What are the future financial and funding models for non-government organisations (NGOs)? That was the question asked at the Kagiso Trust (the Trust) community engagement workshop and panel discussion held at the University of Johannesburg - Soweto Campus on 16 April 2015.
Globally, as in South Africa, NGOs are challenged by the scarcity of resources. Even successful NGOs such as South African based poverty alleviation organisation, Kagiso Trust are reminded of this reality. Speaking at the workshop, Thabiso Ratsomo, a Kagiso Trust trustee, acknowledged that it had taken the NGO over 20 years to become sustainable, and that to this day, the organisation relies on government and corporate partnerships to deliver the development services it does.
“Kagiso Trust didn’t have it easy. When the European Union (EU) decided to redirect funding to the South African government following democracy, we made a choice not to close down because we thought the work of the trust was still relevant. At that time the EU was our main donor and their decision to pull out presented a very difficult period for the organisation, but this also gave us the opportunity to reassess how we operated and to consider thinking and strategies that would overcome this challenge,” Ratsomo said.
Over 400 guests who represent NGOs and various community organisations attended the panel discussion and workshop at the Imbizo Hall to pose and ask questions relating to the topic.
On the eve of the democratic elections, Kagiso Trust launched its investment arm Kagiso Trust Investments which changed the direction of the NGO, ensuring its sustainability while allowing it to continue with its development work.
Mokgethi Tshabalala, chief executive officer of Thebe Foundation, agreed adding how Thebe had taken a similar approach with Thebe Foundation in setting up Thebe Investments. “Thebe Investment Corporation was started in 1992 by an NGO and is now sitting at a worth of R6 billion and the community trust is still a shareholder.” Tshabalala shared with the audience the importance of looking at ways within your organisation to become more sustainable. “If you are in feeding, one basic thing that you constantly need is mealie-meal. Instead of procuring at Makro, for example, talk to the Department of Trade and Industry about producing your own food.” Tshabalala mentioned that the advent of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) meant that big companies were looking for strategic partners.
“The main problem lies with the way nonprofit organisations (NPOs) procure services”, added Khosi Mvulane, founder and managing director of G.A.D Consulting Services. G.A.D is a governance, auditing and accounting firm that provides its services to NPOs and small medium enterprises (SMEs). “In our experience sustainability isn’t there from the beginning. For example, you can’t run an HIV NGO if that’s no longer the reason South Africans are dying. You need to address the problem, a problem in your community. Additionally, you need to keep evolving as your environment evolves”, said Mvulane. She also made the point that many NGOs find it difficult to account to their donors because they are not acquiring services from properly registered service providers.
Left to right: Mokgethi Tshabalala, CEO of Thebe Foundation, Thabiso Ratsomo, Kagiso Trust Trustee, Khosi Mvulane, Founder and Managing Director of GAD Consulting Services Inc and moderator/facilitator, Ishmael Mkhabela.
Another issue standing in the way of growth in the NGO sector is the fear to collaborate with other NGOs. “Often NGO’s spread their resources too wide and for this reason NGO leaders find it difficult to be experts at anything.” Mvulane added, “NGOs need to decide which areas to focus on and in which projects monies belong in.”
In their bottoms-up approach, Kagiso Trust has always been rooted in the community, prioritising poverty alleviation through education. With this in mind Kagiso Trust will host several such community engagement workshops around the country during its 30th anniversary celebration in order to inspire and to offer lessons learned on its journey with other NGOs looking to become sustainable.
“Our sector is at the cutting edge of providing solutions and we believe in the power of the NGO sector,” Themba Mola, acting CEO of Kagiso Trust told audiences. “We are looking at working with different NGOs and also receiving their pearls of wisdom to address the issue of our current relevance, this we believe will be accomplished by shifting our mind set of always receiving and, as we have realised, make use of the other alternatives to funding such as through investments.”
This is the second of six panel discussions that Kagiso Trust will be hosting in accordance with its ‘pearls of wisdom’ campaign which aligns with the organisation’s 30th anniversary this year.
Celebrating 30 years
The ‘pearls of wisdom’ campaign launched last month at Wits Business School will travel across South Africa in the form of panel and community engagement discussions hosted in partnership with various universities. The discussions will encourage leading figures in the academic, government, civil and private sector to share wisdoms and lessons learnt with the broader South African public in a yearlong knowledge sharing campaign.
The aim of the campaign is to promote dialogue around key issues facing the development agenda of the country.
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About the Kagiso Trust
The long history of Kagiso Trust (KT) is entrenched in building sustainable partnerships for poverty eradication. For over 20 years, KT has worked with South Africans to achieve a society which offers liberty, justice and freedom from poverty. The core business of KT is empowering poor marginalised South Africans so as to affirm their place and participation in the larger social institution. KT pursues an organisational development strategy that seeks to maximize its unique strength of relating to ordinary people, particularly in rural communities, as well as its’ considerable experience in development facilitation to identify sustainable solutions towards poverty eradication. It currently has three programmes, the Beyers Naude Schools Development Programme, the Eric Molobi Scholarship
Programme and the Kagiso Enterprises Rural Private Equity Fund. For more information, please visit www.kagiso.co.za.
Follow the Pearls of Wisdom campaign on Twitter: @Kagiso_Trust #KT30Years or go to www.kt30years.co.za.