Mind your Ps, Q’s and Protect Your R’s in 2015

ngos donors sustainability
Wednesday, 21 January, 2015 - 11:19

In this article the author shares her predictions for 2015 and shares few tips on how NGO leaders should sustain their development initiatives

This year will be filled with frustrations; fallout from power issues, cyber-attacks, unreliable postal services, argy-bargy politicking – you get the picture! Yet greater opportunities will surface by mid-year. A time to “Just smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave" as chanted by the Penguins in the movie Madagascar… just keep going, control yourselves, assess the situation and look for the positive.
 
Nonprofit organisations (NPOs) demonstrating stamina, an eagerness to serve communities and nurturing relationships will prosper this year.
 
Most popular causes attracting funding will be the big E for education (more than 40 percent from corporates) a bigger slice will go to early childhood development (ECD) than previous. Then to a lesser extent; children’s wellbeing and protection; health - communicable and non-communicable diseases; environment and climate change; sports development, animal welfare and wildlife; some interest in social justice, human rights, transparency and housing. 
 
Our under-funded Cinderella remains to be areas of cultural activity: the performing arts; visual arts, crafts, museums, literature, film and video and historical buildings and monuments. The economic contribution and jobs created through this sector are under-valued by donors and the Department of Arts and Culture.
 
Don’t forget this is a rich country with untapped sources, time to innovate and work smarter. A formulae devised by two learned gents in the late 1990s calculated that the NPO sector could secure 1.3 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 2014, GDP was R3.5 trillion; this translates into R45.5 billion! Our thumb-suck for the sector in 2014 was around R28 billion. 
 
Friends, philanthropy – say Please and Thank You
 
It is not only individuals who seek appreciation but foundations and companies do as well. A ‘thank you’ is now an auto-response message or just standard blurb. Donors are not ATM machines. Don’t dehumanise your donors, work on each relationship and bond often by touch or voice. Committed donors want to hear the big ‘I’ for impact - is their money making a difference? 
 
As donors become more skeptical and start to scrutinise good causes by asking tough questions, fundraising teams will have to up their game as the philanthropic spirit is fragile, treat it with care and respect.
 
The millennial donor (those born between 1981 and 1995) expect an instant response and a higher level of engagement with daily updates. A periodic newsletter will not suffice so tap into Twitter, Apps, YouTube and other forms of social media. The next generation of donors, often called the Thumb generation, need to hear success stories and be up to speed on everything going on in the organisation such as how many board members and staff dig into own pockets and volunteer a few hours in the trenches?
 
Corporate funding is losing direction and will flat line this year as companies become more inclined to award bigger slices of corporate social investment (CSI) allocations to their own community initiatives, bursary funds and donations to government bodies rather than to NPOs directly. Scoring Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) points has become an obsession with business and quite frankly that is not CSI. 
 
Political party funding took centre-stage again during the run up to 2014 General Elections. It was rumoured that the private sector, wealthy individuals made donations up to half-billion Rand to major players; of course this cannot be confirmed as it is confidential stuff. Hats off to Absa Bank for issuing a press statement stating they will be stopping donations to political parties in future and giving more to NGOs and communities.
 
While tried-and-true fundraising methods such as hosting special events, selling pop-corn, writing endless proposals, direct mail appeals, push-button online donations, etc, should continue to be employed, new ideas should be welcomed.
 
Who could have predicted the avalanche of donations for the ALS Ice Bucket challenge which raised US$220 million globally? This was described by one seasoned fundraiser akin to the pet rock craze of the 1970s. Crowdfunding sites are launched everyday so take care in selecting the one best suited to your organisation. 
 
Locally, checkout newcomers like Thundafund.com, the Tipfuxeni Portal and Give n Gain, the latter gaining international interest, which is good news for South African charities.
 
New payment Apps for smart phones are gaining traction such as Apple Pay, e-wallet services and SnapScan. Have you set up your barcodes yet?
 
If you wish to start your own Crowdfunding campaign and want to know how then view GlobalGiving’s 11 Steps to Online Fundraising Success.
 
Be more tech savvy and manage data security by introducing privacy and encryption policies to protect you and your organisation against data theft, cyber-attacks, and uninvited surveillance.  This is a real problem; don’t take it lightly, change passwords often and upgrade software. Prevent adware creep which is so annoying and time consuming.
 
Think beyond emails for communicating and be prepared to dedicate more time and energy to managing websites, blogs and directing traffic to and from social media. Capisce?
 
Will the Paperless Proposal be embraced in the NPO sector? The art of proposal writing will swing into what can only be described as movie making. Not to be confused with online forms with pre-populated questions, but cutting edge cloud computing; voice-overs, YouTube clips, drop down budgets and statistics, maps - the mind boggles. Make an introductory pitch in less than four minutes, update the details whilst discussing a project online with the donor, polish and deliver. This might meet with resistance from CSI departments for now, while some international foundations are testing already.
 
Cheaper devices known as Phablets (combined phones and tablets) will mean more access through different channels. Speedier 5G connectivity by 2020 will liberate Africa while the acronym BYOD (bring in own personal devices) will be common in all work and public spaces.
Meeting software such as; GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect Pro, Microsoft Online, Skype’s new features for document sharing and common viewing to name a few are getting cheaper and more reliable. Away with Telkom’s expensive teleconferencing!
 
We don’t seem to talk much about digital currency in the sector but according to Sir Richard Branson this will transform the world - will this be Virgin Money?
 
You might also want to explore Google for nonprofits? New apps are in abundance with other useful tools to assist the sector in raising funds or for monitoring projects or other tasks.
 
Keep a look out for details on the ‘Digital Age e-Philanthropy and Fundraising’ Indaba that is planned for mid-year. 
 
Protect your brand, your reputation
 
Unethical behaviour and secretive moves from SANParks who tried to gag leaks about bonuses awarded to one of its highest paid employees who receives a basic salary of R95 000 per month to raise money to help in the war against rhino poaching, a R200 million fund. The fundraiser received ‘merit bonuses’ of R1.4 million in commission on donations. SANParks are reviewing their policies but this can’t be right when 1 020 Rhino were murdered during 2014.
Greenpeace International will be busy this year re-building their image after ending up in hot water when it emerged that one of their most senior executives commuted 400 kilometres to work by plane twice a month, despite the environmental group’s campaign to curb aviation travel. Then again they were forced to apologise for a “serious error of judgment” after a loss of R51 million (£3 million) of public donations when a member of staff took part in unauthorised currency dealing. Then again causing ‘irreparable damage’ to the Nazca lines during a publicity stunt/protest intended for the United Nations climate talk delegates in Lima, Peru last December.
 
Apparently there has been some hanky-panky between a board member and executive director of a well-known NGO who have been crossing professional boundaries for many years, saucy stuff. The fallout will be disastrous if it hits the headlines?
 
Another matter of ethics involves a fundraising executive ignoring procurement procedures and making a preferred service provider very wealthy. There was also talk of kick-backs and holidays in the mountains but it’s doubtful this will gain media attention because of who they are!
 
While many of the large NPOs continue to exceed fundraising goals (they have sufficient staff and are adept at marketing and communication) the broad base of NPOs will not experience a great deal of increased donations. At the last count over 133 000 NPOs were registered with the Department of Social Development. Ten thousand signed-up over the last six months, an unprecedented rise which could soon collapse into chaos. The NPO Arbitration Panel is now in place and will soon address appeals against de-registration. Last year it was revealed that only 19 percent of registered organisations complied with the NPO Act, so we can expect the Auto-De-register button to go crazy again. Get your reports in today.
 
Legislative changes that will affect the sector this year will include; 

  • Amendments to the NPO Act of 1997 will definitely be presented to parliament this year, providing politicians stop lambasting one another and get on with running the country.
  • b) New and exciting changes to the National Lottery Act of 1997 will also come into effect, most of it all good stuff except for a new regulation proposing that ‘an agent, representative or conduit’ will be entitled to take a five percent slice of an awarded grant. Will South Africa will be the first to legislate and sanction commission-based fundraising. Boo! So-called ‘agents’ are already infiltrating desperate community based organisation with promises of access to government grants and lottery money if they are registered NPOs. It’s a big scam.
  • c) The introduction of The Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act enacted by the President 2 years ago, full implications of privacy compliance still has to be grasped by the NPO sector. A new dawn in data management has arrived for NPOs.

In a nutshell; 

  • Keep your donors close and show appreciation, say Please and Thank You!
  • Don’t misbehave and hit the headlines, stay out of trouble.
  • Online donors will renew offline so revert to traditional methods like direct mail, email and the telephone for renewals.
  • Constantly seek new sources of support.
  • Try new ways to raise funds but wise-up and be tech savvy.
  • Keep an eye on changes in legislation and make sure you comply.

- Prepared by Ann Bown of Charisma Consulting. Bown is president of the Southern Africa Institute of Fundraising and is a financial sustainability adviser and trainer to the non-profit sector. 

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