Organisational Puzzle

 The role of NGO’s in world and country politics has always been vibrant and widespread and has grown in importance since the 1990’s. Many NGO’s through the years have fought for transparent political processes and political accountability, and developing a democratic culture among citizens. It seems to have become even more important in the past few years.

We have a proven track record as Non-Profits in addressing the fallout out of the stupid, senseless decisions, policies and actions of political entities – in Darfur, the present refugee crisis, the Balkans, Rwanda, Apartheid etc etc. As individual Non Profits, we also have a proven track record of forming limited partnerships with other same-goal Non Profits in addressing the irresponsible decisions of our Governments – Failure to provide ARV’s to affected population, Viable Social Grant expansion etc.

So we have proven ourselves effective in cleaning up the messes of our political leaders. Furthermore, we promote change and implement social action partnerships in areas which directly affects ourselves and like-minded organisations. But to what level are we playing a democratizing role in our countries today.

NPO’s in many countries are facing more and more political scrutiny from country leaders and countries leading political parties. But this does not seem to be a two-way process. Quite rightly most Non-profits have values and policies that excludes individuals and the organisations promoting or getting involved in party Politics.

However, it seems that most of us have taken that to mean we have no role or responsibility in the broader day-to day decisions that affect the universal rights of our individual country’s citizenry. We either do not respond, respond after the fact or respond according to our individual party political affiliations.

Party Politics and Political affiliation, is not the business of the Non-Profit. The manner in which Party Politics and Political decisions impact on our clients is our bussiness. We also need to remember, that as much as we have vison and goals, our clients do not come in little boxes that nicely fit into whatever the Non Profits main bussiness is. Yes, they represent a specific group – children, women, disabled, refugees, transgender, unemployed etc. But they also come from communities, families, live in a country, they form part of a national, continental and global citizenry.

Who are we to decide where our client’s rights begin and end. The ill-advised decisions of our politicians have quite often have an impact on our Non Profit clients according to the specific “group” we have “allocated” them to. However, it always has wider community, social, economic, political, environmental etc. impact. In Literature, the instances where Non-Profits should play a role in developing community cohesion and providing opportunities for civic participation is increasing. Some writers say that Non-Profits are identified as central to effective democracies – both in maintaining democracy and establishing democracies.

Social action in Non-Profits must not just focus on addressing the needs of special closed groups – either as individual organisations or same-goal partnerships. We must not just focus on addressing impact of political decisions after the fact. We must not just see our client as a person with a “special” problem that we happen to address.

We see what is happening in the world – terrorism in cities, civil wars in countries, Climate Change, armed conflict, Unemployment due to unsound country economic policies, Poverty and Debt, Hunger Proliferation of Nuclear weapons, Population increase, infectious diseases, concentration of wealth among the top earning 1% in the world – and the list goes on. In this time when change is needed more than ever - Is the Non Profit and Non-Governmental institutions addressing these aspects as a constituent body or unit – or are we contributing to it by being self-interested, goal-limited individual silo’s.

We have to move away from being nervous and timid in addressing political decisions and policies –and be clear we are addressing the impact of decisions (as opposed to supporting/attacking specific political parties). We need to be clear that politics in fact is a “dirty” word – so much more the reason for us to get involved. We need to see our clients as a global citizen and at least have an opinion of all aspects that are or will be affecting the client (wider than the “problem” group we have put him in)

We need to keep in mind of the many instances where the universal actions by the Non-Profit and Non-Governmental field (as one constituent unit) have forcefully impacted on the gross contempt of client community’s rights – the fall of apartheid, Poland in the 1980’s, in Civil Rights movement in America and others.

Ilegal drug consumption in South Africa is double the world norm. The Central Drug Authority’s estimates that up to 15% of South Africans abuse drugs – in addition the country was amongst the top 10 nations in alcohol consumption. (Figures for Western Cape is substantially higher -across household surveys, the prevalence of lifetime alcohol use in the Western Cape ranges from 39% to 64%).The abuse of alcohol and usage of dagga has led to the country to being one of the top ten narcotics and alcohol abusers in the world. The recently-released United Nations World Drug Report had named South Africa as one of the drug capitals of the world.

 This has led to an increase in crime rates especially among poor unemployed South Africans. According to SAPS figures, 60 percent of crimes nationally were related to substance abuse (In the Western Cape, the figure was closer to 80 percent.) The perpetrators of these crimes are either under the influence of substances, or trying to secure money for their next fix. Both the perpetration and experience of violence are associated with alcohol and other drug use among adolescents and adults.

 Many substance-abusing youth and adults engage in behavior that places them at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases. Declining grades, absenteeism from school and other activities, and increased potential for dropping out of school are problems associated with adolescent substance abuse. For Adults unemployment, and the inability to hold on to a job, leads to family dysfunction and disintegration, financial risk and poverty and the vulnerability of their children is a reality. In general the abuse of substance contribute to high risk behaviour including risky sexual behaviour. Injuries due to accidents (such as car accidents), physical disabilities and diseases, and the effects of possible overdoses are among the health-related consequences of substance abuse. Disproportionate numbers of persons involved with alcohol and other drugs face an increased risk of death through suicide, homicide, accident, and illness.

 As with all other problem areas in the communities, poverty and lack of resources prohibits many substance abusers in the local communities to access the required services and help – this includes effective after care services. There is the  burden for the support of addicts who are not able to support themselves. Further, substance-abusing community members increase the overall demands for treatment of substance abuse and medical conditions. It is estimated that the economic cost of drug abuse is costing South Africa R20bn a year, with the overall social economic consequences estimated at R130 billion ( Central drug Authority)

Business is  finding it increasingly difficult to absorb the costs of crime – both in terms of security measures to be implemented to maintain safety, as well as the impact of having a large number of employees becoming victims of crime. (Disability of employees, stress and depression, working hours lost , inability to return to work, Health problems that effect productivity, Obtaining professional counselling to come to terms with the emotional impact etc.)

It seems it would be beneficial to re-divert these funds to organisations and services which render prevention services or focus on early entrants into the substance abuse field.  The cost savings would impact both on the expenditure in terms of substance abuse treatment programs, as well as the   primary and secondary cost of crime. 

The impact of violence and trauma on people’s lives has in recent years become a global public health challenge cutting across race, gender, age, socio-economic and other divides. Violence poses serious immediate and long term implications for the health, psychological and social development of individuals, family, community and the nation. The essential psychological effect of trauma and violence is a shattering of innocence. Trauma creates a loss of faith that there is any safety, predictability, or meaning in the world, or any safe place in which to retreat. Because traumatic events are often unable to be processed by the mind and body as other experiences are, due to their overwhelming and shocking nature, they are not integrated or digested. The trauma then takes on a life of its own and, through its continued effects, haunts the survivor and prevents normal life from continuing until the person gets help.

A public health response to violence has not gained the desired momentum in South Africa. Instead, greater emphasis is placed on policing and judicial processes to eliminate violence. Yet, escalating violence has a growing impact on health and social services placing a major burden on the economy of the country. Workplaces, schools and homes are not free of violent crime. Local and global poverty have increased victims’ vulnerability especially in terms of domestic violence, sexual violence, organised crime, xenophobia and torture.

 In a country like South Africa it is likely that psychological (environmental) factors, such as the crime rate, violent experiences such as rape, murder and abduction, will affect the psychological wellbeing of many individuals. Many Vulnerable children and adults are exposed to sexual violence, perpetrate violence against their partners and peers, and at the same time are particularly vulnerable to being the victims of violence and crime. Victims are being raped and murdered daily, which could lead to post-traumatic stress disorders in children and adults. Violent acts can also affect those who have seen, heard or read about it. The citizens of the Western Cape has the highest probability of becoming victims of crime – overall crime figures on national level indicated that 384.9 per 100 000 of citizens were victims of crime – compared to the Western Cape where 1298.2 persons per 100 000 were victims of crime . The Western Cape figure represents a 116% increase on the base line figures of 2007.

 Social fabric crimes have reached overwhelming proportions and the province has also illustrated the fragility of the male identity: young males experience an irresistible need to bond in gangs, where their power is defined by the wielding of guns and horrific violence against women. In addition a growing number of secondary victims are created – for example a growing body of literature shows that children who have been exposed to domestic violence are more likely than their peers to experience a wide range of difficulties.

 One can safely conclude that the state of country’s mental wellbeing is in severe crisis. Yet, despite the acute need for it, South Africa’s mental healthcare resources are wholly unequipped to handle the burden placed on them. Only 27% of South Africans reporting severe mental illness ever receive treatment. This means that nearly three-quarters of these sufferers are not accessing any form of mental health care at all. Poverty and Social Exclusion means that most of those vulnerable and high risk individuals who need support services to assist them through traumatic or violent situations, do not have access to such services.

 Some of the organisations in the Western Cape supporting Victims of Crime and Violence include

 If you want to know more about their services, or need to access their services, please visit their website for contact information

 Leadership is one of the most talked about, but least understood concepts in the Non-Profit field. There seems to be consensus that not all managers are leaders. There is however less consensus regarding the principle of whether managers are “made” and leaders “born”. Both of these aspects are of importance in terms of leadership versus management in the Non-Profit sectors, and the debate is ongoing. Of even more importance is actively promoting and endorsing the debate on the need of leadership in the Non-profit sector

As in most organisations, Non-Profits needs both managers and leaders – most have managers, but many lack leaders. Many managers are extremely capable in performing individual management tasks of planning, controlling, organising and leading. But many management teams are ineffective because they are waiting for decisions that are not forthcoming. They are confused and frustrated by the organisations lack of priorities, poor communication, the fact that the organisations ideals do not match day-to-day reality, decision making processes that are not clear, internal controls and systems that do not produce, focus on technical issues as opposed to principles etcetera. The aspects that confuse and frustrate managers are easily addressed by leadership.

In the corporate world

  • #No bussiness would deliberately under-invest in the leadership team that are responsible for delivering the required and agreed results. However, in the Non-profit field many Non-Profits themselves, or the funders who fund them, are limiting the time and resource invested in leadership development or recruiting
  • #No bussiness, looking to be around in the future, would underinvest in succession planning. However, we continuously fail to do leadership succession- planning in the Non-Profit field.
  • #No bussiness would blindly keep supporting a leader that does not deliver: Headlines regularly inform us of the public downfall of leaders. The failure of these leaders can be linked to various reasons
    • #Shift in leader’s focus (thinking becomes more contractive than expansive);
    • #Risk aversion (driven by fear of failure rather than a desire to succeed)
    • #Lack of Integrity (when achieving results become more important that the means of their achievement)
    • #Relying of the title to lead – a good leader does not need a title to earn the respect of their team
    • #Expecting results from what you know as opposed to what you do. A strong leader is knowledgeable, but wisdom comes with knowing their results is due to what they do.

In addition, there seems to be a fear in the Non-Profit field of creating more leaders, and not fully buying into the concept that great leaders create more leaders. Power struggles only occur if the top leadership is not stable and strong. Coupled with this is the challenge of delegating – many “leaders” delegate tasks and responsibility – blame-shifting if something does not work out. An effective leader, creating more leaders, will always be comfortable taking responsibility for the outcomes of their subordinates.

The competition and survival struggle in the Non-Profit field is very demanding – also the operating conditions are not stable.   The “marketplace” of the Non-Profit field has changed considerably and will continue to do so. The lack of Non-Profit leaders means that Organisations fail to take cognisance of these facts - this is, and has been, catastrophic for many Non-Profit. The lack of leaders, or incompetent leaders in the Non-Profit field, implies that many organisations lack mental toughness – doing what comes naturally (as opposed to what is needed) and doing what is easy and popular (as opposed to what is difficult and unpopular)

The response of many Non-Profits is to expose management members to “leadership” programs – however many “leadership” programs available to non-Profits are focussing on improvement of technical skills and system development. Ultimately Non-Profits end up with more skilled managers, but still no leader. Non-Profits often try to compensate for the lack of leadership by investing in bureaucracy – more managers, more controlling, more rules.

Non-Profits at present quite often have positions that can be described as “managerial leadership” – requiring a spectacular number of skills from one person or position. This may be the reality – but it does not explain why the managerial leaders tend to focus on the managerial aspect as opposed to the leadership traits. A true leader in a managerial leadership situation, should be able to implement and develop actions to promote active leadership.

Non-Profits need to commit to drawing in appropriate leadership into their organisations. The reality is that the lack of resource (in particular financial) do limit the options of Non-Profits in this regard. The organisation does however have to enter into a debate of their priorities – if they are not going to invest financial resources in an effective leader, they cannot continue having circle discussions about why their organisation is continuously losing ground.

More important that drawing in leadership from outside – Non-Profits need to develop processes and allocate resources for succession-planning and horizontal mobility within the organisation- by identifying and developing appropriate and suitable managers and staff who have leadership qualities.

“A strong nonprofit leader drives a sense of mission down through the organization, upward into the board and outward in to the community. He or she is willing to do whatever it takes to enable the organization to follow their mission effectively.” (Light, P. 2002. Grasping for the Ring: Defining Strong Nonprofit Leadership)

Sabbaticals are commonly seen as an employment perk in the academic world, but sabbaticals are gaining ground in the social service sector, as way to help both the nonprofit leaders and the organization experience revitalization and reinvigoration. There is a cluster of funders who are committed to the art of talent-focused grant making as a dynamic and innovative opportunity for growth and renewal of present and potential leadership, as well as that of the organization.

The Practice of providing Civil Society Organizations Leaders the opportunity to step away from their organizations, on a sabbatical period is also known as creative disruption. On the part of the leader the sense of disruption can spark creativity, new perspectives on leadership, job longevity, greater confidence, and better relationships with staff, board and community as well as a new vision.

For the organization the creative disruption can lead to improved governance, sharing of leadership and succession planning, as well as the organization developing a new appreciation for their staff’s abilities. Leadership Sabbaticals can support the survival and performance of the organization in a period that is characterized by the discontinuity of many nonprofits.

When it’s time to change trajectory? The stagnation of leaders and organizations decreases organizational effectiveness, negatively impacting on the population the organizations serves. The stagnation of leadership and organizations stifle the organizational culture, development, and progress and retards the ability of organizational and personal/professional growth. These organizations reflects limited innovation and disengaged employees. The routine and procedures of survival eclipse inquisitiveness and enablement. Stagnation in organizations happens when leaders become satisfied with the status quo or they are unable to impact on the status quo. Leaders can plateau, maintaining rather than developing, or moving forward. Many leaders are, due to various circumstances strong leaders – but are they inspiring leaders?

 Revitalizing inspiring Leaders

Great nonprofit organizations are driven by dedicated, passionate directors. These leaders give tirelessly of themselves to further the missions of their organizations. They inspire their boards, their staff, and the communities they serve.

You ensure inspiring and passionate leadership by revitalizing your leader and developing or strengthening the leadership capacity throughout the organization. The present Leadership should buy into the concept that leadership is ultimately about developing leaders. If they do this they practice true leadership – their impact is not limited to what they do when they are in the organization, but what lasting impact they leave, through leaders they have developed - after they have gone. On the longer term the organization benefits from a more innovative and sustainable leadership that has been developed across various levels of the organization – from the leader, to the second line leadership to the Board of Management. If you revitalize the leadership on all levels, support and develop people within the organization to meet ongoing and future needs, you will ensure support for the direction of the organization. The Organization, and leaders/management on all levels need support to prepare and handle the possible new order of things and be willing and able to welcome organizational change. Their emotional intelligence regarding aspects of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management will be enhanced and they will lead the organization to reach and exceeds its purpose



Strategic planning in the non-profit field seems to be a habitual process that is repeated at regular intervals. Maybe I’m misunderstanding the concept of strat planning, but in all my years in the NGO field I could never understand how we could every year put time aside for doing our “Strat Plan”. It seems that many organisations see their annual strategic planning process as a short term magical tool that will prevent the previous year’s wrong of repeating in the next year (an annual rain dance one writer called it)

Yes, a nonprofit organisation must do strategic planning – but you cannot do it simply do it to have plans for plans sake. You must also not confuse the strategy part (the vision, dreams, thoughts, aspirations etc) with the actual planning part – where you plan and write your strategic thinking into a tool that you can monitor. And really – I don’t think (and here the esteemed experts can correct me) your annual strategic process should be a continuous new vision and goals exercise - it should be an annual monitoring and adaptation of the existing strategic plan. In working with various organisations in strategic planning processes it seems that they are not ready for their processes – they have not taken cognizance of the environment, ignoring market place realities and quite often show an unwillingness or inability to change. They quite often have protectionist visioning and are not prepared to make tough decisions. This lack of readiness is quite often more pronounced in the staff or rank and file of an organisation. If so – why then do leaders and consultants have a superior approach to this.

My experience of Leaders and consultants in organisations are that they can be quite patronizing and condescending towards the rank and file in strategic processes – continuously quoting aspects such as building the bridge as you walk it and the various models of leadership levels ( their approach being that if you do not “get It” you must be on “lower level”.)Now maybe most of us are in the basement, but the quote of building the bridge as you walk it indicates that you cannot have all the answers in neat packages as you are creating the future – and that this can create some uncertainty and fear in the rank and file. However it also clearly indicates that you are actively doing something –you are Building the bridge as you walk it – if you don’t you are going the end up in the water.

My advice to staff is that the concept of building the bridge as you walk it, is valid – my advice to the leaders would be dream but don’t forget to plan and monitor. Strategy is not the same a planning and you have to do both in strategic planning

Every modern company , including Non-Profits and Grant Makers– even the smallest – benefit from business intelligence. Almost every tool which is being used for supporting data spread across the company is simultaneously somehow connected with business intelligence solutions. Of all business intelligence tools, dashboards are being paid most attention to, these days. Today’s Grant Makers scrutinize how they spend their charitable donations more than ever before. To continually increase revenue, non-profits need to be transparent with reporting that shows how funds are spent.

Dashboards can distill extensive data into a single page of succinct results. Dashboard reports can reduce the flood of paper to a trickle. With dashboards, managers can compare many results to each other. This gives the managers a more accurate view of their organization, more quickly. With traditional reports, managers tend to compare many facts from many reports received over many days - with dashboard reports, it’s all there in front of them. Dashboards easily can emphasize areas of performance that managers care most about. This is because dashboards are extremely modular.

The dashboard method of reviewing details and viewing the status of operations provides a significant opportunity to make the Non Profit business more efficient, and managers and Grant Makers quicker to respond to issues and opportunities. This will allow the Non Profit to operate more effectively and service their clients better and account for the spending of funds received. The Grant Maker is in a position to evaluate and monitor how funds are spent as well the impact of their funding through continuous and concise data flow.

Through the use of business intelligence as represented by Customized and Modular Organisational Dashboards, the Non Profit and Grant Maker are provided with an invaluable advantage. Dashboards are a nonprofit’s and Grant Makers best friend because they can be powerful tools in communicating an organization’s important measurement data at a glance which facilitates external communication and transparency to the Grant Maker. A Dashboard is an easy to read, often single page, real-time user interface, showing a graphical presentation of the current status (snapshot) and historical trends of an organization’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to enable instantaneous and informed decisions to be made at a glance.

Quite a few of the KPI’s used by Business , are transferable to Non Profit field and Grant Maker requirements and needs and should be included in dashboards( indicators such as shortened balance sheet, cash flow etc.). However as most Non Profits do not produce products but services, the need to development Business Intelligence Key Performance Indicators that are relevant to the Non Profit Sector, and the Grant Makers who fund them, are required. Dashboards  should be based on the needs of target groups and includes such KPI as Survival Ratio, Donor Dependency; Donor Diversification, Staff Productivity, Individual Program outputs, Per Capita Costs, Program Impact etc. Dashboards are an effective, inexpensive way to track and report key financial and performance metrics to a wide audience – helping to deliver fully transparent programs and finances. The Dashboards promotes both internal (in the Non Profit) and External (Grant Maker) Communication and Transparency

We have designed excel based, automated dashboards for quite a few non-profits and have found – that in order to be beneficial to the non-profit they need to be:

  • Customizable to Different Management Levels and Target Groups: Many times reports contain either too much or too little information for different roles to complete their tasks. Dashboards should be built in a way that will allow them to be custom focused to the individual user. This allows each person to see the level of detail that they need in order to get their job done and meet their goals. They are not overloaded by too much detail and they are not limited by a lack of information
  • Calibrated: Easily calibrated in the event that organisational goals or outputs changes. Benchmarks can be adjusted to accommodate organisational changes – for example if service output targets have to be adjusted to provide for lower staffing numbers.
  • Modularity: The dashboards need to provides the reader with an integrated view of all aspects of organisational functioning and interlinking various aspects with each other – such as cost effectiveness, output linked to input etc. This provides the reader with the opportunity to evaluate the impact of various sections of organisation on each other and provides for more informed decision-making.
  • Trending Visibility: When the summary information is displayed the user must be able to see the trending of data over a period of time. This allows people to make decisions and react to issues before they become problems.
  • Constant data flow: Dashboards must be driven off of current data in a real-time or near real-time. Grant Makers and Non Profits don’t have to wait for quarterly reports in order to see what’s going on. They should be able to see at any given time what the business is doing and what the trends are looking like.
  • Intelligent Alert System:

Threshold Based: By utilizing thresholds the Non Profit and Grant Maker can set a threshold value that sends alerts before actual problems exist. By creating threshold based alerts your system can be active in monitoring and reporting issues. By sending the alert the system can trigger action to occur and act as a trigger point.

Workflow notification/Trigger point: Non Profit workflows are such an important part of efficient business, in particular as the availability of funds plays a pivotal role in program implementation. The alerting system can integrate into this model extremely effectively. Examples where trigger points can be built into model includes cash flows and survival ratios.

Maintainable and Customizable Alert Systems: Alert Systems must have the ability to be easily customized and maintained. By making it simple to create new alerts it allows the NPO and Grant Maker‘s to focus on other tasks and have the system monitor for them. It

Passive monitoring: With an alert system in place, resources can focused on their jobs instead of the system. The system will alert them when there are things that need their attention so they can work on higher priority items knowing that the monitoring responsibilities are handled. This creates a much more efficient business structure where people can be more productive.

Excel Based: Dashboards that are excel based ensures that no additional costs needs to be spent on software. As it is fully automated the level of computer skills needed by data-capturer is limited to accuracy.

Ability to Drill into details: Dashboards that are based on user friendly data sets enables the executive to drill down into the detail to see the details behind the summary information

Efficiently - doing a function with the least amount of effort and time

Monitoring and Evaluation of services in the social service field is required to ensure that the services we render to our client system have an impact on their lives and the problem area we are addressing.  We need to ensure that our services are relevant, continuously improve our services and to determine whether existing interventions should be strengthened or discarded. If we continuously monitor and evaluate our services we promote substantive accountability and we have a clear understanding whether we should reposition our services and intervention or re-plan our interventions.  We learn what works, what doesn’t work and why it is working or not working.

Aforementioned represent various theoretical purposes of Monitoring and Evaluation.  It could be summarised by saying we have no right interfering /intervening in clients lives, creating expectations of improvement or possible solutions to problem areas, if we do not have a reasonable certainty that we are effecting positive Changhe.

Having said this, many Social Service Organisations still do not implement basic monitoring and evaluation processes.  The reasons given are varied, but most often boils down to lack of funding, time or human capacity. These reasons are valid but begs the question – why deliver/repeat/replicate and expand a service that you have no idea or evidence or corroboration that it is actually working and having an impact. ( As most of us claim to be professionals, the arguments,” I can see it” or “I know” does not do it for me)

So why the heading. An example: If you are going to render a service  - for example a 8 week life skills group, but have no idea on whether you service has any impact – you are basically wasting your time and the time of your client(no evidence of effectiveness, impact etc.).  So why not waste time efficiently and only have a two week life skills group.  You will still not have any evidence of the impact, relevance or effectiveness of your intervention – but at least you spent limited time in confirming the unknown.

Efficiently - doing a function with the least amount of effort and time

Monitoring and Evaluation of services in the social service field is required to ensure that the services we render to our client system have an impact on their lives and the problem area we are addressing.  We need to ensure that our services are relevant, continuously improve our services and to determine whether existing interventions should be strengthened or discarded. If we continuously monitor and evaluate our services we promote substantive accountability and we have a clear understanding whether we should reposition our services and intervention or re-plan our interventions.  We learn what works, what doesn’t work and why it is working or not working.

Aforementioned represent various theoretical purposes of Monitoring and Evaluation.  It could be summarised by saying we have no right interfering /intervening in clients lives, creating expectations of improvement or possible solutions to problem areas, if we do not have a reasonable certainty that we are effecting positive Changhe.

Having said this, many Social Service Organisations still do not implement basic monitoring and evaluation processes.  The reasons given are varied, but most often boils down to lack of funding, time or human capacity. These reasons are valid but begs the question – why deliver/repeat/replicate and expand a service that you have no idea or evidence or corroboration that it is actually working and having an impact. ( As most of us claim to be professionals, the arguments,” I can see it” or “I know” does not do it for me)

So why the heading. An example: If you are going to render a service  - for example a 8 week life skills group, but have no idea on whether you service has any impact – you are basically wasting your time and the time of your client(no evidence of effectiveness, impact etc.).  So why not waste time efficiently and only have a two week life skills group.  You will still not have any evidence of the impact, relevance or effectiveness of your intervention – but at least you spent limited time in confirming the unknown

The term “Social” in the Non-Profit field is the prefix for a plethora of different concepts - Social Entrepreneurship, Social Responsibility, Social Solutions, Social Sector, Social Value, Social Change, Social Problems, Social Responsible Business, Social Investments and Social Innovation etc. (To a certain extent the wide use of the term “Social” can be linked to the application of Corporate and business practices and applications to the Non-Profit field.)

Social Innovation seems to be the new catch phrase. Some claim that it is just a fad, a passing phase or the rebranding of activities that have been done forever .Funders use it to describe their area of social investment or responsibility, and Non-profits utilize it to define their service products. An impatient social sector and social investment field sees innovation as the be all and end all of progress. Other see Social innovation as a set of tools, merging business principles and social missions can be amalgamated and unified.

When can a Non-Profit or Social Investors claim to implement or support Social Innovation practices?

  • Firstly the concept must have an element of uniqueness and freshness.
  • The ideas themselves do not need to be new, the novelty comes to play in the adaptations, or recombination of existing ideas or their application in new areas
  • The concept or product must be more effective and efficient than existing alternatives.
  • The majority of experts highlight that social innovation must be social both in terms of the end and the means.
  • Value created must accrue primarily to society or community
  • The novel solution to a social problem must be sustainable
  • Must have broad impact, must have on impact to the broader society as a whole, as opposed to individuals
  • Cutting across traditional boundaries between government, business/corporate and non-profit field
  • Potential to be taken to scale. If a product cannot be scaled or replicated it cannot be transformative.
  • Create systems and process change
  • Changing underlying beliefs and structures
  • Build and support collaboration

Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation said that “Solutions too many of the world’s most difficult social problems don’t need to be invented, they need only to be found, funded, and scaled.” This is particularly true if innovation is seen as a development shortcut and the core business of organisations are ignored. Focussing on innovation at the cost of consolidation of the core or routine business of an organisation often does not contribute value. Social innovation must not just be seen as an outcome or impact, but as a process. It may be less trendy to focus on the process than the ideology, but might just be more beneficial and constructive. We also need to take into consideration that ignoring existing internal organisational factors and Organisational culture can detract from the strategic impact of social innovation initiatives. In short, high level interaction and commitment to social innovation, without taking into consideration (and addressing) the realities of the present status quo of the social sector field, will not produce desired results. We need to make sure that the intent of social innovation – process and impact – is here to stay. The alternative is that we every few years develop new terminology



Competent and passionate leadership has always been considered vital in every civil society organisation. However who is the best person to lead an organisation is not always so easy. Due to lack of funding and the subsequent lack of supportive management structures, leaders in the civil society field are quite often a person who is appointed on the basis of balance of various prospects. The leaders are expected to be   inter alia financial managers, fundraisers, high level strategic thinkers, project designers and developers and Human resource managers.   A Jack of all trades as such.

So how does anyone expect one Jack of all trades to change the world – to lead others to follow them in a vision/mission that is valid and relevant but that assumes a leadership team that has a high level of expertise, larger numbers and a compendium of diverse skills. It’s not going to happen.

Knowing this, it is unfortunate that there seems little effort by present leaders in the Civil Society field to develop a second line of leadership – both in terms of expanding present expertise platform and in terms of future sustainability of the organisation (The development of a Second line leadership structure should be differentiated from simply promoting internal staff to a higher position in the organisation).

  • * Why are some present leaders unwilling to let present staff grow and develop for future leadership roles?
  • * Why do founders of organisations remain the only public and strategic face in the organisation, and why do organisations remain so dependent on their founders?
  • * Why are so many present leaders threatened by the agitators/mavericks in their organisations who are willing and able to change systems and circumstances for the better?
  • * Why do so many of us like to feel so very much needed and indispensable and therefore we keep our skills and expertise to ourselves?

How does a present leader ensure that there is a steady stream of leaders in their company ready to lead at the appropriate time? The present leader must be skilled in inspiring their staff, motivating and mentoring them and involve them in co-leadership and decision-making.  The present   Leadership should buy into the concept that leadership is ultimately about developing leaders. If they do this they practice true leadership – their impact is not limited to what they do when they are in the organisation, but what lasting impact they leave, through leaders they have developed - after they have gone.

Risk is inherent to the life in general and in the NPO field in particular. In the NPO field risks cannot be avoided and are part of our everyday organisational life.  This has always been the case - The future is always uncertain and the outcomes of events unpredictable. Why then the perpetual surprise in the NPO field when these risks pop up.  Why then the resistance in developing plans to address the risks and the tendency to year after year raise the negative impact of the same risk as opposed to yearly evaluating the impact of our plans/activities to address the risks. 

 Is it because action is then internalised in the organisation, and evaluated as such - as opposed to the NPO being a passive recipient of negative external actions? Is it because the possible action is going to take us out of our comfort zone? Don’t we want to ask the questions because we don’t like the answer’s that is going to be produced?

 In  our work with NPO and other civil society organisations in developing risk management plans the resistance to developing action plans to prevent risks or limit the impact of risks is unfortunately quite too often clear.  Many organisations can give detailed and comprehensive descriptions of risks they face, can detail the triggers and impact.  However if they have to develop plans to address the risks on an organisational level, detail and clear actions are quite often superficial.

 NPO’s and Civil Society organisations who shy away from developing comprehensive risk management plans(with clear actions that they are going to take) are setting themselves up  to continue being passive recipients of other’s actions and decisions.  In addition, aspects such a strategic planning and change actions are going to continue being repetitive process of discussing the impact “old” problems, as opposed to discussing the impact of actual actions undertaken by the organisation in addressing the “old” problems.

We have written about the frustration of fundraising for nonprofit, community based organisations in South Africa before and feel the need to once again touch on this subject.  My frustration level has not decreased.  Some of the frustrations include

  •  *  NLDTF: Where the “bleep” is the lotto of SA. Why is there no ongoing annual call for proposals, why – if they have to sporadic call for proposals does it take so long to pay out to organisations? They seem to have a high level administration system set up to get the money into their coffers and maintain their organisational system, but an inadequate, not-so-important system to get the money to organisations. It seems like the Lotto exists and function to maintain the Institution of the Lotto.
  •  *  International Donors: International funders seem to have the belief that everything is A-OK in South Africa and many do not fund services in our country any more – looking at the larger number of rich and well to do people in our country, and seemingly forgetting about the substantially increased number of very poor and vulnerable. Yes, as far as the very rich are concerned, resources and money is shared more equitable – but for the poor and very poor inequality levels has increased ominously.
  •  *  Department of Social Development: The Department enters into partnerships with nonprofits and non-governmental organisations, but it is the most unequal and lopsided partnerships imaginable. Many of the organisations we have worked with have at present have a split personality approach to service delivery – rendering services as pre-scribed and “purchased” by the Department one the one hand ( to ensure some income) and rendering needs based community services on a shoestring budget. The fact that nobody – both the department and the NPO field – seems to have a holistic picture for the development and management of the nonprofit field does not help.
  • *  Disclaimers, exclusions and process: It is very frustrating when you land on a CSI/CSR webpage and see the company focus and what they have funded, see a match, but do not see any way to contact them. It is further frustrating to see a match, see contact details, but see the dreaded words – no unsolicited applications. You receive an explanation of how they go about selecting their partners and how their staff monitors the NGO field-and you know the small locally based NGO, that does brilliant services, has no or little possibility coming to their attention. In the event that they have a process and contact information, and you submit a proposal – you receive a standard response of your application not falling in their funding area – with added requirements and conditions that they failed to mention previously. Also let’s not forget the dreaded non-fundable administration or running costs (including salaries). In the past year we have worked with over a 100 organisations in training, organisational development, M& E and Fundraising – there is not one where the skill and expertise of their facilitators and staff IS the project, and a quite often THE project expense – but tough luck.
  •  *  Non-Profits: Unfortunately Non Profits contribute to the present status quo. The lack of cooperation, partnerships and sharing of resources, leads to significant duplication of services and costs. It does seem that some organisations raise funds and render services to ensure sustainability of the organisation (in terms of job security for staff) – as opposed to rendering needs based services that communities require. Many organisations do not have (and some are not really eager to develop) governance and accountability processes to illustrate the impact of their services and how funds were spent.

 So what does one do?

We fundraise for about 10 non-profit organisations in the Western Cape at a flat fee of R3500pm for a one year period.  For this we develop a case statement, Fundraising strategy,service profile and organisational audit, develop a substantial matched donor database, mentor relevant personnel in how to source, cultivate and steward donors etc. Also included in this is the sourcing of funds from 60 matched donors (where we assist relevant staff in the follow up, cultivation etc of these donors). By the end of the year the client has an extensive database of matched donors, comprehensive fundraising strategy, base documents and skills to take on resource mobilization independently. We do not  however do this without pushing, prodding and harassing organisations in developing risk management plans, Accountability processes and tools, comprehensive monitoring and evaluation systems, service impact evaluation processes,  analysis of relevance of services, customer and stakeholder satisfaction processes, partnership analysis,  service priority matrixes etc.  In other words – addressing the gaps in organisations to ensure full and comprehensive accountability and addressing concerns raised by funders. 

And this is why my frustration level has not decreased. I raised 5 frustrations – these organisations have fixed up their portion of non- performance.  But still NLDTF is not calling for proposals or paying out money, international donors are missing, South African corporate donors have a very narrow investment definition, Department of Social Development maintains their power base and the disclaimers, exclusions and processes keep on growing

 Once again - It should be easier to change the world for the better



Twenty years of democracy in South Africa have seen active policy development, and massive financial efforts by the public sector towards rural development and poverty alleviation. Yet, in spite of visible achievements and successes, few changes actually occurred in rural people’s life during those twenty years, owing to both the legacy of apartheid and the lack of efficiency of certain programmes or policies. This is particularly relevant with regards to service provision regarding the rural child and youth. The rural poor live a world away from the lifestyle and opportunities available in our urban centers.


Social fabric crimes in rural areas such as Central Karoo have reached overwhelming proportions and the province has also illustrated the fragility of the male identity: young males experience an irresistible need to bond in gangs, where their power is defined by the wielding of guns and horrific violence against women. The use, procuring or offering of a child by others for illegal activities, especially the production or trafficking of drugs, is defined as a worst form of child labour. The experience of civil society organisations providing services to children and the crime statistics that are available suggest that child sexual abuse, child exploitation, and child trafficking is pervasive. Exploitation and trafficking of children is also recognized as growing problems that require new legislation and policies to address these issues.


The region is mired with poverty and low levels of economic opportunities mainly due to its disadvantaged position in terms of access to economic and human capital. In addition to that, the District’s geographical location - including its rural and semiarid nature - is the key structural impediment to its development. Factors that exacerbate the vulnerability of these children recruited or introduction to crime, include substance abuse, commercial sexual exploitation, child labour as well as trafficking are the lack of employment opportunities in their community. The socio economic realities create a perfect climate for exploitative practices that are directed at children.


Although children’s rights are enshrined in the South African Constitution, there is a gap between the recognition of these rights and the daily experiences of children. By and large, children are voiceless and powerless and are dependent on adults to negotiate all their basic needs. Children are not perceived as a distinct social entity, with needs distinct from their families. In extreme cases, children are perceived as possessions over which adults can exert power and authority. Children’s rights are not respected.

Trafficking includes recruiting a child from his/her home to work in another place for commercial sexual exploitation or an exploitative labour practice. It can occur in various sectors including paid domestic work and commercial agriculture, where such practice is exploitative. The most vulnerable children appear to be those already in or potentially in disadvantageous situations – with trafficking usually aggravating the situation. Trafficking is defined as one of the worst forms of child labour.

Given the weak social fiber, the focus on the plight of children should be strengthened – including ensuring that children are kept in schools. . The socio economic realities create a perfect climate for exploitative practices that are directed at children that are vulnerable. If you need further information regarding innovative services rendered in the Central Karoo focusing on child exploitation, as well bullying and truancy in the local schools, visit or





NPO’s and civil society organisation by nature inhabit a world of relationships. Whether between NPOs and beneficiaries, local NPOs and their partners, NPOs and donors, governments, the private sector, relationships are foundational to everything the sector does. However the term ‘partnership’ has been diminished by misuse and is applied to a range of relationships and at this stage is quite often a devalued term.  In addition Network’ and ‘networking’ have become something of a ‘magic bullet’ – buzz-words to be fired in connection with almost any kind of activity or situation.

However many NPO’s and civil society organisations seem to misunderstand the purpose of partnerships - implementing and forming partnerships to secure the survival of their organisations or to strengthen their organisations. (Keeping your “enemies” close)

We need to understand that the best partnerships create programmes which are better than the sum of their individual (organisational) parts, and improve performance and enhance impact of services. Partnerships are not formed to strengthen our mutual organisations, but to strengthen services to our mutual clients. We need to be in agreement that there is strength in unity and that we need to learn from other CSO’s and to share information with others. But how often do we hear “we cannot share skills and ideas -they are going to steal our ideas and services.”

If we really bought into the purpose of civil society organisations partnerships we would not be limiting the possible distribution scope of innovative   and impactful services by keeping it to ourselves – we would be happy that more organisations pick up the baton and take these services to more clients and communities.

Part of our concern is based in linking the  individual strength of our organisations to our own job security. It is also based in the unbalanced and lopsided partnerships we are forced to form with structures such as governments, conduits  and some funders in which we have no or limited power. Whatever the reason, with the possible exception of lobbying, partnerships on grassroots level quite often does not translate to the sharing of resources, ideas and services and delivering more comprehensive, and impactful services to our shared client.




The purpose of Collaborative Partnerships for NGO/NPO and others are to utilize an inclusive strategy to establish shared goals, and agreements to use personal and institutional power to achieve shared goals to the benefit of the various client groups.

The Organisational Puzzle has done various training programs and topics in the past two years, and regardless of the actual topic being trained on, there as some subjects that crop up in all training programs –one being forming and maintaining partnership in the social service field. Most NGO’s are part of some kind of partnership initiatives and coordinating bodies. However, the purpose of these partnerships quite often seems to be focussed on advocacy and lobbying and coordinating of existing services.

However, the competition between these organisations for survival, and reaching the top of the pile of whatever, quite often means that organisations do not collaboratively work towards service excellence in their specific field. This means that they are not implementing social action with regards to those partnership organisations who are not performing. Alternatively they are not sharing best practices with non-performing organisations and other organisations in the partnerships. One of the main reasons that organisations provide for not utilising partnerships to ensure service excellence to a shared target client group, is that other organisation pilfer their ideas and projects.

However, it cannot be bad if impactful and relevant services is shared and implemented by a larger number of organisations to a bigger slice of the client target group. Why does it matter who originally designed the service, implemented it first and measured the first positive results? It if matters at all, it only matters insofar as acknowledgement or credit is given to the original organisation.

However it does seem to matter, and the reason for this seem to be based in individual organisations survival strategies. The appropriation of another organisations services leads to the original organisation relinquishing their advantages and gains which affects their ability to “win” in the fundraising race. The donor community and governments, in their rightful and justified focus on accountability and impact, have unintentionally (hopefully) created a monster – a survival competition/race between NGO’s to the detriment of all clients

The Non-Profit founder can be seen as entrepreneurs driving change, long before entrepreneurship became a catchphrase in addressing economic problems and unemployment. They are the people who sees an injustice and feel motivated and driven to address it - with passion, energy and vigour. Their dynamism has the ability to draw other people in and have these people and the public buy into their cause and mission.

They have the ability, personality and skills to establish a Nonprofit structure to drive, develop and advance their cause and their response to their cause. But when this incredible individual becomes and remains the pivot of the organisation, or becomes the person who has a stranglehold on organisational development and maturity, you are left with founder syndrome.

Organisations go through different stages of development- for many it’s starts with a:

  • Grassroots intervention,
  • Establishment of a more formal structure,
  • Development and Expansion
  • Maturity and Sustainability

Founder Syndrome develops if a founder is unable to evolve with the natural evolvement of his/her organisation. Many founders have the skills and competencies to take their mission and organisations to the second level of organisational development, but may not have the skills to take the organisation to the next levels. If they evolve with their organisation they may realise that they do not have the skills to further develop the organisation, and facets of delegation of authority, more specialised workforce and a multi-level organisational chart may be implemented.

However, if founder clings to his/her original position, and resists the natural progression of organisational development, the organisations stagnates and ultimately declines. Symptoms of Founder Syndrome includes:

  • The founder makes most of the decisions and other parties rubberstamp decisions
  • Limited or no strategic planning or planning – but rather instructional decisions by the founder
  • Boards have little or no say and most often just approve suggestions by the Founder
  • Unwillingness to make transition from founder to a new leadership team
  • No delegation of authority
  • Scepticism and resistance regarding planning, policies and procedures
  • Dogged commitment to original purpose of the organisation, regardless of environmental changes
  • Cherry-Pick their Board members and staff. See these people as working for the founder as much as working for the organization's mission. Board members are friends or family. Founder recruits board members instead of Board itself
  • Lack of commitment to accountability
  • Resistance to any changes that decreases control of Founder
  • Perception that the Founder CEO has more power than the Board.
  • The functioning of the organisation is built and develops around the character and personality of the founder, as opposed to organisational structure, system and processes
  • The perception that the organisation “belongs” to the founder
  • Decisions are not tested or debated
  • Remove Board members or staff who disagree

Most often Founder Syndrome develops because the Founder and initial staff/board are so focussed on pursuing the founding vision, that they lose track of natural organisational and environmental development, processes and systems. The moment they realise this, they correct this state of affairs by implementing various processes – strategic planning, delegating authority, leadership development, succession planning, developing organisational hierarchies, skills development (including that of founder), specialised staff etc.

However, sometimes Founder Syndrome develops because of the Founder’s Ego and the perception of the founder and founding staff that the organisation belongs to the Founder. Sometimes the continued control claims of the Founder are linked to their own personal and financial benefits. It could also be possible that the Founder Syndrome was present before the organisation was established. Why for example did the Founder, who identified this cause about which he/she was so passionate, not volunteer at similar existing organisation, or combine his/her efforts with a similar existing organisation[i] (if such an organisation does exist)

Founder Syndrome, can be seen a natural part of the organisational development stages, and only becomes negative if not addressed. It only becomes negative if the Founder is not developing with the organisation of actively inhibits natural organisational development. The Founder needs to realise that even though it is his/her vision that founded the organisation this is now immaterial – after the organisation has been established it is about the organisation, community and client vision.

Literature quite often compares the development of an organisation and the role of the Founder with that of parenting – from birthing to adulthood or maturity, with incremental levels of independence. As a proud parent the Founder should be proud of the remarkable organisation that he/she has set up and gifted to the community. As a proud parent there will be a sense of sadness in that you may not be needed as much– but also a sense of major achievement in inspiring and upskilling others to keep the original vision alive , but also magnifying and growing the vision.

[i] This is particular relevant in South Africa with the myriad of new Non Profits being established. Refer to post on Fragmentation of the Non Profit field     

Non Profit Boards are either seen as a decisive force to ensure accountability of Non Profit Organisations or, as problematic institution not contributing to the basic business of the Non Profit. There seems to be a general perception that non performing boards are the rule, and not the exception. The basis for this perception depends on who you speak to:

  • #Staff ask “ what is the board doing”
  • #Management complains that board are not fulfilling their duties or are overstepping their boundaries
  • #Funders and Compliance bodies complain that board are not exercising their oversight duties
  • #Boards complain that they are merely rubber stamps
  • #Communities and staff complain that board members merely serve to pad their CV’s

And the list goes on.

The kind of problems that is raised regarding Boards include:

  • Purpose: It seems inconceivable that there can still be uncertainty regarding the purpose of a board of a Non-Profit. The volume of literature on this topic is extensive and abundant. There also seems to be a basic approach of training our way out of board problems. The main functions for the board can be summarized as:
    • #Set the organization’s mission and organisational strategy (both on near-term and long-term challenges and opportunities), and modify both as needed. Ensure effective organisational planning
    • #Ensuring prudent use and conserving of all assets –fund, property, people, and goodwill. Manage resources effectively
    • #Evaluate and help managing risk. Ensure that applicable laws are obeyed and acting in accordance with ethical practices.
    • #Mentor Director or CEO – select executive staff through an appropriate process, evaluate, ongoing support and guidance to the executive, Monitor performance, and hold accountable for performance (and if required replace).
    • #Enhance the organisations public image. Advocating for the organisation and building support in the wider community and related change systems such as government departments, funders etc.       Both linking the organisation to the wider community, but also being the bulwark against “attacks”
    • #Assess own(board’s)performance
  • Performance: While legislation and regulations ensure that most Nonprofits have boards and gives some indication on the purpose, this does not seem to address the perceived lack of performance of boards by the various parties. The reason for this can most often be linked to the fact that many board members, executives and organisations as a whole, don’t understand or accept the purpose of the board.
    • #If your board must do all the tasks as indicate above, why is the organisation not ensuring that they compose the board of individuals with the skills, resources, diversity, and dedication to address these aspects? Board composition is not an abstract exercise – it is about difficult and grueling process of finding and adding the right board members
    • #The roles and responsibilities, and by implication performance, of the Non-Profit boards seems to create confusion. Why then, after recruiting you board according to required skills, not assign responsibilities according to these skills, and evaluate performance according to these skills. Why not extend organisational processes such as clear and measurable job descriptions, and performance appraisals to the Board.
    • #Accept that not all board meetings are going to produce “game-changer” decisions and inputs. A large portion of the “important” work that the board does can be periodic or occasional – this needs to be differentiated from the routine work that has to done on more regular basis. If not, the possibility of inflating routine issues to strategy level is real – or alternatively neglecting the strategic focus of the Board.
    • #Non-Profits operational staff have quite a few regular (monthly) meetings relating to various issues – staff meetings, management meetings, project meetings, operational meetings, financial meetings etc.       The assumption is that these operational meetings and decisions are contributing to the overall strategic mission and plan of the organisation. (If not – what is the purpose?). It is the function of the Executive Director or CEO to translate – for both the board and the staff- the operational matters to strategic activities, and ensure the flow of the information between the structures. In short – if you have something to discuss internally in the organisation, you should have a higher level “something” to convey to the board. If the CEO has mastered the skills to communicate to the Board an integrated and functional account that presents and decodes the organisations situation, Boards will be able to discuss the strategic impact (and also limit straying into operational matters and discussions)

The most important rule for all parties to realize is that the board as a whole, as well as individual members, without doing anything, confer legitimacy to the organisation. Furthermore, there may many laws, guidelines, and literature that confers legitimacy to the Board (which transfer the legitimacy to the organisation) – however no amount of laws or guidelines can compel the board to be high-performing. This is a goal that board, the executive, and the organisation as a whole must strive towards collectively.

A committed board member actively builds relationships for the organisation to succeed, is expressively linked to the organisation, and works on the highest skill level for the organisation - and actively work to improve their own and their organisations performance. A skilled CEO does not see the board as a rubber stamp or “big brother”, but as partner to reach the strategic mission of the organisation.

Both a committed board member, and a skilled CEO do not waste any time discussing the performance of board, if they have not reached shared clarity on the purpose of their board. A knowledgeable board and CEO do not spend time on what is operational and what is strategic, as all are clear on strategic vision of, and risk management in the organisation - and what strategic and operational decisions have been taken (in advance) to reach strategic vision and avert/limit risks.

The most important relationship in a Non Profit is that of the CEO and the Board (in particular the Chairperson). It this relationship is characterized by lack of trust, lack of meaningful communication and an ineffective division of labour, is does not bode well for the organisation. Organisations need to be clear on

  • Whether the purpose and performance of the board should be the starting discussion point,
  • Or should be rather discuss the lack of performance and lack of clarity on purpose as the result or consequence of an unconstructive relationship.                            

Sustainability Through Accountability

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Fatima Abrahams/ Pauline Roux: 0826759435
Address: 64 10the Avenue, Kleinmond, 7195