Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

The great NGO funding crisis, Part III: Adapt or die

A civil society funding expert who spoke to the Daily Maverick on condition of anonymity said that it was her experience that the management of South African NGOs was often under-scrutinised. “We often just mourn an organisation’s closure while forgetting to look at their management,” she said. “We do it with companies, but often not with NGOs. There are major questions that should be asked about the way in which organisations are run, and their financial management, and their accountability.”

Although I agree that NGOs need to be just as vigorous as private business regarding transparently and accountability – actually more so considering the terribly low bar that many big companies have set (*coughENRONcough*) – I don’t agree with the above article’s stance that South African NGOs are suffering financially because of their own inefficiencies.

C’mon Daily Maverick… you see a trend across many well-established NGOs and think the problem stems from each individual organization?

Davis, the author, also cites the Apartheid-era donor environment for the current problems facing South Africa’s NGOs.  This country has changed significantly in the last 19 years, but I have a hard time believing current problems aren’t tied to the economic downturn or the rise of neoliberal economics.  Yes, neoliberalism has been growing since the 80’s and is therefore older than the New South Africa, but neoliberalism is also evolving.  In today’s financialized world, I find it unlikely that NGOs haven’t figured out accounting.

Then again, I’m not an NGO expert.  I see the financial problems that Madulammoho struggle with and am often unimpressed.  Maybe the bigger NGOs are like my company x 100?

I doubt it, though.  My company’s Finance Department is run by a man whose background is in Human Resources, not finance.  Not that he’s incapable or anything – he does a great job – but I still sincerely hope other organizations use different criteria in their hiring process.

Anyways, let’s stop lamenting the closure of NGOs and do something about.  The Arts sector in Vancouver has recently suffered funding cuts as well.  Donate money, buy a book, watch a show, write your local MP, start some conversations – channel that frustration into something useful!


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