A stable civil society is essential if we really want to deal with the twin scourges of poverty and inequality head on, both of which have been severely exacerbated by Covid-19.
The mission of Inyathelo (The South African Institute for Advancement) is to help build a strong, stable civil society in South Africa by contributing to the development of sustainable organisations and institutions.
This it does through the development of effective grant-seeking and grant-making practices, and through capacity development in the higher education and non-profit sectors. It also works to increase corporate and individual giving through promoting dialogue, sharing information, and providing support services to facilitate sustainable philanthropic ventures that have lasting impact.
Nazeema Mohammed says that NPOs currently face enormous challenges and will need to take steps to futureproof themselves if they are to survive.
How has Inyathelo supported non-profit organisations during lockdown?
You need resilience and systems in place that boost long-term sustainability to survive as an NPO.
We launched a resource portal with practical, accurate and relevant information that supports NPOs during this stressful time. Organisations can access a wide range of topics on this portal, including information about new funding opportunities in the face of Covid-19.
For many, data has become an issue. Technology platforms like WhatsApp, Zoom and Skype have assisted NPOs to do their work during loackdown, but many NPOs cannot afford the data to use these platforms.
We held a free webinar on cost-effective access to online webinars. During August we launched the #keepconnecting campaign to raise money for data, so that more NPOs can take part in webinars and access online resources, which will help with their future sustainability. We also issue data vouchers to eligible NPOs that have insufficient funding. enabling them to work remotely and to stay in touch with the communities they serve.
What is your advice for NPOs to sustain themselves over the long term?
We believe organisations need to adopt a multi-layered approach known as Advancement. Better-known in America, Advancement focuses on ten related elements such as governance, leadership, relationship-building and financial management. It encourages organisations to work in an integrated way to attract resources for long-term sustainability.
We continue to promote the ten elements of Advancement. For example, governance: This is a great time to review the technical aspects of governance – i.e. registration and legislation – to ensure your NPO is compliant, and to ensure you have an effective board.
NGOs should take advantage of what is out there. We offer online publications, training videos, toolkits and research reports, many free of charge.
As NPOs, we need to find common ground and speak with one voice on the needs of the sector. For example, would government have been more responsive to the sector if we were more organised, or would our staff members have been better protected if we had collectively negotiated risk insurance? We think so.
As a foundation, what have you learnt during lockdown?
Grassroots: Government has announced various safety nets but the reality is that many people are slipping through them. Community NPOs know where the greatest needs are and what obstacles could arise because of historic community experiences. Also, they know about the lived experiences of their neighbours, which could include domestic violence.
If the state better understood the important role that NPOs can play, they would value their input more and ensure more effective support to them.
Community action networks: We are inspired by neighbourhood operations, often run by volunteers, which are making a difference in their communities. Street champions and volunteers are offering services such as soup kitchens and the making of masks. Realising how important it is to work together, we have reignited interest and collaboration with players in the sector.
Civil society: The huge challenges of poverty and inequality need to be addressed, which requires a robust civil society. We have to start working together, and to build stronger bridges with government. The non-profit sector was excluded from initial decisions and actions taken to deal with the pandemic, despite the vital role we play. We are challenged to reassess how we will partner with other key stakeholders to bring about real change and a more just social order.