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2016 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Foundation for Sustainable Development

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Alliances & Advocacy, Arts & Culture, Economic Development, International, International Economic Development, Microfinance, Philanthropy

Mission: FSD supports the efforts of grassroots development organizations in Africa, Asia and Latin America that are working to better their communities, environments, and the economic opportunities around them. We believe economic development begins with community development and is only sustainable if it comes from and is supported by the members of these communities. Also, through our programs, we aim to raise international awareness of the economic challenges in developing countries and support cross-cultural communities in finding more effective solutions to development issues.

Target demographics: International communities achieve locally based goals and improve lives and communities.

Geographic areas served: Latin America, Africa, Asia

Programs: Capacity building in community-based development programs; training in community development for student and professional volunteers who work with our partners; grantmaking to community partners; engaged phlianthropy through giving circles

Community Stories

113 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

9

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Through FSD I was able to experience the technological challenges that villagers in Uganda face. FSD did 2 things very well. Firstly, they assigned me to a community that was excited about technology and found me a wonderful host family. Living among the community and working with them to provide useful sustainable businesses could not have happened with my organization alone. Secondly they advised me on how to best approach sustainable development. The keys rules are to ensure that any initiative you and the community spend time building, is one where all the correct incentives line up such that the initiative continues well past your time. This was important advice to ensuring that your time is not wasted on projects that fail. Instead, most FSD projects lead to some tangible benefit for the community because the community is the main driver. The interns learn a great deal and help where they can by offering their knowledge and experience in a very different part of the world. This is a passive but highly effective method of development.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

FSD was great because I felt really personally supported while on my internship. I worked at an Indian NGO for 10 weeks and it was a great experience. Even when my phone and wallet got stolen, the FSD staff helped me take out extra money and get a replacement phone. I felt like we had a really caring, personal connection that made my time abroad so much easier!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

FSD provided me with the opportunity to work with a local organization that matched my interests and would maximize my potential in Kakamega. I felt like I had so much freedom in my work, but also an incredible support structure at my back if I needed it.

1 BLuo

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The time I spent as an intern with FSD gave me a sense of the tremendous impact that a development organization can have on the lives of so many when it is committed to sustainability and when it has the drive of so many dedicated people. During my relatively-short nine weeks with FSD in Kakamega, Kenya, I was able to work with a local secondary school and work alongside the Site Team members and fellow interns. Throughout my experience, I truly appreciated (and was infected by) FSD's incredible passion for their work. I fully believe that FSD has made and will continue to make great strides in the development of their local communities.

1 Tong X.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

FSD placed me as an intern with Village Enterprise, a SF-based microenterprise nonprofit which operates in western Kenya and Uganda. While my placement was only two months (and so my actual social impact was limited), the amount of exposure I got to the challenges, ethical dilemmas, and "soft skills" of development was very high. What's exceptional about FSD is not really the programming, but the quality of the site staff. Our site team, in particular, was incredibly high-energy and thoroughly integrated into the community.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 2

For the amount of money I paid for an FSD internship in Uganda I was sure I would be plugged into a network of resources and professionals that would be working their absolute hardest to facilitate the work I was doing and to be sure my time in country was productive. While the staff certainly was incredibly pleasant, I felt as if I was repeatedly just placed in difficult situations and given no guidance as to what I was supposed to be doing. The orientation is a joke and whenever I would ask questions I almost never received a useful answer (usually it was something along the lines of "well, yes, that is a challenge.") Furthermore, there is a ridiculous amount of paperwork that must be completed in precisely the right way, otherwise it needs to be done. Also, FSD says it has a longstanding relationship with its partner organizations, but that relationship seems to exist in anything but a productive context. They don't give interns any substantial, useful background information that would allow interns to help local partners address their own internal, systemic issues that present the greatest obstacle to those organizations fulfilling their mission. I designed a project that I thought would really help my organization, only to find out 75% of the way through my internship that the organization had huge systemic issues that would prevent my project from continuing after I went back home. The systemic issues would have been relatively easy to address had I had the entirety of my internship to work on them, but as I found out so late I couldn't do anything. When I told the FSD staff about what I had observed, they told me that they already knew of those issues and that they were a huge obstacle to previous interns' projects. Had they given me any type of real orientation/introduction to my organization and mentioned a few over-arching issues previous interns had struggled with, my mind would have been in the right place to identify these issues right away and design a project that - even if it wouldn't address the issues directly - would be able to be sustained within the context of an organization suffering from those problems. FSD seems content with interns building gardens and piggeries even when the organizations given control of those resources lack the ability to utilize them properly after we leave.

The host families are wonderful, and the staff at the local organizations are fantastic, but the FSD bureaucracy really got in the way. FSD is great at allowing you the freedom to do whatever you want (even if you spend your entire internship drunk or travelling outside of your assigned area), but I question how much is actually accomplished by their work. FSD certainly talks the talk of a sustainable organization doing good in the developing world, but in reality, they have a lot of organizational issues to address before these internships are worth the money. There were other foreigners in my town, working for the same amount of time, doing similar work, who paid literally a fifth of the FSD program fee. And they got more useful support than we did.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I interned with FSD last summer (2010) as a graphic designer/marketing and communications volunteer. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience working with FSD, and it could not have been possible without the enthusiastic/dedicated staff I worked alongside with. Being able to review grants gave me insight to the types of projects being proposed in our various sites, allowing me to see the breadth of FSD's global reach. Overall, I find FSD's mission and work model to be unique and effective, and hope to dedicate more of my time with the organization in the future.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I found out about FSD through my search for a volunteer abroad organization to work with for a summer. I was struck by their unique approach to development and the clear commitment and focus they had for their mission. This led me to speak with their staff who immediately struck me with their enthusiasm and reflected the exact commitment that had initially drawn me to them. Since then I have gone on to volunteer with FSD which has truly been a life changing experience for me. Not only do I feel that I have grown personally but I have also learned more from my experience with FSD than I have with any other volunteer organization or internship.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I first got introduced to FSD when I moved to San Francisco in 2009 and became friends with three people who participated in some of FSD’s programs in South America. I was struck by the degree to which the time my friend’s spent with FSD had been transformative to each of them, both personally and professionally. All three are now pursuing careers in development, in areas ranging from Education in Africa to Urban Planning in San Francisco.

Over time, I’ve gotten involved with FSD as a volunteer and now know the organization well. Aside from the impact that its programs have on participating students, FSD has a highly innovative approach to providing assistance to the communities it works in throughout the developing world. FSD efforts are managed by teams that are on-the-ground 24/7 in the communities that it works in.

This grassroots, bottoms-up approach to development is increasingly recognized as far more effective than many of the top-down models that exist. This is one of the reasons why FSD has grown significantly in size and scope over the last few years and why it is increasingly recognized as one of the most innovative non-profits within the development community.

Volunteer

Rating: 4

My experience with FSD was truly worthwhile. I interned at the office in San Francisco in the summer/fall of 2008 with the International team and felt the staff were welcoming, patient, and good mentors. I developed good friendships that continued past my experience as an intern. Similarly, the experience has genuinely launch my career in international development, where I am today.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 2

I did a volunteer internship at the FSD Jinja site in 2010-2011. Although I had a very fulfilling and productive experience with the host organization that FSD placed me with (St. Francis Health Care Services), I was extremely dissatisfied with FSD as a whole.

First, the performance of the FSD site team in Jinja was unacceptable. After a helpful orientation week upon my arrival (which included preparation for cultural integration as well as training on needs assessments, work plans, and budgets), I felt increasingly isolated and forgotten by FSD as my internship progressed. The Program Director consistently failed to respond to my questions or concerns in a timely manner, and the Program Coordinator rarely showed interest in the interns or their projects. Eventually I contacted the FSD head office for assistance on writing a grant. The Program Director took offense to this and thereafter treated me in a vindictive and extremely unprofessional manner. She attacked my character and my work ethic and spoke poorly about me to my host family. In addition, there was another Program Coordinator who resigned halfway through my internship. This Program Coordinator was the seventh person in two years working in that position for the Program Director. However, despite frequent negative feedback from interns, the FSD office in San Francisco has failed to take adequate measures to address interns' concerns or the root cause of employee turnover.

In addition, the main office in San Francisco was inefficient and unaccountable with regards to my needs as an applicant and later as an intern. I applied for an internship in early January 2010. Despite assurances from FSD that I would hear a response within 14-30 days, and despite numerous inquiries, I did not learn of my status until May (four months after I applied). Upon my arrival in Uganda, I learned that all applicants get accepted—even those who did not undergo the interview process. This was very curious to me and made me seriously question why it took so long for FSD to process my application. Furthermore, FSD was fairly negligent with regards to my volunteer fee account. I had a $500 credit on my account in August, requested a refund check on August 31, sent a follow up email on November 17 (no response) and again on November 30, and did not receive the refund until late December.

Furthermore, I find that FSD’s use of the volunteer fee money lacks accountability and efficiency. I paid $7343 in volunteer fees for my 26-week internship. Of this money, $200 went to my project in Uganda and (to the best of my knowledge) less than $700 went to my host family. I questioned one of the staff members at the FSD San Francisco headquarters about the remaining balance. He said that it is difficult to tell exactly where all the volunteer fee money goes. He later sent me a pie chart with an extremely broad breakdown of fee money expenditures. Half of the money goes to what they call “Direct Community Investment.” This money includes the payment to host families and the $200 seed grant, as well payments for services that I did not receive (staff stipends for “24/7 in-country support”) or for expenses that would more appropriately be termed “overhead costs” (rent, supplies, and utilities for the local FSD offices).

After the conclusion of my internship, I visited the FSD headquarters in San Francisco to discuss my experience. However, I felt that the staff member there did not have much genuine concern for my issues. He largely wrote these issues off as a byproduct of the cultural challenges of working in a foreign country.

The experience I had with my host organization in Uganda (St. Francis) was highly valuable and rewarding, and I received beneficial development training from FSD during orientation week. As such, I have given FSD a rating of two stars instead of one. However, I came away from my experience being dismayed at the treatment I received from FSD. I rarely felt as if FSD prioritized their interns in the field, and I was not alone in this sentiment. In my experience, FSD absolutely did not uphold the values of transparency, efficiency, and accountability that made me choose them in the first place.

7

Volunteer

Rating: 4

Agape Focus Ministry believes each child as the potential to rise above poverty, each child regardless of race color should not have to go to bed hungry, each child deserve an opportunity to be educate, love, properly clothe, and at least one good meal a day. AFM program is in place to provide a better atmosphere for the unfortunate children to build housing and school, provide transportation, spiritual feed the children, The program is based in Agape (Love) and be confidence that the future community will encounter a change and develop in a better way to focus on the future, by using the talents received from AFM, and spread the love with their capacity as citizens rather than focused on the boundaries and failures of the purpose. Our focuses also engage reaching out to family, provide basic daily needs. Preventing Child abuse, a counseling session on weekly bases, is held to restore trust and prevent future child abuse and molestation.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Foundation for Sustainable Development inspires me because of the way they are able to work with community-based organizations to implement sustainable, long-term projects. Though the projects are short-term, the very nature of their programs provide incentives within the community to stay involved with their work. That is the definition sustainable development in my mind.

12

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Foundation for Sustainable Development inspires me everyday because of the way they are able to work with community-based organizations to implement sustainable, long-term projects. Though the projects are short-term, the very nature of their programs provide incentive within the community to stay involved with their work. That is the definition sustainable development in my mind.

Previous Stories
12

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have had the opportunity to travel to many different countries studying and working in sustainable development. I have found that often the key to successful sustainable development is finding the links between different sectors of society and strengthening those relationships. Everyday I went into work for FSD, I heard a different story about the work FSD does in the field that inspired me and clearly demonstrated their mission to incorporate various development subjects into specific and tangible goals that really do improve the lives of many in the communities they work in. I am continuously inspired by the work they do in women's empowerment. The organizations they partner with have a universal understanding of the problems women face in their community, allowing them to come up with creative solutions that incorporate many different factors, address needs articulated by the women's themselves, provide incentive within the community to participate, and consequently leading to true sustainability and growth.

10

Volunteer

Rating: 2

FSD is a way for young people to get field experience in development, though at a very high cost. But beyond that its model for development is inherently unsustainable due to the nature of short-term volunteer ad-hoc projects and limited experience of volunteers. In developing countries, it is very difficult to get a meaningful project started in the two or three months interns are typically placed with an organization. Often I find that projects are left unfulfilled or are, from the grander development standpoint, nothing more than student pet projects rather than addressing infrastructural problems. Local organizations I've found are often confused as to the role of the FSD intern working with them and don't utilize them fully.

9

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I chose to volunteer with FSD because I strongly believe that their development model is the only real long-term solution to economic and social development. FSD knows that true and lasting development must come from within the community and thus works with local organizations that can respond to the communities needs most effectively. The people in the San Francisco office and the staff members abroad are all so enthusiastic and committed to the work they're doing, and it shows every day.

10

Volunteer

Rating: 5

FSDs approach of bottom up community based development support is completely in line with my way I believe development is most likely to be successful. FSD should be recognized for their work with women because of the support they give to their partners in the field, which are often made up of all women. One of the grants FSD provided was to The AIDS Support Organization (TASO) is Jinja, Uganda. This project, supported by FSD intern abroad program intern Heidi Tenpas, provides members of the Budondo Food Security Group with hands-on training in tree growing and nursery management for the establishment a cooperative nursery to promote sustainable home-based enterprises. 97% of the members of this peer support group are rural women living with HIV/AIDS, most of who are primary caretakers of their large families. Formerly incapacitated by their illness and written off by their communities, these women became entrenched in states of economic dependency and insecurity. Correspondingly, widespread deforestation in Budondo is adversely impacting the local climate and diminishing the productivity of members' small-scale subsistence agriculture, further threatening their food security and perpetuating malnutrition. Now that they have regained physical strength and health following medical treatment from TASO, this tree planting project gives them a source of sustainable income security and nutrition while laying the foundations for the economic empowerment and environmental restoration of their households and communities.

14

Volunteer

Rating: 5

FSD stands out from most organizations that I've come across in many ways, but their dedication to promoting sustainable development projects that wholly involve the local community is what drew me to them the most. One such organization is Sahayata. They empower women by providing skills training and small business loans to various self help groups in Udaipur, India. Supporting this kind of community-based organization is the exact direction international development organizations need to be going to ensure that the projects that are chosen to be supported are ones that will provide a solid foundation that can survive on its own.

14

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This organization is doing important and valuable work. FSD separates itself from other international programs in its to grassroots development model. Their commitment to community buy-in and longer term interns, places emphasis on cultural and community integration ensuring that projects will continue after the intern's departure.

17

Volunteer

Rating: 4

This is a fantastic organization. The programs offered by FSD appeal to me because the interns and volunteers don't just go in and implement projects they've developed before arriving, the projects evolve from working with and learning from members of the community. FSD partners with community-based organizations, so there is significant community involvement throughout the planning and implementation of the projects. Many of the specific subject areas also incorporate women's empowerment, as many of the microfinance organizations FSD partners with work especially with women. FSD's programs offer an amazing and unique opportunity for participants to experience sustainable development work in a very hands-on way, with training by professional FSD staff in the field. The experience is perfect for someone looking to go into development work.

11

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am really impressed with the organization's continued dedication to partner with organizations that combine both microcredit initiatives and entrepreneurial/leadership training to promote capacity and self-empowerment for women throughout Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. FSD also has a propensity to partner with organizations that have long standing in their communities, meaning that their efforts are well-developed within the communal context. A great example is Women Together for Development (WOTODEV), a women's collective founded in Masaka, Uganda in 1998 that tries to address gaps between women's vocational and social experiences in rural and urban areas throughout the Masaka District.