Is It Really So Bad Out There in the NGO Sector?

governance ngos donors
Tuesday, 5 March, 2013 - 11:23

In this article, the author highlights a number of development-related challenges that nonprofit organisations are grappling with in their quest to make a difference in people’s lives

The nonprofit sector has been hit hard by a number of events in 2012 and it seems a wonder that so many are still around and providing essential services to disadvantaged and vulnerable people.

The state of the South African economy really affected the funding patterns of companies and individuals and it is not uncommon for nonprofit organisations (NPOs) to face up to a 30 percent reduction in funding from traditional sources in South Africa.

International funding has all but dried up as South Africa is regarded more and more as a middle income country and international funders are also affected by uncertainty in the global marketplace.

The state, in the guise of the Department of Social Development, for the most part has not granted increases in funding to existing NPOs, which meant that their funding has actually decreased in real terms.

The state, in the guise of the National Lotteries Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF), was slow in allocating grants based on a call for applications at the start of 2011, which for all practical purposes meant that a year was skipped. They also announced a drastic limit to the amount of funding that can be applied for.

On the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) front the news that 100 percent of beneficiaries have to be qualifying black persons for donations to count towards the SED element, was met with shock.

Finally, the Department of Social Development pulled the rug from under thousands of NPOs by de-registering them.

In research conducted by GreaterGood South Africa (GGSA) it was not surprising that closures, reduction of services and job losses on a massive scale was found and reported in the NPO sector.

So, how bad is it really?

It is certainly no walk in the park. The country is facing some serious challenges and the NPO sector, together with government needs to get serious about facing up to these challenges.

The ever widening gap between the very poor and everyone else in the country remains a threat to the well-being of all of us.

The inability of our economy to provide hope for a better future and employment to the youth of our country is possibly an even greater threat to the peace and stability of the country. It needs attention both in the areas of the causes and the consequences of this trend.

A culture of violence that affects women, children and the victims of crime is causing havoc to the social welfare system and its our ability to address the secondary effects of a violent society.

The consequences on the lives of children affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, has not nearly played out yet, despite improvements in the statistics.

A lack of resources, opportunities, knowledge and skill in rural areas keeps feeding the drift of people in rural areas to cities, which in turn cannot cope with the influx.

Within all these overarching and urgent needs, the suffering of the individual is getting lost and in the process we are sacrificing a little bit of our humanity.

What to do then?

Let’s start by not making it worse than it actually is.

Here are some of the positives.

South Africans have been rated the second most generous people in the world. It is not surprising. If South Africans know where and how to give so that it will make a difference, they will give happily and generously.

On the B-BBEE front South African can still continue to give quite happily as the proposed change to the SED code of B-BBEE was withdrawn. The situation is still that 75 percent of beneficiaries have to be black for donations to qualify for B-BBEE points.

The Department of Social Development decided to restore the registrations of NPOs for a period of six months to give them time to comply with the requirements of registration. It is in fact a step forward as NPO registration will in future give a real indication to the donor of the trustworthiness of a NPO.

Donors still qualify for tax benefits when they give to registered Public Benefit Organisations.

The NPO sector is becoming increasingly willing to be professional in its approach and accountable to the people that support them.

Let’s do this

Actively support the government and the people of South Africa in addressing the very real challenges that face our society.Subject ourselves to the full extent that it is possible to principles of good governance.

Be transparent in our accounting to the people that support us.

Be good citizens in terms of addressing sustainability, also as our actions impact on the environment.

Advocate for those vulnerable people among us that can and should never be expected to sustain themselves, such as the very young, the very old and the severely handicapped.

Do the very best we can with what we have, where we are.

Together we will get through this.

- Hilda du Toit is marketing manager at Abraham Kriel Childcare.

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