|NGO Guidelines for Good Policy and Practice (Commonwealth Foundation)|
|Part I: NGOs: what they are and what they do|
|8. The framework of relationships within which NGOs operate|
Relationships with funders can be and are being strengthened by action among NGOs themselves. First, by communicating and networking with each other. It was noted in Chapter 6 that NGO networking has many other purposes and dimensions than sharing information and collaborating over funding and funders.
The tendency, noted above, of the potential or actual availability of funds of promoting competition among NGOs needs to be counterbalanced by co-operation. The ASDAG network in Africa was stimulated by a concern to do this, the group noting that:
"...competition among NGOs for.....funds greatly erodes their capacity and commitment to mobilise collaborative action and achieve consensus around issues of common interest..."
In partnership with an international NGO, ASDAG has prepared and published a code of practice which it hopes others will follow when dealing with external funders. Those involved in this network noted:
"...the tendency of (NGOs) in the region to place a high priority on their external links. This externally-focused orientation undermines local NGOs' legitimate mission as co-actors in the struggle of...peoples and...communities for...effective empowerment and participation, and for sustainable development..."
Among the many policies and practices proposed in the code is that:
"...NGOs must exercise adequate institutional caution in entering into funding relationships with external partners. Funding/donor contracts must be studied in detail, and the implications of every condition must be weighed carefully against the receiver's own true objectives. In particular...NGOs must avoid opportunistic funding; although such funds may provide short- term gains, they are likely to compromise the receiver's autonomy and genuine institutional development in the long-term..."
The objectives of ASDAG go beyond networking and co-operation in fact, and illustrate a second strategy. Increasingly NGOs are recognising that dependence on governments and other funders will always place some limitation on their activities and can create a culture of dependency which limits their ability to achieve long-term sustainability.
There is therefore a growing trend among NGOs to find ways of increasing their ability to be self-financing. The starting point for many is the realisation that they have specialist (and often advanced) knowledge and expertise. This may be in dealing with particular needs and problems, or in activities such as resource mobilisation or research in particular fields. In this, organisations which choose to remain focused upon activities and services which relate closely to their objectives (rather than branch out into various activities in an opportunistic manner, regardless of their objectives or knowledge and skills) are at an advantage. In the search for self-sufficiency this specialist knowledge and expertise is the greatest asset of NGOs that can be capitalised upon. Doing so includes selling the expertise by providing services or goods: for example, NGOs that have become expert in providing training for the unemployed can sell such expertise by selling training services to the private sector. This in turn means setting up enterprises to do so. Mechanisms for self-sufficiency also include establishing endowment funds, making investments, and increasing fund-raising abilities generally. Networks and individual NGOs are pursuing such strategies more and more.