I was thrilled when I was invited to attend a national convention organized by the National Council for the Blind, Malaysia (NCBM) recently. However, the thrill turned to trepidation when I was requested to be a speaker on a tough subject entitled “Healthy Financing Breeds Quality Projects". Just the thought of public speaking in the dark to a large audience is still something that is a challenge for me, i.e. not being to able to see the body language and assess the reaction of the audience. Another challenge is to remember my presentation from memory and not reading from Braille notes (I am still Braille illiterate). Glad to share, it all went well on the day. Gauging from the Q&A and comments, I guess I was successful in delivering my thoughts and views on the topic I was presenting.
This experience helped to raise my level of self esteem and confidence as the bricks of my blindness barrier was knocked down even further.
Below is the summary of my presentation:
Topic : “Healthy Finance Breeds Quality Projects".
Introduction: Money is a driver. In everything we do we need money; to survive, to have fun, to care for your family, to help others and even dying also need money. We know for a fact that NGOs get their funding from corporations and public donation to help the society they represent. Without financial support NGOs will have difficulty in achieving and realizing their set objectives It is the norm for these NGOs when campaigning for funds to stress on the dependency of the group they represent.
Times have changed. Corporations and the public are not as ready to contribute as quickly as they were before. Nowadays they are more cautious of giving away money and they are more selective in choosing the causes they desire to champion. Some of the concerns they have are:
a. Abuse and misuse of the funds: A case in mind is the National Kidney Foundation in Singapore which was highlighted in the national news. More recently, another case that was mentioned involved a monk in Singapore where funds were misappropriated.
b. Selection of deserving causes: Corporations are very selective these days. They have professionals and dedicated persons to manage CSR projects (Corporate Social Responsibility). These big corporations not only look at bottom line but also the need to portray their corporate image as a caring company, e.g. giving back some of their profits to deserving community. The project they champion normally has to relate to their business and credo. At times they may require participation of their staff in the projects or become a partner.
c. Stiff competition: there are too many NGOs and sometimes with similar objectives, vying for limited financial resources available. E.g. within our own compound we have NCBM, SBM and MAB soliciting for funds from the same source. It is confusing as to who these groups of NGOs are.
d. Management behind the NGO : the credibility and the professionalism of the people behind the projects or organization comes into play
Gone are the days of simply sending donation requests for contributions. One can still continue to carry on but admittedly money is trickling and not pouring in. Yes, public donation is definitely declining as the public is beginning to question if their contributions are being put to good use.
What does this mean to us, NGOs? We must change with times.
When soliciting for funds you must be very clear in what you are asking for. The corporations and companies you solicit for funds are not interested in your operating costs. However, they are normally more open to sponsor projects and programs and the end result to the society the fund is for and to them the sponsors.
Project base fund raising: Be clear and precise with your objectives, what your project is going to achieve and it must be measurable in terms of target reach and time specific. More importantly, what is it in for the corporation/companies who is contributing the money. No doubt win-win is the key word but in reality they are looking at a bigger win. At times they may require their staff to be involved or they may want to take the lead. These days it is common to deal with CSR personnel from these corporations/companies. Therefore, you need to be professional in your approach as well.
People behind the NGO/project : There is a need to deploy a dedicated professional to manage this serious responsibility. Not just any Tom, Dick, or Harry, please. This is serious affair if you are negotiating for money.
Branding: It is important to create awareness of your organization and what it stands for. It must be top of mind with all the agencies and corporations e.g. when you think of instant noodles you think of Maggie mee. When you think of BMW cars you associate with class and top level executives. How wonderful it is if NCBM equals champion of the blind and the partially sighted. Solid brand image will definitely give you an advantage in fund raising
At the end of the day, fund raising is still a sales and marketing pitch.
Last but not least I would like end with this acronym: C A R E
C for Consistent – We must be consistent in our efforts to help the blind and partially sighted (BPS) in gaining independence through access to education and skill training.
A for Assimilation – The plan is to assimilate BPS into mainstream society
R for Recognition/ Respect – As an organization, we want be recognized and respected for the work we do. For the individual, to gain respect and recognition for what we are i.e independent, and self reliant
E for Empowerment and Equal opportunity: With the 3 pointers mentioned it will empower the BPS to equal opportunity in career choices
More challenging times ahead!