The other day I received an email requesting CSRNEWSSA to fund 50 NGO’s attendance at The Great Funders Conference (17 – 20 September 2019). On the same day I received two more emails requesting things for free – a total of a quarter of a million rands’ worth of free services requested for that day.
I seriously considered these requests and came, eventually, to the conclusion that no, I could not accede to the request for free access to our upcoming conference. Let me explain why:
We’ve put this conference together for NGOs – this entire programme is designed to benefit NGOs, enabling them to meet funders, learn how to pitch themselves and tailor what they do to meet the requirements of both business and the community – so that they stand a chance of succeeding.
The person asking for free access fails to see a bigger picture. He wants the benefits without the sacrifice, and the mindset that prompts such a request is one still enchained by the ‘please give me’ attitude.
Look at the successful start-ups around you – or look at McDonalds, one of the world’s most successful start-ups. When you see McDonalds, you think ‘burgers’. What you don’t consider is the opportunistic thinking that made it what it is today. McDonalds is about convenience. They specialise in prime locations and absolute consistency, so that wherever you are in the world, you know exactly what to expect when you enter a McDonalds. Massive investments in infrastructure, people, systems and every last detail of layout, colour scheme and hygiene maintenance went into making McDonalds the monolith it is.
My point is that you have to think like a business,
speak like a business and act like a business to raise your NGO to the next
level. It comes down to attitude, and attitude comes down to personal
development. Change your way of thinking and change your NGO.
Work, personal development and more work
I have an
enquiring mind and a propensity to challenge the status quo because I read. Not
always because I feel like reading, but because I know I have to in order to
stay abreast and develop new ideas. My
commitment for this year is a book a week. Once all the day’s tasks are done –
often in the early hours of the morning – I will be found reading. ‘Don’t sleep
until you’re finished’ – that is my motto.
But it takes self-discipline and hard work and I work so hard sometimes
my brain freezes … that’s when I know it’s time to stop. One day I worked so hard I dozed off while
typing. That is what we’re talking about
Robert Kiyosaki, the great financial guru, speaks about the fact that when he was young his rich dad made him work for nothing. His rich dad taught him to create opportunities. Money, he said, was not the object – the object was to use your skills and ingenuity to make something better – to improve a situation, product or service. If you do it wholeheartedly and with all your mind, rich dad said, money will follow.
So, success in any endeavor is about attitude towards your own life and the opportunities you see in the situations around you. When you read about The Great Funders’ Conference and focus on the cost, failing to see the incredible benefits that might (and indeed, might not) open up to you as a result of your presence there, you’re falling into the ‘please give me’ mindset. Yes, it’s a risk. Whoever did anything successful without an element of risk?
conference is once-a-year opportunity to elevate your NGO by meeting funders
and learning current thinking on development work. You may come away with
something concrete, and you may just gain valuable insights. There are no
guarantees. Bear in mind that the funders attending are doing you a favour – they don’t have to seek
new projects to fund. They are paying to be there because they want to improve
the way they fund, and they want to create opportunities, time and hope for the
many NGOs that they may not have heard of.
Just so you get the point
A few days after I received the request for freebies, I received another email, ultimately requesting the same thing, but approaching the matter quite differently. A young, female head of a small NGO said:
‘Sir, we’d like to attend The Great Funders’ Conference but cannot afford the fee. However, we can offer the following services in lieu of payment … We don’t know if these skills would be needed, but if they are, we’d greatly appreciate being considered as participants. We need this, as we have not received funding in three years.’
I immediately called the young woman and offered her and nine colleagues the job of ushering and managing reception at the conference – no small task. I offered a fair wage for the job, so that the team would gain financially and participate as staff members of the conference. Who knows what they might do with the opportunity? They will be right there at the heart of things, and in a prime position to make the connections they seek.
Believe me when I say that I know the plight of the NGO sector. I grew up in an NGO household; my grandmother started an NGO with nothing and built it up to where it is today – still thriving after she has passed away and valued at ZAR 14 million. I know the years of hard work, hope, disappointment and determination that go into growing an NGO. I know the stages you go through – from holding out the begging bowl to being able to buy property and employ a business manager. One thing I know, too, is that the world has changed since then. It’s no longer just about a great heart, hope and a vision – you have to have the attitude of an entrepreneur to last.
I was speaking to a CEO colleague in the construction industry about growing a business or NGO. We agreed that in the end the success of your venture is about you – your personal growth. If you want to change your environment, you have to change yourself.
‘Simphiwe,’ he said, ‘it’s about personal ambition – the drive within you that makes you find a way where there is no way.’
The age of corporate giving because of guilt is over. Now it is down to which organisation does the best work in the best way, with the best people. And that takes the entrepreneurial spirit; a willingness to take calculated risks, a willingness to work way beyond the requirements of a nine-to-five job, passion, grit, resilience and some intangible combination of fire and optimism. It will not be found among people who say no to opportunities because of an entrance fee. I say get the attitude right or simply close the doors! Tough you might say – but it’s a tough world.