How Kakenya’s Dream Broke Through Fundraising Barriers to Win a Seven Figure Gift

Case Study Snapshot:


Kakenya’s Dream had a powerful founding story, an inspiring mission, and a clear impact. But it couldn’t break through to the next level of growth.

Working with WHC

WHC came alongside the staff and board to develop and implement a fundraising strategy that got results.


Kakenya’s Dream has secured its first million dollar gift, doubled annual revenue, and successfully expanded its programs.


“We needed a strategy.”

When Kakenya Ntaiya founded Kakenya’s Dream in 2008, she was keeping a promise. Having negotiated her way out of an early marriage in her rural Kenyan home, Kakenya had pledged to use her opportunity to be educated in the U.S. to help her community. And she’d been faithful to her promise, opening a boarding school in Kenya in 2009 with a focus on educating girls and ending harmful traditional practices, like forced genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage.

By 2016, though, Kakenya’s Dream was struggling to grow to the next level financially. Kakenya wanted to have a larger impact. She had plans to build a second campus and provide health education training throughout southwestern Kenya, but she felt stuck trying and failing to raise more money.

Kakenya identified several issues:

  • a struggle to find an in-house fundraiser who got results;
  • a board that was not fundraising;
  • messaging they’d outgrown, centering on Kakenya’s personal story
  • the need for new fundraising assets, like a case for support

Ultimately, these problems pointed to a larger issue: “We needed a strategy. We wanted to grow, and we needed to attract more donors to fund new projects.”

“Am I going to spend more money and still not get the help I need?”

Kakenya needed help, but after trying other solutions that hadn’t worked, she was nervous. “There was this fear of ‘Am I going to spend more money and still not get the help I need?’”

When she met Barbara O’Reilly of Windmill Hill Consulting, though, Kakenya sensed this time would be different.

“From that first meeting, I knew I could do more with her. She’s thorough and organized, and she knows her stuff. When I told her what I needed, she gave me examples of how she could help. I stopped worrying about the cost pretty quickly.”

“She had the tools to solve our problems.”

Barbara and her team got to work with Kakenya’s Dream, and right away, Kakenya felt relieved.

“I would spend hours trying to figure something out, and Barbara would come to a meeting and say, ‘Okay, this is what we’re doing. These are the goals.’ She had the tools to solve our problems.”

Here’s how WHC helped propel Kakenya’s Dream to the next level of growth:

  1. Conducting a database assessment: Who’s there? What’s their capacity? What connections do we have to deepen the relationship?
  2. In-depth board training on fundraising and development strategies, including how to make an ask of a potential donor.
  3. Developing board recruitment and onboarding processes.
  4. Overseeing the creation of a case for support.
  5. Working with the development team to create a strategic plan – so they’d be equipped to do so on their own in the future.
  6. Introducing new fundraising ideas, including starting giving circles and researching funders of similar organizations.

“The systems she put in place are the backbone of our fundraising.”

Kakenya’s Dream quickly broke through to a new level of growth and fundraising after partnering with Windmill Hill Consulting. They received their first million dollar multi-year commitment within a year. Kakenya explained, “Barbara introduced us to the idea of multi-year gifts, and we were able to successfully make an ask of a current donor.”

She continued, “When Barbara started with us, our budget was a little under $1 million.Now, we have an annual budget in the $2 million range. We’ve really grown. We were a baby organization before, and now we’ve grown up.”

Kakenya’s biggest takeaways from working with WHC were:

  • Assess alignment with a donor’s giving priorities at the first meeting. “In the past I’ve spent too much time trying to convert a donor who never gave,” she said. “Now I’ve learned what questions to ask to decide if there’s potential for a relationship.”
  • Recruit board members strategically, thinking about the skills and connections the organization needs – and then onboard those members well so they can be as effective as possible.
  • Look beyond money when fundraising. Consider a donor’s sphere of influence. Can they make a connection for us? Are they willing and able to amplify our work online?

Reflecting on Barbara’s work, Kakenya said, “She gave us so many helpful strategies. And the systems she put in place are the backbone of our fundraising.”

“You can spend time thinking about the problem, or you can hire Barbara and get your problem solved.”

When asked how she feels about fundraising and the future of Kakenya’s Dream now, Kakenya smiled proudly. “So much better! I never liked to ask for money before. I’m more confident now.I know how to do what I need to do.”

As for the organization? It opened that second campus, more than doubling the number of girls it’s able to educate. And it recently broke ground on a youth-friendly health clinic that will serve its boarding schools and the surrounding communities.“Our dreams are to keep expanding. We’re able to win multi-year gifts. We’re going after big foundation funding. I have a director of development who’s doing amazing work. We have the support staff we need. Barbara laid the foundation for this growth and really set the trajectory for us.”

Kakenya recommends Barbara for other organizations wanting to break through their fundraising obstacles. To her the choice is clear.

“You can spend time thinking about the problem, or you can hire Barbara and get your problem solved. Investing in bringing Barbara on board is critical for your growth. She knows exactly what to do.”

If you’re ready to break through to the next level of fundraising growth, book a call today!

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