The challenges and demands in social development seem to be almost infinite, but money and resources are most definitely not. Speaking at the Trialogue CSI Conference on 24 May 2016, Cassiem Khan told an audience of non-profit organisations, private and corporate donors, government and other social development stakeholders that fundraising has changed significantly since he first entered the development sector as a social worker and educator some 30 years ago.
He recalled the sector in the apartheid era, saying that in those days people were “in activist mode” and there was a lot of commitment from board members and other stakeholders. Community Based Organisation were strong, and foreign funding was available.
To ensure relevance and successful fundraising over the past three decades, NPOs have had to adapt to changing conditions. This is very much the case today. In fact, the protests of the past year has been transformative, in terms of how South Africans see their country and the needs of its citizens. The reverberations have been widely felt, including in the CSI industry. Khan said: “The Fees Must Fall movement really shook the foundation and people have had to think very hard. It shifted the way we need to think about education. Has your CSI shifted based on Fees Must Fall?”
Khan believes practitioners in the CSI space need to become development activists once more, “How much are you fighting for your space, how much are you fighting for that 90% of people who are excluded? Do you try to educate the other directors on that board? To fight for that 90% within your own company? To shift the company’s thinking about South Africa?”
Khan cautioned against arrogance, and made a plea for donors and NPOs working in the development space to really understand the beneficiaries. “When you drive off to the rural areas with that imaginary cheque book in your pocket, you have power, it is easy to be arrogant. You might be doing something for the poor, but can you really picture yourself standing there? Do you really understand the beneficiaries of the services that are being funded by that NPO?”
His message to people and organisations looking for funding was simple: “Know yourself, know your organisation, know your sector and know your shortcomings and weaknesses. Remember that the donor is just a human being like you. Reach out. What makes the donor’s mind tick? What are the challenges they face? When you understand that, you can build a relationship. Sharpen your one-minute pitch and make it meaningful. Highlight your achievements.”
Click here to access the presentation.