Case Study: Volunteers as a Driving Organizational Force: Ziphilele

Wednesday, 28 August, 2002 - 23:00

The following case study comes from Ashoka's booklet Creative Strategies for a New Era - South African NGOs Mobilise Local Resources, written by Fazila Farouk and edited by Lisa Cannon.

The following case study comes from Ashoka's booklet Creative Strategies for a New Era - South African NGOs Mobilise Local Resources, written by Fazila Farouk and edited by Lisa Cannon.

Ziphilele is a non-profit organisation that was founded in 1996 to develop the entrepreneurial skills of youth from disadvantaged backgrounds. Volunteerism is a basic tenet upon which Ziphilele was built. Today, the organisation's success and future sustainability is dependent on the spirit of volunteerism of its founding and new members.

Ziphilele, which means, 'Stand On Your Own', primarily targets unemployed youth and high school learners. The focus of this article is Ziphilele's "High School Programme" (HSP). Its objective is to transform school leavers from job seekers to job creators. The programme comprises weekend camps and workshops where learners are encouraged to reflect on self-employment as a career alternative through life skills and entrepreneurial training. Learners are also introduced to craft making to develop practical skills.

Mobilise volunteers
Ziphilele's HSP is resourced for the most part by volunteers. To find its volunteers, Ziphilele targets tertiary learning institutions such as universities and colleges. Volunteers are also recruited through the 'Voluntary Centre', a partner organisation.

Learners and various partners contribute to other aspects of the ten-month programme. Learners contribute fifty Rand towards their participation in the weekend camps. Ziphilele's donors, comprising corporate partners and foundations, fund the camps and volunteer training workshops. Corporate partners also donate materials for the craft making workshops. Funds generated from the sale of the crafts at an annual exhibition and at a "K-TV Market Day" (kids TV channel event) are also ploughed back into the programme.

K-TV Market Day is an annual entrepreneurial event for children between the ages of six and sixteen. Children may sell anything during the event to earn some money to reward their efforts. To enter, children must submit an entry form and a one-page business plan to the event's organisers.

Require volunteers to make a commitment
Volunteers sign a social contract with Ziphilele, committing to a full year of service provision. Nevertheless, volunteers entering the program are placed on probation for six months. The volunteers roles and responsibilities are outlined in the 'Volunteer Task Description'. During their contract period, volunteers are obliged to attend two volunteer training workshops and to make ten 'contacts' with learners. These 'contacts' take place mainly at the weekend camps where volunteers facilitate training workshops and take care of the learners.

Create the space for volunteers to grow
Volunteers contribute substantially to the content of the HSP and are given creative freedom regarding workshop methodology. The enthusiastic involvement of volunteers has led to the growth of the Volunteer Program and requires Ziphilele to create systems and capacity to manage its volunteers. In the last two years, Ziphilele has engaged the services of a volunteer co-ordinator. It has also adopted a Volunteer Policy, which provides guidance to staff and volunteers engaged in volunteer initiatives. Ziphilele has found that each volunteer develops at a different pace and for the partnership to be mutually beneficial, the skill of the volunteer must be matched to the task at hand.

Volunteers themselves are calling for a more enriching program to boost their growth and development. Recognising that this will demand advanced training; Ziphilele volunteers have embarked on their own fundraising initiative. Volunteers are generating new funds to develop their program by hosting short life skills and entrepreneurial training workshops at schools that are willing to pay for their services. Thus far, they have collected five thousand Rand.

Since the HSP's inception in 1996, an estimated sixty volunteers have participated in the programme and approximately five hundred learners have been reached. In the last three years, an average of fifteen volunteers have passed through the HSP annually. This success has also attracted support from other quarters - on average, corporate donors fund at least sixty percent of the organisation's one million Rand annual budget, while foundations contribute to twenty-five percent of this amount. The programmes success has also prompted Ziphilele to start rationalising other initiatives to make the HSP their main focus for the future.

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