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NPOs can be more impactful in their immediate communities, as part of those communities, embodying the saying, ‘charity begins at home’.


South Africa (08 September 2023) – South Africa’s storied history has left the country in a position where it is faced with a number of unique and arduous challenges ranging from poverty, inequality and unemployment, to education, healthcare and a lack of access to critical services such as water, electricity and more.

Unfortunately, a scarcity of resources has meant that these challenges are difficult for government to tackle alone. And that’s where non-profit organisations (NPOs) have a critical role to play. NPOs help to fill this gap through aid and assist in the provision of social services to those who cannot be reached by the government. NPOs are therefore crucial to the betterment of society and the improvement of quality of life.

It cannot be overstated just how important NPOs are to South Africa’s socio-economic development and, most importantly, its people. The more than 220,000 NPOs registered in the country continue to facilitate the creation of employment opportunities, development of varying skills, capacity building of experience within different sectors and industries, implementation of innovative solutions to ongoing challenges and the strengthening of social systems.

However, South African NPOs are themselves facing a number of issues affecting their ability to drive a greater positive impact in the upliftment and empowerment of South African citizens who need it the most. For example, in trying to ensure greater accountability and transparency in the sector this has led to the prioritisation of reporting and measuring of performance indicators. However, this focus has effectively resulted in distancing many NPOs from the poor or marginalised communities they are looking to serve.

But, by simply increasing their focus on advancing the development of the immediate communities within which they operate, as part of those communities, NPOs can position themselves to affect more long-term value.

A local-first approach to service delivery

The best way to effect real, positive change is to first gain a clear understanding of the challenge you are trying to address. This means understanding the environmental, geographical, social and economic factors that have led to or are exacerbating said challenge as well as the skills, talent and resources available to be leveraged in tackling a challenge. This way, an organisation is able to not only help treat the symptoms but also the underlying problems to facilitate sustainable change. And, no one understands a community, its needs, and the systems around it, better than those who are on the ground and are part of those communities.

By taking an on-the-ground approach in their operations, NPOs can enable their organisations to become more accountable to the people they serve and more effective in driving positive impact. Being community-led means becoming an active member of the community in order to build a relationship of trust and care based on insider knowledge of local communities – their culture, assets, context, and any current efforts being pursued to address the same challenge an NPO is hoping to tackle.

Additionally, NPOs are often faced with serious funding or financial resource challenges as they primarily rely on donations and private fundraising to ensure service delivery. And yet, of the R10.9 billion spent by South African companies in 2022, social and community development was the second-most supported sector taking up a 13% share of all CSI expenditure in the year, with 60% of companies predicting an increase in resources and budget for CSI over the next two years. This shows significant appetite from businesses looking to put their support behind NPOs who are focused on community-level impact.

Taking key steps towards a grassroots strategy

The most important element in ensuring that an NPO becomes truly community-led is the transformative relationships that the organisation is able to build with people within a community. These relationships are crucial to helping NPOs in their decision-making processes, setting out their priorities, developing tailored projects and campaigns and ensuring the most effective implementation of them.

NPOs also need to facilitate a culture of open communication between themselves and the communities they serve to ensure that the voices of people within a community are heard.

Another way that NPOs can drive direct impact in the communities in which they operate is by including the community in different parts of the service delivery value chain of an NPO’s philanthropic efforts. For example, the non-profit Relate raises funding for charitable causes through the sale of locally produced bracelets, creating earning opportunities for locals within the community. This empowers members of the community as it enables them with new skills and access to new employment opportunities while at the same time playing a hand in raising the funds that are then reinvested into other social upliftment activities, skills training, and enterprise development initiatives.

It’s clear that NPOs are key to building healthy communities and therefore by becoming a part of the communities they’re looking to enfranchise they can have a greater impact by enabling a more personalised approach to charitable projects that drive up the quality of service delivery the community and enables longer-term capacity development. What’s more, NPOs who take a more community-led approach will be better positioned to subsequently affect change within the greater society by building on what they’ve achieved at a local level. That’s why there’s no better time than now for South African NPOs to better engage with the local communities they wish to serve.

Sources: VulPro – Supplied
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About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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