There is no universally agreed definition on what sustainability means. There are many different views on what it is and how it can be achieved. It is often said a sustainable NGO is a non-governmental organisation that has the ability to survive over a long period of time and at the same time has the ability to effectively fulfill its mission. We asked a few NGOs their thoughts on sustainability.
The first thing to do is a self survey. As yourselves some crucial questions.
What is the main purpose of our organization? What is our mission? What is our vision? - A consistent communication and path is primary.
What are the community’s needs and how are they evolving? How well does our mission align with those needs? - To continue making impact and remain sustainable be aware of the community's dynamic needs and are you evolving as an organisation to meet their needs.
What are we trying to accomplish by maintaining our programs or services? - Ensure you are making the most effective use of available resources by asking how else your goals might be accomplished. This may help you in taking an outcome-oriented approach to providing services; having concrete results to show to prospective donors.
Do we fill a gap in services? - NGOs don't sell products to clients but instead their programmes to funders.
How many and what kinds of people, with what skills, do we need to run our programs and services? - Make a fair assessment of the need for staff, volunteers and making sure they are not stretched.
Collaborate - It’s almost impossible to meet all of your beneficiaries needs. Working with project partners who offer complementary services enables you to enhance your outreach efforts through the referral process.
BUILD YOUR CASE FOR SUPPORT
Building a case for support is like advertising. You must communicate your cause in a way that attracts the donor's interest. Your “case” is the communication that you use to “sell” your organisation to them. To make sure your case is effective you need to have a thorough understanding of your organization’s purpose and contributions to the community. No matter how effective your organisation is in fulfilling its mission, you will fail to find adequate donor support unless you develop and communicate an effective message.
An effective Case for Support should include -
- effective identification and articulation of the problem
- your organisation's purpose and solution to that problem
- your vision for that solution & how you plan to achieve it,
- support and resources you will need
Remember to present it in a way that the donor is moved to support it. Tell them how important their support is to you and those you serve and that by supporting the organization, they are making a difference to the community. Don't make the problem so large that they feel that their assistance won't really help. Most importantly remember to mention how you plan to track and evaluate your progress and communicate back to them how their money is effectively spent.
Many NGOs have the expectation that current sources of revenue will remain consistent. One of the best ways to sustain your organisation is to expand your potential revenue sources through developing a vast number of resources. Support your sustainability plan by going beyond the financial support received.
Financial resources are any NGO's target, but in-kind contributions can help to offset expenses or improve organisational effectiveness.
Target donors for other services that fit into the overheads and which require specialised expertise which NGOs often can’t afford such as marketing assistance, venues to hold events, printing of stationary etc.
Build an effective volunteer team to support staff and cut down on your recruitment costs.
Cultivate relationships with donors, volunteers all stakeholders such that they bond with the organisation and the cause enough to spread the word and bring in more resources and goodwill through their networks
Develop earned income strategies to ensure a reliable source of income such as fees for services, renting out space.
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