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for non-profits in a time of crisis
January 21, 2011
live and operate in extremely difficult times! And generally I don-t
think the fundraising scene is going to improve for non-profits
in South Africa. It is actually going to get worse (already happening).
Budgets on social expenditure have been diverted to the World Cup
and now we are going to pay the price. Donors (and government) are
moving more and more toward very big non-profits who can demonstrate
big impact so that they can justify their appeals for raising funds
from their sources (especially corporates and international donors).
The effect is that more and more medium to smaller non-profits are
pushed to the periphery and being marginalised. More and more international
donors are exiting South Africa claiming we are now a middle income
country and must look after itself. What they conveniently forget
is that in terms of the black population SA is a third world country
with the highest ratio of income inequality in the world. Already
it was announced that Atlantic Philanthropies from the US and maybe
even the Ford Foundation will wind up operations in 2012. Cordaid
from the Netherlands has already started exiting.
This will be a major blow for many non-profits who received their
funding from these sources. PEPFAR funding (for HIV/Aids) will be
phased out in 2012 based on a decision by the Obama administration
last year. In order to survive this onslaught, non-profits will
be forced to reposition themselves as a matter of urgency!! If a
climate of urgency does not permeate the corridors of each and every
non-profits then there is a big problem!! It is extremely desperate
and difficult times!!! All this is on top of a deepening funding,
and at a deeper level, a leadership crisis, with its roots post
1994. Even non-profits who were well funded and highly professional
are now feeling the pinch. The shift towards right wing administrations
in Europe coupled with the deepening global economic crisis (caused
by greedy bankers bailed out by taxpayers money) are exacerbating
an already precarious situation.
Here are some tips for non-profits to consider seriously in order
to face the challenges ahead:
training, and more training of ALL staff, board and volunteers
in understanding the importance of fundraising/resource mobilisation
for the organisation. Not just training for a few selected members
or depending on a fundraiser with a silver bullet as a panacea
for your funding crisis.
- If your
non-profit does not have a comprehensive fundraising strategy
in place right now it would be better for the board to close it
down! This is an absolute necessity!!! You need to have a strategy
to guide you in this crisis situation. Without this strategy it
will amount to an army going into battle without a plan!! Absolute
suicide!! And in this strategy you need to focus on maintaining
your current donors, increase their current funding, reconnect
with previous donors and research potential donors A strategic
communication strategy to maximise visibility amongst unknown
donors is a necessity!!
- A dedicated
team (around the director or fundraiser) to fundraise continuously
and not only when they have some extra/free time. And this team
must be well trained with continuous evaluation. Bounce off ideas
with people from the outside in your sector to check that you
are on the right track. And be open to learn, learn, learn and
- Develop a
diverse donor base. The days of single donor support is long gone.
Various donors must be targeted such as government (where funding
is concentrated, especially in an election year), corporates,
individuals, current and previous beneficiaries, friends of your
organisation, municipalities and IDP's, international donors (those
that are still left), national donors, staff giving, volunteer
labour, cost containment (containing overheads), donations in
- Build relationships,
relationships, relationships!!! Be in your donors face. Stop depending
ONLY on emails, sms, social media, etc. Make personal contact,
let them see you, meet with you! Invite them to your events, visit
their offices if possible! But be in their face!
- Learn to
get personal!! Get to know your donors better - as people! Find
out who they are, what makes them tick, their interests, likes
and dislikes, family background, etc. When u make this extra effort,
donors will learn to respect you. It shows them they are more
important to u than there funding! Learn to make specific requests
to specific people based on their specific interest. Stop making
general requests to all and sundry. Get personal...NOW!
- Cut your
overheads immediately! Go through your list of overheads and ask
yourself, what is absolutely necessary to spend money on. What
are those things that are just luxuries and what can you dispense
with. Contain your cost to run your operations. Go to banks, insurance
companies and other services providers to renegotiate contracts.
They must either scrap or lower their rates. Any when you go to
see them, go as a consortium, as a group of non-profits, preferably
in the same sector or in the same community.
- Get more
strategic volunteers and advisors, i.e. increase your social capital.
Recruit more people in your line of work to add value to your
operations. Recruit bookkeepers, managers, HR professionals, facilitators,
legal experts, health professionals, accountants, auditors, journalists,
marketers, etc. Cultivate them, they are also donors. Let them
commit to spend some time with your org to add value to your work.
And never stop thanking them, acknowledging them, always!!!! Develop
a list of strategic advisors or a "Friends of the Organisation".
- Join or
start a network forum. Get like-minded non-profits together and
share ideas, experiences, best practices. Stop working in isolation,
afraid that others will find out who your donors are. And learn
about the art of networking, building healthy relationships to
maximise impact. Stop duplicating and competing...it does NOT
work and cannot work these days! It is madness...
- Within your
organisation, break down any real or potential silos! Everybody
must learn to understand the importance of team work, not competition!
Every department must work in an integrated manner, as a whole.
There is no place during these days for individual inflated EGOS!!
Those who cannot let go of their egos must be shown the door...in
a crisis situation inflated egos become a luxury you cannot afford.
- Go the extra
mile: these days there can be no business as usual!! If you have
worked 8 hour per day, increase that to 10 hours per day or maybe
and extra 3/4 per hours per week or per month (without burning
yourself out of course), show commitment! Show your donors that
you take your work and its impact seriously. And record those
extra hours...that is social capital, that is raising funds from
yourself!! I know many of you are already working overtime without
compensation, but whatever you do now, do it better and better!
- Stop the
negative attitudes: every crisis contains potential opportunity!
Learn to focus on your successes, your track record! Nothing sells
better than what you have already done/achieved, not what you
still PLAN to do!
Stop only focusing on money, money, money!! Focus on donations-in-kind,
material support! Intellectual capital...
- Get your
board involved: you either have an active board or a board that
is bored! Make sure you have the board members on board. They
must open doors, help with advocacy, marketing the organisation.
Too many board members are just paper members, totally inactive
and uncommitted. This must stop!
- Look for
opportunities: Your fundraising office must resemble a war room!
Your team should be busy everyday scanning newspapers, magazines,
social network sites, Internet websites, etc. to research opportunities.
Visit other non-profits, make appointments, visit donors, government
departments, send out emails, etc. to find out what and where
is the next opportunity for your organisation. Last year June/July
I saw an advert about a funding opportunity from an oil company
in KZN in the Cape Times. I sent it to many clients. One of them
received R100 000 eventually! Simple...
- And please,
please, please! If you can avoid it, Do not cut on your programmes!!
Cut overheads yes, but avoid cutting your programmes where your
beneficiaries are located. They are the reason for your existence,
so avoid cutting at this level unless you have explored ALL possibilities
and alternatives! Don't cut away the reason for your existence!
- And lastly:
stop moaning about what you don-t have and focus on what
you already have. Maybe you are not so worse off as others are.
And learn to have fun despite the hardships we are all facing!
We are in the business of changing and saving lives. Nothing can
be nobler, fulfilling and more rewarding.
- And remember,
knowledge is power but consciousness is light!!
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