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Lessons in Sustainability: In funding, marketing and recruiting

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When asked about how you’re sustaining your NGO’s activities, I daresay anyone’s initial interpretation of it would be how are you funding your NGO?

Attending the recent Social Development Celebration hosted by CODE-NGO, I’ve been reminded that there are also other key aspects that influence sustainability; namely manpower and marketing.How can an average NGO sustain itself financially? Is the political setup of the country allowing NGOs to thrive, let alone survive? Are NGOs able to attract and sustain younger members to sustain its growth? These are some of the questions raised and whose discussions and key takeaways I’m excited to share with you here.

Though most, if not all, of the discussions provided here are framed in the Philippine context, there may still be some points and/or insights that may prove to be useful for your organization – as essentially, we as NGOs do struggle with the same problems, though just packaged differently.

 

In funding

When talking about sustainability, funding is the buzzword and be it the key concern of NGOs in general. During this discussion, a representative of USAID (which were also the funders of the NGO Sustainability Index study) pointed out a simple yet necessary insight – funding shouldn’t come from a single source.

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Though seemingly simple, this tip is easier said than done, admitted the USAID representative. However, there are alternatives which any nonprofit can take. Ultimately, this should lead to the ideal state where nonprofits become self-sustaining through their own enterprise activity.

But, if you’re still looking to get a jump start on funding, here are some resources that can definitely help you out:

  • AsianNGO – a publication that serves as a gateway for grants currently available to NGOs
  • GiveAsia – an online crowd-funding platform to help you fund your NGO, your project, advocacy and more.
  • Kitabisa.com – an online crowd-funding platform as well specifically for Indonesian NGOs and Social enterprises.

 

In marketing

Proper marketing plays an integral part for any NGO. Mainly, as it goes hand in hand with your NGOs success in sustaing funding and also manpower. Perhaps more of a cultural trait, I’ve come to learn that there are some NGOs in the Philippines who have downplayed the importance of marketing – dismissing it as an unnecessary bragging of altruism. On the other hand of the spectrum though, there are as well some NGOs who have existing marketing initiatives, but have sadly faired less than what they were expecting.

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Regardless of where you stand on the two sides presented, a proper marketing strategy is definitely in dire need. Though sounds intimidating, a proper marketing strategy can be as easy as tapping into available resources such as social media networks, your newsletter, your blogs and so on. It’s just a matter of being consistent in the development of content, and looking into best practices that can help you make the most of your marketing initiatives.

To give you a jump start on creating effective content be it in social media, newsletters or more, here are some resources that you may want to take a look at:

 

In recruitment

Last but not the least, manpower. During the event, it has been noted that it has become increasingly difficult for NGOs in the Philippines to attract younger talent (perhaps this may or may not be the case for your organization in your country).

Based on the research done by the Peace and Equity Foundation (PEF) in the Philippines, one of the main reasons could be attributed to how NGOs are promoting opportunities that they provide. More often than not, it turns out that NGOs tend to speak in a language that can come off as confusing, intimidating, or even at times, uninteresting.

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A good example they’ve provided was when putting up job openings. As exciting as a community manager opening may sound for most of us, it doesn’t necessarily attract a younger audience as it can come off as either vague and/or intimidating. Instead of putting it up as a community manager slot, perhaps get straight to the point and identify the tasks at hand directly. This makes it easier to digest, and more approachable for a younger pool of fresh graduates. And at this point, it's a good strategy to reach out to a younger pool of talent as they can make for fresh new ideas that can help improve your current initiatives.

 

About your environment

From those three points, the USAID representative then admitted that these are skewed mainly on the internal factors that affect any NGO’s sustainability. Simply speaking, these are about factors that are based on what we have or have not done as an organization.

On the other hand, there are also bigger external influences that can affect any NGO’s ability to thrive, let alone survive as an organization. These can include the current political climate of the country, laws and regulations concerning NGOs, and most of all, public imagery of NGOs in general – whether it’s seen by the public as an organization that can be trusted, or not.

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Though these factors are normally larger and are harder to change, it’s advisable for any NGO to be vigilant among such factors, most especially those within the political side of things. Though we’re branded as non-governmental, the political climate of any country can still prove to have a significant influence over any NGO's ability to sustain itself.

To learn more about these various factors and also the state of NGOs in other countries in terms of sustainability, we invite you to read through USAID’s CSO Sustainability Index here >>