One of the most humbling moments in my life was when I went to deliver aid after the 2015 Nepal earthquake. These sisters had lost family members and their house had collapsed, yet they turned down aid, saying others needed it more. It really hit me then that our beneficiaries are survivors who ought to be respected, not pitied. In the same vein, I’m also very adamant that corporations and foundations view non-profit organisations (NPOs) as equals, rather than as lesser, receiving entities.
Having worked on both sides of the sector – after three years as executive director at Mercy Relief, I’m now at Just Cause Asia, a social enterprise that provides impact measurement and consultancy to donors and non-profits – I feel that insufficient funding is the root cause behind many inefficiencies.
“If an NPO can check the right boxes – by being transparent, communicating well…donors will follow”
Often, people expect non-profit staff to be martyrs, receiving low or no pay. That makes it difficult to retain talent and stay competitive – with high turnovers, we’re stuck at retraining. Furthermore, the public wants every cent to go to beneficiaries, without recognising the value of investing in staff as well. Staff themselves struggle to negotiate fair remunerations because they’re so invested in their beneficiaries. The onus is on management to fight for staff instead of putting them in a bind.
People want to do good; sometimes they’re just too busy or unsure of how to do due diligence. So if an NPO can check the right boxes – by being transparent, communicating well and making donating convenient – donors will follow. Fundraising is fundamentally about making it relatable and establishing trust.
Increasingly, corporations and foundations are demanding impact statistics. For NPOs, having a framework for evaluating impact not only helps them increase effectiveness, but also provides a structure to better communicate their initiatives to donors. This in turn gives donors more reassurance about how their money is being spent. At Mercy Relief, we faced the same old obstacles during fundraising, whereas an entity like Just Cause can address those concerns and provide reassurance for donors to give confidently. Being a consultant with Just Cause allows me to go upstream to focus on donor education; and bridge gaps in the broader non- profit ecosystem.
Corporate donations are also dropping in favour of ad hoc volunteering – that’s disruptive and counterproductive for NPOs. That said, it does create opportunities for non-profits who are strategic about leveraging the strengths of the corporate sector to create win- win situations. A long-term partnership keeps NPOs nimble and is more meaningful for corporate volunteers.
Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, founder of the Visayan Forum Foundation, summed it up well when she cautioned that the more we raise people like her on pedestals, the more the layperson thinks change is beyond them – when, in fact, everyone is able to make a difference.
This article was originally published in the March 2019 issue of SilverKris magazine