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Catholic Nuns in Africa Urged to Strive for Transparency to Sustain Project Partnerships

Credit: Prince Henderson

Catholic Nuns in sub-Saharan African countries who are struggling to sustain their respective Religious Congregations financially have been urged to strive for transparency especially when dealing with partners in projects. 

In his keynote address during a five-day workshop that was organized by All-Africa Conference: Sister to Sister (AAC: SS) to equip Catholic Nuns with skills for mission sustainability, Kerry Robinson from Raskob Foundation asked the participants to be always trustworthy when dealing with finances in their respective missions.

“It matters that we honor donor intent and are transparent and accountable with finances. It’s why ethics matter. Be trustworthy. Be joyfully confident,” said Robinson.

The official of the Raskob Foundation, an entity that partners with AAC: SS in projects, added, “It is not motivating to give when the person asking perceives fundraising as an obligation that she dreads.”

In the workshop that ended April 30, the Catholic Nuns who were drawn from Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi were challenged to serve wholeheartedly so as to attract support amid dwindling donor funding.

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The workshop that was held in the Archdiocese of Lilongwe in Malawi covered a wide range of topics on sustainability, including grant writing basics; financial accountability, tracking progress and reporting; ethics in fundraising and donors’ rights as well as involvement of stakeholders in funded projects.

The training workshop was aimed at empowering the Catholic Nuns with knowledge and skills on how best to serve their respective communities and Congregations.

In her address, the Senior Program Officer for AACC: SS, Sr. Eneles Chimbali, said fundraising is at the service of philanthropy, which she described as the desire to promote the welfare of others.

Sr. Eneles Chimbali. Credit: Prince Henderson

Underlining the importance of communication in fundraising, Sr. Chimbali said that people are always more likely to give money to organizations they know about and whose officials give out information and reports promptly.

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The member of the Servants of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Malawi said that many communication tools are available for the Catholic Nuns to use, including websites, newsletters, press releases, radio, TV, social media, and personal communication.

“How you communicate will depend on who you want to reach,” she said, and added, “Personal communication is often the most effective. Volunteers, current donors, former students, Board members, patients, staff, and others who know the organization, share its values, and support its mission can be helpful in soliciting gifts.”

The AACC: SS Senior Program Officer said transparency and accountability are cornerstones for ethical fundraising, and noted that both virtues enhance public trust, which she said is essential for the sustainability of Congregations, apostolates, and ministries.

The Catholic Nuns drawn from various professions who participated in the workshop were challenged to pay attention to and provide support for those with addiction and substance abuse, mental illness, HIV/AIDS, COVID-19 and domestic violence within their Parishes or institutions.

“Sister to Sister believes that education empowers women Religious to become change agents in their community and better advocate healers for the poor, especially women and youth. At the same time, we are helping women Religious build a mutual support network built on their deep faith and devotion to the Gospel,” said Sr. Chimbali.

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On her part, the Secretary for Nigerian Conference of Women Religious (NCWR), Sr. Patricia Nwafor, said she felt privileged to have attended the workshop where she had “realized the power of collaboration.”

Sr. Patricia Nwafor. Credit: Prince Henderson

As women Religious, Sr. Nwafor said she feels they are called to be missionaries first before thinking about money, adding, “That implies for me that our lives as Religious is first and foremost the Gospel we preach and then we attract people even without using words and when they are attracted, they are also transformed by our way of living.”

“When we involve people in our life, it becomes easy for them to support our mission work because we first affected their lives and they will now in turn affect our own life too. I think that is where the beauty of collaboration lies,” the member of the Dominicans Sisters in Nigeria said.

Sr. Beatrice Chanshi of Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Assisi who participated in the workshop said her Congregation runs various donor dependent initiatives and that the training had equipped her with knowledge on how best to write project proposals, to write reports, being accountable and keeping good rapport with project partners. 

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“Most importantly, we have learnt to be patient to donors, to attend to them and not only to seek for money from them at all times,” the Zambian Catholic Nun who is currently on a mission at Likuni Mission Hospital in Malawi said.

Sr. Chanshi added, “I have also learnt a lot from colleagues from different countries through shared experiences, and this has strengthened our networking.”

Prince Henderson in Malawi contributed to the writing of this story