The struggle is real: NPO funding support in South Africa

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Gabrielle Ritchie

Director, The Change Room

8th September 2016

I have been engaging recently, through training workshops, with a range of South African non-profit staffers who know what it’s like out there on the ground.  These aren’t the big-city non-profits.  These are people seriously slogging it out in under-resourced areas, looking into the big yonder and wondering how they will continue to fund the delivery of essential community services.

These services include, for example (and usually amongst many other services):

  1. HIV counselling and testing – most times these are the only entities in an area who provide this service.
  2. Trauma counselling – always these organisations are the only facility that has any capacity to provide support to those who have suffered violence, abuse, trauma, loss.
  3. Sex worker support – access to health advice, testing and treatment in a context where state clinics are unsensitised (and often hostile) to sex workers and the context in which they work.
  4. Sexual health education and resource-sharing – particularly for youth, where there are clearly insufficient resources and information available to guide and advise.
  5. Support for women survivors of gender-based violence – always the only place that women can turn to.
  6. Diversion programmes – designed to support juvenile offenders towards avoiding a life of wrong-doing and imprisonment.

These organisations are not about charity.  While they are about welfare, this is welfare in the “big” sense of the word, where these non-profits provide services and support to individuals within communities towards improving their emotional well-being and providing a place where they can be served, understood and where their issues can be held.

This is fundamentally an issue of social justice.  This is about access to wellness services.  This is about attending to the basic health and wellness needs of communities.  And this work is always under-funded, and often goes unpaid. Non-profits providing these essential services are struggling to get the attention of the state, of corporates, of individuals – and, most especially, appropriate levels of support from provincial funding pots in the departments of health, education and social development.

The work being undertaken, and the services being delivered, by these organisations are right up against the raw coalface of under-resourced and impoverished areas.  The work is often difficult and, because of under-staffing, can be hugely overwhelming.  It is becoming increasingly critical – for community support, development, and general physical, social and economic health – to ensure the long-term endurance, resilience and sustainability of these “social services” organisations.   There is no doubt that the government relies absolutely on such non-profits to deliver a range of health, wellness and support services – without which communities across the country would literally be left in the lurch.

Whether these kinds of services are needed is not up for discussion – they are critical in a global and local context of increasing inequality and social dysfunction.  Whether they must receive appropriate levels of support from  government is also not for debate – the government fully relies on this huge group of organisations, and the thousands of staff and volunteers who work at these NPOs, to  provide basic levels of community support. Whether they actually receive the required support is also a non-discussion – countless organisations rely on staff who are willing to continue working for months without salaries in times of zero funding.

These organisations are the heroes of our non-profit sector. There is nothing fun, exciting or edgy about the constant demand for their services, nor the overwhelming need for delivery of this huge range of social support interventions provided by these organisations.  But there they are – slogging it out, eking out their existence, working to make sure they are able to keep their doors open.  For the sake of the individuals who have nowhere else to turn.

Google “community counselling centre” or “sexual health centre/ clinic” in your area.  You will be amazed at what comes up. Find a local non-profit community counselling centre or clinic services centre and see how you can support the work they do. These organisations are the only option – and they are critical to our national well-being.

 

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3 thoughts on “The struggle is real: NPO funding support in South Africa

  1. The HIV services fall under the remit of government. More needs to be done to force government to provide HIV services they are actually supposed to be providing. Increased government provision will then also relieve the stress on these social providers.

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    • Exactly so. In the meantime NPOs are the only hope for so many. In fact, government funding of NPOs is a hugely exploitative endeavour – and costs govt way less than it would to do it themselves, so it’s totally working for government. Just not for anybody else. Thanks for the comment 🙂

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  2. Pingback: Top 5 nonprofit issues in South Africa: sustainability, governance, voluntarism, and others | philanthropediaSA

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