The easy approach to producing your non-profit annual report

Gabrielle Ritchie| The Change Room | 19th June 2017

It’s that time of year again when everybody is likely scrambling to get their annual report conceptualised, written, designed and published.  In fact, most of us are probably just trying to get it written.

But the development of your organisation’s annual report does not have to be a massive mission.  What it does need is to be well thought through, properly conceptualised, attractively designed, and timeously published.  Amongst South African non-profits, our reports need to be submitted to the NPO Directorate within a few months (maximum 6) of our financial year-end.  Our continued status as a registered non-profit depends on the timeous submission of annual audited financials and a narrative report on your organisation.  For those organisations registered as public benefit organisations (PBO), you also need to submit your report to SARS, and for non-profit companies you will need to submit yours to CIPC.

Why else would we produce such a time-consuming piece of work?

Well, for a few reasons, actually.  These include that:

  1. A good annual report makes an excellent marketing tool, to share with donors, friends, supporters and beneficiaries
  2. Your annual report communicates your major achievements over the previous period
  3. It is an opportunity to share your financial status with anyone who cares to look, promoting transparency about the organisation’s state of financial affairs
  4. It is an important reflection of a well-functioning and expertly governed organisation
  5. It is a great opportunity to share stories, images and infographics of your work and of the difference you make in your community (however that may be defined).

So what makes a “good annual report”?

The answer to this is relatively straightforward – and you could simply follow the tips and steps outlined below.  The key questions that need to be asked in approaching the development of your annual report are detailed below and can be used as a discussion guide, with responses serving to shape an action plan.

  1. Who will be part of preparing the report? Which staff/ board members/ contracted service providers need to be involved?
  2. Should we engage an external freelancer (writing and/or design)? Do we have someone you use already?  Or someone in mind whose work we like?
  3. Will the Executive Director write the introductory overview, or would we prefer the Board Chair? Or both?
  4. Have we been gathering photos all year, and do we have easy access to these for use in the publication? Are they all ours or do we need permissions to use some of the images?
  5. Do we have an accurate, up-to-date, spelling-corrected donor list from the previous period, covering all donations? Are we going to mention all donors?  Do we have specific donor categories depending on donor-type or donation size?  What needs to be done to develop such a list?
  6. What will be our annual report’s theme? [There are many resources online to help you think through what kind of theme might suit your organisation, your work, and your annual report]
  7. Will we distribute in print and/or online? Both? What format will work best for us? Who is our audience and what works best for them?
  8. What are our best stories to share in this annual report?
  9. What are our key organisational messages, and where will we include them?
  10. Should we use video in our report?
  11. When will we launch or distribute our annual report?
  12. What are our three major accomplishments/achievements for the past year? And how can we ensure these link to the key messages?
  13. Who is going to triple-check our reported financials and donor list to ensure 100% accuracy?
  14. What calls to action should we include?

Answer those questions, and you will have the beginnings of a plan!

Key components of your report

Once you have a plan in place, you can consider the key components of your annual report.  Traditional components are based broadly on a Letter from Chair, an overview  from the Executive Director, a programme report from the Programme Director, perhaps some staffing and HR information on skills development  etc, the financial report, and a donor acknowledgement section.

A shorter, sharper approach could be (but not necessarily in this order):

  1. Table of Contents
  2. Executive Director letter (include mission: what you do and why)
  3. Accomplishments/Achievements (past year only)
  4. Stories (profiles) to highlight successes
  5. Photos all the way through the report
  6. Donor list
  7. Financials
  8. Board of Directors / Trustees
  9. A call to action

And use your report to THANK people: your donors and funders, your supporters, your partners – and your beneficiaries who have trusted you and your work!

If you need any advice on how to make this happen, drop me a line or ask a question here in the comments section.  Write well and make your annual report ROCK!

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Ten things you might not know about South African Philanthropy: South African PhilanthroFacts 3

Gabrielle Ritchie | Director, The Change Room | 23rd May 2017

Many multiple months have passed since I wrote South African Philanthrofacts 1 and 2 (no need to check back!) – but better late than never is one of my life mottos, and it applies here too.  So this is South African Philanthrofacts 3!

PF 1 was about the common knowledge that “little is known about South African philanthropy” – so I provided ten possible sources that could be consulted and pursued so that we could find out more about this terrain.

PF 2 was about the politics of philanthropy and who benefits from the ever-changing and whimsical sympathies of the benefactors.  That piece looked specifically at summer fire-fighting in the Cape Peninsula area, and the politics of an incredibly successful radio appeal for funding support for fire-fighting.

The focus for South African Philanthrofacts 3 is TEN things you might not know about South African Philanthropy:

  1. The first-ever Chair in African Philanthropy has been established at the Wits Business School. Acknowledgement loudly goes to Dr Bheki Moyo and Southern Africa Trust, and Wits Business School, for pulling this initiative together.
  2. I am the first PhD student (actually, I might be the first student!) under the new Chair (Professor Alan Fowler). It is also the first Chair in Philanthropy on the continent.  Big FIRSTS.
  3. The Social Justice Initiative has been established to provide a smooth mechanism for South Africans (and others) to support social justice work with their philanthropic giving – including work around gender-based violence; women’s economic empowerment and other issues central to South Africa’s social development.
  4. There are a number of different estimates around the ZAR scale of private philanthropy in our country. The Independent Philanthropy Association of South Africa (IPASA), when it was still the Private Philanthropy Circle based at Inyathelo: The South African Institute for Advancement, estimated that it represented around R1.5billion (in 2014) in annual grant spend.  It is not possible to extrapolate this out because, although IPASA represents somewhere between 25 and 35 philanthropic entities, the number of formal donor foundations in South Africa is completely unknown.  I have been told verbally in passing (and am not able to reference this), that recent research has revealed that private philanthropy in SA is worth over R40billion annually – but I am reserving my right to see this as a bit of a stretch and I really look forward to being able to unpack that number.
  5. South Africans with disposable income don’t give enough. We don’t give enough. I often wonder what we are holding on to.  If we are not investing in our own social development, then who on earth is going to?
  6. There are ENDLESS incredible projects to support. If you have disposable funds or are thinking of investing some money in social development, let me know.  I would be delighted to point you in some right directions.  There is superb work happening in job creation and support for micro-entrepreneurs – such as The Big Issue (declaration: I am the Chair of the Board!); in education – for example, Partners for Possibility; in health – health-e news is one such project; working to expose and end corruption – such as Corruption Watch; to develop community-based health care projects – like NACOSA is doing nationally; standing for our rights as citizens to be able to access information – such as Right to Know and Amabhungane.  Really endless, people.  It is not hard to find a project or a cause.  But if you are struggling to decide where to invest, I would be more than happy to provide information and find you some good, reliable, dependable, hardworking, effective projects to support!
  7. While many speak of things changing rapidly in the philanthropy space, this is not really the case. There is mention, for example, of the potential for incredibly exciting shifts and wild innovation such as consulting directly with communities and activists on the ground.  Yes, apparently this is new and wildly innovative.  It is also something that has been discussed for years, and for which calls have been made by the very people living in communities and working on the ground.  So perhaps it is “new” because the philanthropists are finally hearing it?  Come, people – there needs to be a far smaller gap between what how we do philanthropy and how we KNOW we should do philanthropy.
  8. There are very few people talking much at all locally about philanthropy, funding, grantmaking, social justice and social development. To listen to those who are sharing their pearls, follow these folk on Twitter:  @RAITHFoundation | @SocialJusticeSA | @BerthaFN | @OtherFoundation | @Tshikululu | @bheki_moyo | @shelaghgastrow | and me on @philanthropiSA | If you know of others, please share!
  9. Personal philanthropy is still not much of a discussion topic, not amongst traditional white wealth in South Africa anyway. I think we might be stuck a bit in the British tradition of “we don’t discuss money… it’s impolite”.  But how grand would it be if we all spoke about what we invest socially, why we chose those causes and/or organisations, whether others know of good projects needing support, how we decide as individuals whether projects are support-worthy, what we think we can achieve with our particular investment choices.  Wouldn’t it be great? Wouldn’t it?!
  10. South African philanthropy is part of a much broader philanthropy space across the whole continent. As such, it is part of a growing conversation about practice, process, people, and pathways in giving money in support of a bigger social project.  It is exciting stuff – and these times will become ever-more interesting as our understanding of the breadth of practices of different kinds of philanthropies becomes more and more evident on the continent.

Capacity building for South African NPOs – what works?

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by Gabrielle Ritchie

Director, The Change Room

5th September 2016

 

Do we know what capacity development approaches work best in building the skills in NPOs to ensure resilience and sustainability?

There are a growing number of capacity development offerings and initiatives in the non-profit sector, many of which utilise millions in donor funding.  Donors are critical in supporting this work – and the idea is that such training and skills development contributes to ensuring that grantees are sustainable beyond any particular donor grant.

In theory, capacity development for NPO sustainability seeks to ensure that organisations are better able to (amongst other things):

  • jack up their governance
  • manage their finances effectively
  • plan thoroughly
  • develop persuasive and impactful communications
  • monitor their work to ensure an appropriate evidence base for their strategy development and planning
  • brush up on and fine-tune their fundraising skills
  • ensure effective leadership of their organisation

So what approaches are being developed, how is this being tackled, what are we learning from all of this work, and are we finding good practice examples of effective capacity development that genuinely contributes to the longer-term sustainability of South African non-profits?

Firstly, this has been an important area around which donors have convened groups of their grantees.  Based on capacity status and assessment, donors are bringing similar-level grantees together – particularly (but not only) as part of their own exit planning either from South Africa (as was the case with The Atlantic Philanthropies) or from a particular funding focus area.   Secondly, this is a key area of investment for donors who are seeking to contribute to the overall resilience of South Africa’s NPO sector.

The intentions behind the training are excellent, but as with any capacity development endeavour, we really need a thorough assessment of the overall impact of these interventions, along the following kind of lines:

  1. What are the real challenges faced by non-profits working at community level?
  2. Is there a hierarchy of challenges that is different for (for example) urban-based non-profits and rural-based organisations?
  3. What might the key point of influence be in ensuring that resource mobilisation behaviour shifts across and organisation?
  4. What training methodology works best?
  5. Is knowledge-development the most important component of a sustainability capacity building intervention?
  6. What role does mentorship and post-workshop support play in ensuring that new knowledge and skills translate into different resource mobilisation behaviours?
  7. Based on reviewing a number of capacity-development initiatives, which have demonstrated an on-the-ground difference in the resilience of participant non-profits?
  8. What specific approach/ component/ knowledge area has led to this positive impact?
  9. Is this success translatable to other contexts?

These are some of the questions we should be asking specifically of our South African context, so that our capacity development initiatives are focused, designed for impact, and structured in a way that has a best shot at ensuring a shift in how people approach the ongoing task of resourcing their organisations.  A good understanding of these issues would take us a long way to developing effective training – and putting donor money to best use.

Thoughts?  Please share any comments or thoughts you have on this topic.

For other posts on skills required for fundraising, go to https://philanthropediasa.wordpress.com/2016/06/10/sustainability-practice-areas-for-non-profit-organisational-resilience-the-basic-skills-set/

Researching South African Philanthropy – for growth!

by Gabrielle Ritchie, Director: The Change Room

1st April 2016

Image source: CAF Southern Africa: I believe I can make a difference. Report on Giving in South Africa. 2015

In the last few weeks in South Africa – preceding the 31 March 2016 milestone ruling in South Africa’s Constitutional Court regarding #Nkandla – we have seen a couple of important events in South African philanthropy.  In some senses the #ConCourt judgement is as much a victory for philanthropy in support of democracy as it is a major victory for democracy itself.

Much has been happening in local philanthropy, aside from the extent to which Constitutionalism in our country has so fully been strengthened with philanthropic funding. The first event I refer to was the launch of a unique new online knowledge resource (at www.resourcingphilanthropy.org.za) which offers insights, thoughts, expertise and knowledge on practices of grantmaking in South Africa, and an overview of the current state of the local philanthropy field, with a particular focus on funding in support of human rights and social justice.

This is the first resource of its kind, offering a comprehensive look at the “as is” in local philanthropy, as well as documented insights and views from a range of key practitioners in the social justice and philanthropy fields. In addition, the resource offers illuminating insights into the innovative grantmaking practices and approaches of The Atlantic Philanthropies, a limited life Foundation which has now exited from its grantmaking in South Africa after funding more than $355million in projects, programmes, initiatives and capital developments in the Southern African region.  Remarkable stuff.

The second event I refer to is the launch of South Africa’s first Chair of African Philanthropy at Wits Business School (announced last year and launched recently), a long-overdue energy shot for building the field of philanthropy, not only in South Africa but also more broadly across the continent. This is most exciting, and a pan-African seminar has been held to kick-start the development of the academic programme under this new Chair.  With Professor Alan Fowler leading this development, the knowledge environment is seriously opening up for the local philanthropy field.

These are both clear signs of the growing energy and interest in the field of philanthropy in South Africa and on the rest of the continent – not just in the forms of giving, but also in who gives; what people commit their support to; the intentions behind giving; the reasons for wanting to contribute to a particular cause or organisation; how this giving takes place; and trends in amounts invested in social issues and in particular causes.

While these research initiatives and this energy are absolutely critical in the strengthening of the environment in which philanthropy is built and broadened, there is a range of other features required for local philanthropy promotion and growth.

The global experience in growing philanthropy indicates a number of key requirements for encouraging and improving the levels of philanthropic funding investments in social change.  These include the provision of encouragement and motivation for philanthropy; fostering an interest in and understanding of the field of philanthropy; developing a strong research-derived knowledge base in this area; and building a strong professional infrastructure around the business and practice of high net worth philanthropy. Additional to this is the requirement to ensure that the legislative framework for philanthropy actively enables and encourages giving, rather than inhibiting it.

To build, maintain and strengthen support for a strong change-focused agenda for civil society in South Africa, the following (amongst many others) are important enablers:

  • Active citizenship – the commitment and active engagement of South Africa’s people in the identification and removal of obstacles to rights and justice
  • The freedom to build democratic participation through social movements and civil society organisations
  • The willingness of philanthropists, nonprofit organisations and social activists, to define and implement programmes for social and political interventions for change
  • A Constitution which outlines the inalienable right to human dignity and equality, and which can be called upon directly in support of efforts to access rights
  • A legislative framework that facilitates the space for civil society activists to speak, organise and demonstrate where they deem necessary, without fear of sanction (or worse)
  • The political will of the state to ensure that civil society can operate openly without restriction, within the boundaries of the Constitution
  • A post-secondary education system and structure geared to engage responsively with the needs and requirements of a strong democratic culture, and not only to respond to the needs of commerce and industry
  • A progressive media that seeks out news and stories on issues of rights, civil society initiatives, and the watch-dogging of government and big business (for rights violations and other transgressions around good governance, transparency and accountability)
  • The financial resources to conduct the work required – to support the organisation of initiatives, the design and implementation of campaigns, the physical space where organisations can do their work, legal challenges in court, and the many other tactics that might be employed by a movement or organisation to achieve access to rights and justice.

Currently in South Africa, most of the above enablers exist – and some require a more demanding and vociferous public than others, for the realisation of the enabler.   While human rights and change-focused activism takes place all over the world regardless of the existence of any of these conditions, it is these which most directly and actively support the attainment and realisation of rights and justice.

However, it is the area of financial resourcing (outlined above), that surfaces as a key challenge in South Africa.  Any South African news channel will provide ample indication of the ongoing urgency for financial support for social justice initiatives at a local, provincial, national and regional level.

For example, we all want a free media but we need to learn to pay for it. So as my sign-off, I am providing my organisational PICK OF THE DAY for strong investigative journalism:

Amabhungane at http://www.amabhungane.co.za Support amaB. Support Democracy.

 

 

How do we know when FREE is worth the effort, or just a waste of time?

Non-profits generally love FREE!!  And donors usually get really excited about low-cost/ no-cost opportunities for their grantees to access skills-exchanges and new knowledge.

But How do we know when FREE is worth the effort, or just a waste of time?

Here is one virtual online conference you can be sure will be worth the effort.  Organised and hosted by Resource Alliance, an organisation with a global reputation for its excellence in capacity development products and services for non-profits (particularly their conferences!), you can’t really go too wrong 🙂

This two-day event is being held on 13th and 14th May 2015 and all you need to do to be part of this fantastic learning event is register here. Over the two days, 16 sessions will be presented by leading experts in digital marketing, online fundraising and social media marketing, from within and outside the non-profit sector.

Full details on the programme are available here and include the following:-

  • Six practical methodologies to enable you to get started – Dr Scilla Elworthy (UK)
  • Charities don’t tweet, people do – Euan Semple (UK)
  • Adapting to a changing world: the innovation imperative – Colin Habberton (South Africa)
  • Seven ways to use mobile to build your supporter base – Nick Allen (USA)
  • Integrating digital into your old fashioned fundraising stuff – Sean Triner (Australia)
  • Crowdfunding for fundraisers – Ronald Kleverlaan (Netherlands)
  • Five learnings from masters of social media you can use in your fundraising today – Touko Sipiläinen (Finland)

According to Resource Alliance, who host the regular Netherlands-based International Fundraising Conference,over 2 000 delegates from 120 countries participated in last year’s Fundraising Online, which once again aims to help charities of all sizes successfully navigate the shifting sands of technological change.   With a focus on “empowerment and bridging the gap between online and offline initiatives”, Resource Alliance explains that this online initiative makes it possible for delegates to “benefit from the expertise of renowned speakers in the comfort of their own workplace, wherever and whenever it suits”.

Gotta go now … off to register 🙂  I am not missing this one!

South African PhilanthroFacts 1

Not enough is known about South African philanthropy.

We don’t have access to the kind of information that would make possible a deeper analysis of knowledge, attitudes and practices of South Africans who do (and who don’t) give their own money towards social development. I am going to write a series of blogs, then, to deliver up an insight into what we do know. There is some information available – what I would call “surface information” – so let’s at least get that up on the table.

First, a quick list of categories of information that we know we are able to access:
1. we could get information from non-profits on the amounts or relative percentages of funding support received from individuals and from foundations and trusts in South Africa. This would require a bit of research (some of which is currently being undertaken by @Inyathelo http://www.inyathelo.org.za)
2. we can access generalisations on who gives and why they give
3. we have access to research on giving in South Africa, conducted for example by Nedbank Private Wealth and published in The Giving Report (of which there are two studies conducted to date). This is self-reported giving and comes therefore with its own challenges (how do people report their giving, how do we account for individuals wanting to be seen as more generous than they actually are etc)
4. we know what academic research has been done and can readily compile a comprehensive reading list of this research – mostly for Masters and PhD degrees
5. we can access the local media coverage of South African philanthropy, South African wealth, the richest men, the richest women, and an idea of those who give publicly and who are known to give
6. we have access to a great list of philanthropy role-models in South Africa – across the broadest range of the South African demographic in terms of age, geography, culture, religion, colour, gender, cause and so on – go to http://www.philanthropy.org.za
7. there are new initiatives afoot to promote different kinds of giving, and to develop a strong case for support for giving to social justice causes – see for example the Social Justice Initiative at http://www.sji.org.za
8. we could review the work of the Private Philanthropy Circle (www.philanthropy.org.za), the first forum of private South African philanthropy foundations, which has a number of foundations as members and represents only the tip of South Africa’s “foundationberg” (see what i did there?)
9. we know of other foundation networks, for example the network of community foundations in South Africa
10. which means we could also do research on the concept of a community foundation and its applicability in the South African context
11. we know and can analyse the tax environment for philanthropy in South Africa, and what does and does not support the growth of individual philanthropy
12. we have access to databases of funders in South Africa and can trawl and analyse for philanthropic foundations associated with South African individuals
13. we can access information on the growth of philanthropy based on the increasing numbers of banks and wealth management companies offering philanthropy-focused services, and on the increasing numbers of people becoming part of the field of philanthropy advisory services (myself included).

In South Africa we don’t have access to tax records, for example. This source of information is where researchers in the USA are able to draw such comprehensive analyses of giving patterns, top ten lists, and the kind of giving detail that researchers are able to write about and profile. That said, the list above shows that we do have access to vast amounts of information that, while perhaps carrying insufficient specific detail on who is giving and how much they are giving and what they are giving to, nevertheless does provide us with enough information to draw patterns and extrapolations and conclusions.

Forward, onward then – to developing a fuller picture of South African philanthropy and individual giving in our country. Watch this space for South African PhilanthroFacts 2.