Getting the Basics Right: We're Failing

Getting the Basics Right: and We're Failing.
There are some horrible statistics tucked away in the Department of Social Development (DSD) nonprofit register for 2011:

  • Over 86 percent of nonprofit organisations (NPOs) registered with DSD, do not submit Annual Reports including financial statements;
  • 31 percent of organisations applying for nonprofit registration do not meet the legal status and governance requirements such as having a memorandum or constitution as laid out in the NPO Act.

These are the structural basics of running a good nonprofit organisation:

  • If most of us aren't even submitting narrative and financial statements, then how can we be operating in a transparent and ethical manner?
  • Similarly, that such  high percentages of new organisations are getting turned down at the first hurdle, what does this say for our understanding and respect of constitutional documents?

A report in 2005 by DSD puts 'lack of capacity' as the reason many organisations don't comply with the basics of good governance. Simply, organisations just don't have the skill or the staff resources to assign specialists to conduct the most basic work of good management.

This is sad when you consider that most organisations struggle to find funds to cover these costs: for audit fees, for writing, for collation of information, analysis – the basic costs of good management.
Compounding this weakness is a steady increase in the number of nonprofits registered: from 50 000 in 2007 to 76 000 in 2010 - a 15 percent annual increase.
 We potentially have a situation where we have more organisations, with weaker structures steadily wearing down our expectations of good governance, where the lower standard becomes the norm.
Our role in civil society is rooted in ethics and excellence.
 If we are to hold others accountable, we have to be above reproach. We must be openly transparent and highly accountable.
But if we aren't getting the basics right ourselves, how can we assert ourselves as civil society?

Kerryn Krige is the Director of Communications and Income Development at Child Welfare South Africa. This is written in her personal capacity and in no way reflects the views of the organisation.

 

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