Blog: Segal Family Foundation Annual Meeting 

23rd August 2023

Segal Family Foundation Annual Meeting 

In July, Comic Relief and our Anchor Partners – Tilitonse Foundation,(opens in new window) Star Ghana Foundation(opens in new window), WACSI(opens in new window) and the Zambian Governance Foundation(opens in new window) attended the Segal Family Foundation summit held in Kigali, Rwanda. Against the backdrop of Rwanda’s beautiful green landscapes, welcoming atmosphere and a buzz of hope and excitement in the air, the summit, held in the iconic Kigali Convention Centre exceeded all our expectations. The convening brought together hundreds of people for jam-packed, action-oriented and thought- provoking discussions. The event gave participants the chance to forge new partnerships or strengthen old ties and the chance to listen and learn from those who are walking the talk when it comes to trust based philanthropy and shifting power.

Kigali SFF 2


The simplicity with which the Segal Family Foundation operates with its grantees was a marvel to learn. They are not big on bureaucracy and yet the impact of the work done by their partners is immense. That is the future of development work. Real impact on the ground with less bureaucracy. – Kelvin 

I was impressed on the need for recipients of funding to hold themselves accountable to demonstrate progress of a programme whether that be positive or negative as both can be learnt from. – Kondwani  

I think the highlight for me was the donor salons. It was a good opportunity to learn about different funding patterns as well as what funders are focusing on. – Rachel 

I really liked the combination of thoughtful reflections/discussions, intermixed with wellbeing (yoga, mind, and body exercises etc), fun (Karaoke, dance lessons), marketplace (for participants to show case and sell their products) and numerous curated networking sessions. It was never boring, you achieved a lot, learnt a lot without it feeling like hard work or drudgery. – Lucy  

One of the best convenings I have been to, SFF created safe spaces to learn, share and grow whilst also ensuring wellbeing was central. I loved hearing from the African Visionary Fellows – they provided such honest and valuable insights. – Ayesha  

I was impressed with SFF’s ability to bring together the rich diversity of organisations, including local organisations and funders. I enjoyed the donor salon. It provided space for interactions and networking among organisations and funders and generated rich discussions on utilising grants in empowering ways such as aligning with the vision of local organisations and growing organisations in places where they do not exist. - Eunice 

It was great to see how the Segal Foundation showcased their partners and how much they had progressed. It was also a place where I noticed people were allowed to be vulnerable and open. I liked the learning spirit of the conference and overall, there seemed to be that openness to learn from all parties involved. – Nana 

Key learnings  

Are we there yet? - Organisations are not always ready to be funded. You don’t always find strong organisations to work with. So, what do you do in such circumstances? You grow them, take a chance on visionary individuals who often have very little resources and do very good work. It’s an opportunity to support and nurture their growth. Avoid overburdening them with risk aversion and compliance requirements. You can use your grants to open doors for young organisations. For the Shifting the Power programme, this resonates with our work of supporting community-based organisations directly, most of whom have not been funded before and may not be as strong or well established. The Catalyst Fund is a clear example of equitable funding. 

Know your why: Understanding why you exist as an organisation helps to find funders that fit your values and vision. Organisations do not have to shift their visions or values just to fit into available funding. Stand by your values and visions - the right funder will invest if your vision is clear and strong. Do your work authentically (funders will notice!). Never be afraid to walk away if it is not a good fit and doesn’t feel right.  

How to grow a Unicorn:  The importance of equal value of all inputs. Money is important but it is not the only ingredient necessary for success and to catalyse growth. Vision, passion, labour, and many other contributions by partners should be equally respected.  A mutually beneficial relationship between funders and partners is one in which there is open communication, space of safety, vision alignment and egos take a back seat. Funders shouldn’t assume we all use the same textbooks or work from the same play book – there isn’t a one size fits all! 

Building trust: When thinking about shifting power and building partnerships prioritise building trust first and then working with each other on capacity building.  

Recognise and respect that your partners need you as much as you need them. Respect their vision and ensure that there is alignment.  Acknowledge their strength, which may be different from yours. Assure them that your partnership is to support their vision, and not to dictate actions or terms. Donors should take time to understand their partners, giving partners the grace to learn and figure out what they are doing is key. 

Leadership + Complexity - Are you outmatched or unlimited? Leadership is about really examining oneself and some of the leadership attitudes that we have. The aim as a leader is not to be outmatched but to remain unlimited because there will always be complexities both internally and externally.  To be unlimited a leader needs awareness, clarity of direction, to embrace failures and mistakes and find ways to correct them. Learn from past experiences - everything has a pattern, and we often miss it.  

Wellbeing: This was a session facilitated by SFF and involved interactive dialogues – pairing up and asking partners questions and answering them ourselves. We discussed a poem about putting logs in fire and how putting too many logs in the fire causes it to go out because it needs space to breathe. So, we looked inwards and questioned ourselves about what our logs were, how much of it affected our work and why we think those logs existed for us. Then we all made a commitment on what we will do to improve our well-being. Take care of your wellbeing and ensure you have room to breathe!   

Fundraising Best Practice

For you to be effective as a fundraiser you need to know how you connect to the potential funder. You need to ask yourself - does your story and their story meet? What makes sense and where is the commonality?  Your fundraising goals should be SMART.  

Identify key stakeholders and donors. 

Good ethics is essential to successful fundraising. These include transparency and accountability, upholding the trust of donors and stakeholders, being alert to potential ethical issues, making decisions that align with your organisations values and policies. Building lasting donor relations. Remember donors are humans. They may forget the pitch and the report, but they will not forget conversations and human connections. Demonstrate care and interest beyond funding. Finally, if your mission is more than 8 words, revisit it – a mission should have a verb, target, and outcome.  

Memorable quotes/ memories:

Kigali SFF 3

“Give us grace and resources to grow, understand our work, let egos take a back seat”   

“Don’t seek money, build friendships and relationships and the money will follow” 

“Planning and funding will not create crops to grow they need watering, nurturing and patience” 

“It’s ok not to have everything. It’s going to be messy – but show up as who you are” 

“Of course, the funniest moment for me was doing the Charlie Chaplin Act. Don’t know what I was thinking when I agreed to do that.  Ha! ha!” 

“The trip to the Genocide Museum was sobering. I had not known about the role of the colonial powers and the church, and it was an eye-opener for me because it connected many dots. The cleanliness and order in Kigali was impressive – it made me wonder about my own country”