Access to funding is one of the biggest challenges on the African continent. Businesses that can guarantee high returns to investors struggle to raise; how about nonprofits that do not produce cash returns? How do they raise? What has been the leverage?
In today’s episode, we ask SHADRACK OSEI FRIMPONG, the founder of Cocoa360 who has raised significant funding to establish a school and medical clinic which provides and improves access to education and healthcare in rural Ghana how they got funded.
NCVO Ghana: Hi Shadrack, Let's get started. In less than 50 words, can you share with us what you do at Cocoa360?
Shadrack: At Cocoa360, we’ve developed the “farm-for-impact” model wherein we leverage community cocoa farm revenues to finance innovations in healthcare and education. We work with some 8000 cocoa farmers in rural Western Ghana where we run an all-girls tuition-free school and community clinic.
NCVO Ghana: Interesting. How did it all start? We want to hear the story. Any struggle, iterations, structuring, fun facts, etc?
Shadrack: I grew up seeing my parents work hard on cocoa farms in Tarkwa Breman, a cocoa farming village in rural Western Ghana.
In college, I learned that my parents and the over 800,000 cocoa farmers and their families work make it possible for Ghana to generate about $3.25 billion in annual export revenue. Then, I thought to myself: how come we continued to grapple with fundamental needs such as access to quality healthcare and education?
To me, this was an injustice.
Becoming the first person from my village to attend college in the United States - and graduating with the $150,000 President’s Engagement Prize from the University of Pennsylvania, I founded Cocoa360 to leverage existing community resources to provide and improve access to quality healthcare and education.
It was easy to recruit people to pursue the vision; peers from Penn, including some young visionary Ghanaians, were inspired to join me to do this. In the early days, I led the team as the Executive Director, with my colleagues taking over roles in financial management, partnerships, fundraising, and creative design. Together, we went to Tarkwa Breman where we were welcomed with support in guidance and land donation. Led by the community leaders, including the Chief and the Council of Elders, the Tarkwa Breman community provided us with 50 acres of land for Cocoa360’s work in 2015. And since then, the rest they say is history.
NCVO Ghana: How have you been able to raise money for your project? -Can you tell us the who, where, when, and how...?
Shadrack: Winning the $150,000 President’s Engagement Prize (PEP) and $15,000 Samuel Huntington Public Service Award helped set the organization into motion.
We have thereafter raised funds from a variety of sources, including foundations and individual donors, fundraising events, and partnerships.
Family foundations, both small and large, have so far provided Cocoa360 with grants, both restricted and unrestricted, that range from $5,000 to $50,000.
Individual donors also provide funds toward initiatives such as student tuition coverage, maternal care, and community health outreach. We enjoy funding from the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust and the Clinton Foundation; corporate philanthropy from several private entities such as the private equity firm Warburg Pincus.
Partnerships with companies such as Vodacom and Google have allowed us to secure in-kind services, such as free internet on our campus and pro-bono financial consulting. We equally generate revenue from the sale of cocoa crops and fees from patients receiving medical care provided at our community clinic. Both revenue sources are directly applied to sustain Cocoa360’s programs in education and healthcare.
As a true believer in the vision, I have and continue to donate to Cocoa360, all monies paid to me when I speak at conferences, summits, and shows.
NCVO Ghana: Any top fundraising tips/advice?
Shadrack: In raising funds, one must recognize, that for the same cause, people will give for different reasons - and that should translate into how they are engaged too. Using the same strategy to get different people to donate does not work. Customize the strategies!
Of equal importance, is the communication of your work and impact. You rarely get support when your stories are not told and told well - even if you are doing amazing work. Understand that it is the communication of your work that will hook people to donate in support of that work.
Lastly, get your friends involved. It’s harder to say no to your friend than to an organization. Connect to your friends and talk to them about it.
About Shadrack Frimpong
Described by the late U.N. Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan as “the embodiment of youth leadership”, Shadrack Osei Frimpong is a non-profit leader and public health researcher, and scholar whose work is inspired by his background.
A son of a peasant farmer and charcoal seller, he grew up without running water and electricity in rural Ghana. Yet, he became the first person from his village to attend college in the U.S, graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 2015, with the $150,000 President’s Engagement Prize; Penn’s highest honor.
Frimpong founded Cocoa360 and pioneered the “farm-for-impact” health equity model - a tuition-free girls’ school and community hospital sustained by proceeds from a cocoa farm.
He leads a team of over 45 full-time staff members who have cared for over 14,410 patients, served 8 communities and counting, delivered over 100 babies, reached over 35,000 farmers, and currently educates 270 young girls.
Shadrack is a recipient of many awards including the prestigious Samuel Huntington Public Service Award, which has past recipients such as U.S Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, and McArthur “Genius” Fellow, Dr. Angela Duckworth. In September 2017, President Bill Clinton named him to CGIUs Honor Roll and in June 2018, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth awarded him the Queen’s Young Leader Award at Buckingham Palace.
In 2019, Frimpong was named to Forbes 30 Under 30 list of top social entrepreneurs in the world and was one of six recipients of the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award, which recognizes activists who work towards social change under the age of thirty.
In May 2019, Shadrack graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Masters in Nonprofit Leadership program as a Recipient of the Richard Estes Global Citizenship Award. Shadrack graduated from Yale University’s Advanced Masters of Public Health program in May 2020 as a Horstmann Scholar and was awarded the Lowell Levin Award, the top prize for the best graduating student in global health. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge as a Gates-Cambridge Scholar.
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