Funding in South Africa: Where Are We Heading?

Sitting at the Lottery Indaba was an insight - but probably not in the way that Lotto intended. Instead of showing up the flaws in the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF) systems, it highlighted that the root problem is amongst ourselves: amongst NGOs who are hankering after a past funding model, instead of looking forward.

A recent report by Treasury puts most of our international donors as disinvested by 2013, 2015 at the latest. This isn't a travesty when only one percent of our gross domestic product (GDP) is foreign funding. We are a middle income country and increasingly have the capacity (and are expected to have the capacity) to fund our own social development. So we have to look internally for our funding. We have to become pro-active about sourcing our funds, marketing our work, rallying supporters to our cause.

What was out of kilter for me at the conference was that we still seem to be stuck in the thinking that donors must give. For all of NLDTF's flaws (and there are plenty - I too have spent much time moaning about their grant management) I don't think that any donor has to give. Lotto admitted that their funds are far less this year than ever before because of less ticket sales in the recession. Instead of insisting for more money (which NGOs did), we really should acknowledge this reality - that funds are extremely shy.

And once we’ve acknowledged this the reality is simple: that our methods of funding have to change:

  • That to survive, we are going to have to work more in partnerships;
  • That in a competitive environment, we are going to have to demonstrate our value to funders, to our audience, and to our peers through excellent monitoring, that is not just about numbers of people we reach, but about impact. (This isn't as difficult as it at first seems - it takes us back to qualitative data - the insights we get from our field work that adds such richness to our cause);
  • That we are going to have to be imaginative in our ways of generating funding: mixing our traditional methods with commercial income models, latching onto social media as an affordable way to communicate to large numbers, involving our public in a way that connects them to our cause.

It's an exciting time: but to embrace it we have to take a creative leap. It’s easier to feel hard done by Lotto if they're not giving you funds. But rather work on the assumption that they won't, and start exploring the myriad other avenues that are starting to light up. It’s a far more sustainable path to follow.

- Kerryn Krige is Director: Income Development and Communications at Child Welfare South Africa. This article is written in her private capacity.

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