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#BizTrends2019: NPOs need to be nimble
Nomvula Dlamini, Inyathelo trustee and executive director of the Community Development Resource Association
Competition for limited funds
Without sufficient income, their much-needed services cannot be delivered. In focus group discussions among NPOs, and in general discourse, we have seen confirmations of decreased international funding and more competition for limited funds. While some NPOs are nimble and innovative in addressing funding challenges, many more organisations are under-resourced and highly dependent on single sources of funding support. This situation is exacerbated by limitations in resource mobilisation skills.
There are no easy answers. A number of organisations such as the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and SA Reserve Bank have reduced South Africa’s growth prospects and tough conditions are unlikely to ease in 2019 for the local NPO sector.
Far-sighted NPO leaders are likely to focus more on personal and organisational capacity-building, if they and their staff are to gain the necessary skills and competence to survive and thrive in a tough environment. NPOs that plan for and invest in strengthening their organisations and staff will have a greater chance of making an impact.
Holistic, integrated fundraising
We can also expect fundraising to become increasingly professional and to be approached in a more holistic, integrated way. In the United States philanthropy sector there is widespread understanding of advancement ‒ the practice of building, maintaining and improving support, skills and funds for an organisation or institution. It incorporates elements such as governance, leadership, relationship-building and financial management. In South Africa, applying advancement principles has already boosted the fundraising capacity of many higher education institutions (HEIs). Looking forward, more NPOs are likely to adopt this professional approach to grow long-term sustainability.
Another interesting development, which may continue to gain traction, is greater awareness among South Africans of the impact they can make through personal giving.
According to the latest Annual Survey of Philanthropy in Higher Education (ASPIHE) by Dr Sean Jones, commissioned by Inyathelo and funded by The Kresge Foundation, donations to HEIs from local private donors increased from R72m to more than R500m from 2013 to 2016. Inyathelo, the non-profit trust that (among other initiatives) works to increase individual social giving, has helped raise awareness through initiatives such as 10 years of Philanthropy Awards (2006-2016) and, more recently, its 2017 Philanthropy Forum. Such interventions have highlighted how, even without large resources or great influence, ordinary individuals can make a difference in others’ lives.
In conclusion, 2019 is likely to present many challenges for NPOs which are, on the whole, under-resourced. Last year, however, we saw some notable occasions in which some civil society organisations have contributed, through their work, towards deepening our democracy. NPO leaders are challenged to be open to new ideas, which could involve everything from exploring new funding models to harnessing social media. As long as NPOs challenge themselves to be innovative, not only in terms of funding models, but also in terms of practices and approaches, they will continue to survive and to provide essential services and support.