The words ‘competition’ and ‘competitive’ are increasingly being used to address the nonprofit sector, something which should both shame and alarm us all. As a sector, irrespective of our different areas of focus, our collective mandate is to facilitate an environment which uplifts human lives and we should not be competing to do that. Instead, we should be looking for ways to support each other in the achievement of this collective mandate.
Rather than reacting to the so-called ‘funding crisis’ by competing with each other for resources, we should be taking proactive measures not to protect our organisations, but rather those whom we serve. It is an opportunity to discover an alternative way of doing things, one that does not create a spirit of dependency in South African civil society organisations (CSOs).
This can be achieved by pooling resources as may be necessary, including human capital. Collaboration need not be on a huge scale, it can be with simple things like an organisation having more stationery than they need and sharing with another. It is from these little acts that we will be starting a process of creating networks of support for each other and by so doing, maximising the impact of a sector as a whole.
This will not only have a positive impact on those whom we serve, but it will also protect the integrity of the sector. Too many organisations are so focused on the quest for resources that the mere existence of the organisation has come to transcend the actual needs which brought it into existence in the first place. Apart from this, the scramble for resources have left many organisations compromised as they sacrifice their mandates in exchange for donor driven ones- which are not always in the best interests of those being served.
I call on the sector to forget the ‘funding crisis’ and rather accept this as a chance to re-imagine and re-create not only the way we do things, but also our society in general. In the creation of a less reactive and more proactive sector, we will be setting an example not only to those whom we serve; but also those whom we often call to order for their compromised integrity. This in turn will create CSOs which "walk the talk" we so often preach and will be the greatest contribution we can make in strengthening civil society in South Africa.