Tuesday, October 20, 2020

We are not going to survive this : SA NGO’s in crisis as donors divert, delay funding


Lorenzo Davids, Chief executive of the Community Chest recently engaged with several NGO’s who have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the findings revealed that: “We are not going to survive this.”

According to The Department of Social Development, there are 231 484 non-profit organisations (referred to as NGOs) registered on its database. “These NGOs operate feeding schemes, care for children, provide help to women, look after the elderly and teach and support millions of vulnerable people across our country. They also employ on average 1.5 million people who earn an income through working in the NGO sector”, said Davids.

He realised that they share a global problem in the non-profit sector where donors are diverting funds they have earmarked as funding for NGOs to government Covid-19 programmes and new initiatives like the Solidarity Fund in South Africa.

David’s finding also revealed that there is a lack of funding from individual donors, who have all seen their incomes reduced and have less cash available. Second has been the fact that, on reaching out to charitable trusts and foundation donors during the lockdown, they are told that distribution decisions have been deferred to after lockdown or that available CSI budgets and grant-funding are being diverted to Covid-19 interventions.

“How is it possible that NGOs, that offer vital primary and secondary care intervention to South Africa’s 31million critically poor people, are being crushed in this crisis due to the uninformed approach adopted by both the government and donors to their sustainability?

If a business needed financial rescue to keep employing people, how is it possible that donors and the government do not see that the entity that employs the most people in the country is facing a severe sustainability crisis? he asked.

“If donors do not wake up to this crisis, about 25% of the non-profit sector will be wiped out by the end of this year and about 300000 NGO staff will be unemployed. Most NGOs have no more than one month’s worth of operating capital” he said.

The US Foundation Centre, now called Candid, did a survey of philanthropy across the world during the lockdown and found that the challenges NGOs are facing are financial constraints to keep doors open and the high cost for NGOs to work remotely due to them being unable to afford to duplicate the required IT infrastructure. In addition, it found that NGO resilience, while offered by staff due to a sense of calling, can only continue for a limited period without donor support.

“South Africa has a robust and loyal NGO sector. It is tough to see donors diverting much-need funding required to keep this sector’s doors open to the government, where corruption has been the order of the day,” concluded David’s.

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