme.

3. What can attendees expect at an IFC Pop Up?

Our IFC Pop Ups are one day events jam-packed with some of the best sessions and speakers from IFC Holland and Asia. Each video session is about 30 minutes and is a condensed version of the speakers’ workshop or masterclass session delivered at a recent IFC. After the session ends we Skype call the speaker to answer questions from the live audience or have an experienced fundraiser facilitate questions in the room. Throughout the day there are two sessions running concurrently with an opening and closing plenary session. This year we’ve added a few more local speakers so delegates can look forward to a mix of international and local content.

4. Can you share a success story from an IFC Pop Up attendee or organisation?

Yes from Shawn Buck from Ubuntu Football who attended last year’s IFC Pop Up. During a session presented by Eelco Keij he learnt about using LinkedIn to connect with prospective foundation managers. He applied this tip recently and reached out to me as he saw that I was personally connected with the head of Marketing for a sports apparel company he was getting ready to present to. He asked if I would “endorse” him and this organisation with my friend, which I didn’t hesitate to do.

The result was that the meeting went really well and they are a step closer to building a partnership with the company.

5. What does the future hold for The Resource Alliance Africa in 2019?

Following the incredible response to our IFC Pop Ups over the past three years we’re focused on taking the IFC to more African countries by collaborating with local partners. We’re hoping to announce our IFC Pop Up Kenya dates soon and hope to expand to West Africa and other Southern Africa countries.

6. And finally, what is the most important piece of advice you can offer to a fundraiser working in your region?

Fundraising in Africa, like anywhere in the world, is a tough and often lonely job. Our work is often misunderstood and the expectations made too often unrealistic. To stay motivated, positive and energized you need to connect with others in the fundraising field so that you can you share and learn from one another and keep investing in your own personal development. We hope the IFC Pop Ups will offer every fundraiser, regardless of experience or seniority, the opportunity to meet these needs.