An exclusive interview with Isaac.
The past few years have seen young people demonstrate the passion and will to drive landscape restoration and climate action interventions in their communities. However, they are often limited by financial resources. FFP writing enthusiast Connie Olives caught up with Mr. Isaac Sserwanga, the Founder & Global Programs Officer at Flight Free Projects to share about the recent Christmas fundraising, financial challenges faced by young organizations, and how they are innovating to ensure that environmental work continues. Below are the excerpts from the interview:
- Briefly tell us about yourself and your role at Flight Free Projects
I am a Fellow at Climate base a Climate career accelerator, Founder at Flight Free Projects, and a Graduate student majoring in Energy and Climate management with modeling Sustainability at the Humboldt University of Berlin. I have profound experience from implementing environment projects that advocate for renewables, developing solutions to challenges of SDG7 with a runners-up group innovation for reducing costs of deploying microgrids in Tanzania at UNLEASH Lab Denmark, co-founded youth organization (s), and influenced them to reach out to others through collaborative environment awareness project. This is inherent of my mission and passion to create space for young people to grow and make the best of their acquired skillsets from education institutions. At Flight Free Projects, I liaise with international partners and Donors to leverage technical capacity and fiscal support as well as networking for partnerships.
- Why did you decide to start a Christmas fundraiser?
Due to fiscal challenges and delayed support from partners in Denmark attributed to Global Pandemic that affected their fundraising drive. An idea sprung up in one of our exchanges with Rev Canon Christopher, at St. George’s Anglican Church Berlin who is passionate about Climate Change. Considering Advent and Christmas as a time to give, this inspired the idea of sharing our enthusiasm and effort to Climate Action by gifting our families and friends with vouchers. All the proceeds would be used to support indigenous tree planting at smallholders’ farmland, offer technical services and regular monitoring to ensure trees grow to maturity.
- What digital tools did you use in the fundraising?
The Advent and Christmas voucher fundraiser made the best of the existing social media platforms: WhatsApp and Facebook, website, and the organization email for direct messages. Also, crowdfunding at GoFundMe for land to establish tree nurseries to sustain the initiative was set up and it is still running.
- We understand that you have mobilized some money, how will this be used? And how many trees do you expect to grow with the resources mobilized?
Yes, the fundraiser raised €426, and this will be used for planting 105 trees extra of the planned number in the next planting season. This is still a drop in the ocean as we hope to plant 25,000 trees per year, and therefore we need financial support to make this Climate Action a reality.
- What are some strategies you used to keep your team motivated during the fundraising?
The fundraiser was digital-based and only the graphics personnel was involved in the design and updating platforms for the fundraiser. The rest of the team was updated on the number of vouchers gifted. They were also encouraged to be fundraising associates so that their immediate contacts know of the fundraiser.
- Did you or donors face any challenges during the fundraising? If so, how were they tackled?
The project partners had a challenge with fundraising for the initiative because of restrictions on social interaction and redirecting of funds to tackle the impacts of the Pandemic. This was overcome by continuous background fundraising during the pandemic; nonetheless, the collected amount is still not enough to support the proposed project budget (of €15,300) for a year. This prompted us to think of alternative financial streams hence fundraising at St. George’s Church which was vital for supplementing the inadequate resources to enable growing of the first 700 trees on three smallholder’s land last year.
- As it’s difficult to depend on fundraising, what is the sustainability plan for FFP
Proceeds from fundraising are a seed fund and once the first 25,000 indigenous trees are planted, we shall offer Certificates of purchase for the trees to individuals, organizations, and investors in Denmark and all over the world. All the money from the certificates will be used to establish tree nurseries that will support the continuous supply of trees and the rest of it will cater for technical service offered by the FFP team to the smallholders and other associated activities as elaborated in the FFP concept.
- As a young organization, what are the biggest challenges you face when it comes to seeking for project funding?
High-end requirements for funding especially experience with handling donor funds for existing funding opportunities, scanty opportunities for collaborative projects with experienced organizations, leakage for tree planting initiatives that create bias for investment in our initiative, COVID -19 global pandemic was and still a distraction that reduced the momentum gained at the start of the initiative and sustaining the right environment for volunteers with skillsets to develop concepts for fundable initiatives.
- Any final call to action for potential funders and why they should trust young people to lead restoration projects?
The young people hold the baton for the future and being part of its ecosystems restoration or enhancement is a great motivation for protection and sustainable conservation. We have relentlessly shown interest and passion for Climate Action evident in our active engagement in movements like Fridays for Future. Therefore, any opportunity to complement the existing traction for Climate Action is worth supporting in all forms; technically and financially because we always need it to make our initiatives a reality. So, whoever feels and sees the inevitable need to reduce emission as an individual, organization, and beyond you are called upon to fuel the passion of young people through your generous support to their initiative(s) wherever they are established. Thank you!