The last few years has seen exponential growth in the rate of development of software applications that are changing the way we live – from managing our social lives to our homes and, of course, the way we work.
In a sector that aims to address social needs and development, when funding is available the tendency is to allocate it where it is ‘needed most’ – on the beneficiary communities. While this is a noble practice, it usually means that funding (not to mention time) for management tasks essential to the effective running of the projects is scarce, and project staff often struggle to keep up with these more administrative tasks.
At the Trialogue CSI Conference 2015, a panel of four NPOs were brought together to share the tools they’ve discovered over the past few years that has improved the running of their organisations.
Building organisational capacity with USAID’s LINK tool
Chris Motupi from USAID and Vanessa Francis from Room to Read initiated the discussion by sharing about the soon to be released in South Africa LINK tool developed by USAID. This online self-assessment tool for NPOs is derived from the NUPAS framework – a tool used by USAID officials to assess non-U.S. organisations applying for funding. The survey is not used in any grant making decisions by USAID, but rather is meant for organisational development purposes only and helps organisations understand whether they would meet the criteria required for U.S. government funding. NPOs benefit from receiving reports and recommendations based on their unique survey results.
Chris Motupi from USAID described the tool as profoundly useful in the journey towards acquiring funding. “The ability to self-assess against USAID scoring criteria helps you identify what areas need work before attempting to approach certain funders that require this. If you get a decent score for these surveys you are likely to meet criteria of many funders because USAID is quite strict,” says Chris.
While the tool is not accessible to South African NPOs just yet, Room to Read was recently given the opportunity to try the tool as part of a pilot project. Says Vanessa: “This tool is extremely useful for self-reflection and gap analysis. Even if we weren’t applying to USAID we would still do this to get a deeper understanding of our organisation and how we can develop.”
A sophisticated tool for tracking an organisation’s data with Salesforce
While Salesforce – the world’s biggest client relationship management (CRM) platform – may be a tool you’d more commonly associate with large corporates, NPOs are can acquire ten free licences for the innovative system. Cape Town based U Turn Homeless Ministries leveraged this opportunity and found that it revolutionised their record keeping systems.
“Salesforce is an incredible flexible system,” says U Turn director Sam de Vos. “It has allowed us to write our own M&E system, and basically gives us one integrated system to manage all our clients, staff, locations and interactions.” This one-stop system also enhances U Turn’s fundraising efforts – they find it easier to access the required information, and are able to standardize the processes involved. Furthermore, Sam has also found that the user friendly nature of the system means that his less computer literate staff are able to utilise the system with relative ease.
Measuring wellbeing improvements of your beneficiaries with NPC’s Wellbeing Tool
In 2014 Trialogue invited Tsogo Sun to participate in a pilot project to test UK-based New Philanthropy Capital’s(NPC) Well-being Measure tool with South African children. This online survey-based tool is targeted at children aged 11 to 16 years, aiming to take a measure of their well-being across eight areas including self, family and community. While Tsogo Sun had to convert the online survey to paper to suit the circumstances of their CSI projects, they found the survey to be quick and easy, says Shanda Paine, Group CSI Manager.
The survey was undertaken three times over the year, and illustrated definite improvements in emotional wellbeing between the initial and the final surveys of the year. “The surveys helped to complete our M&E processes, but they did raise more questions than answers,” explains Shanda. “But this is a good thing, because it means we are identifying area we need to explore in more detail.”
Understanding your stakeholders with Survey Monkey
When rumours of a funding crisis began in 2012, NACOSA, as a networking organisation focused on collaborative efforts in the HIV/Aids space, decided they needed to get to the bottom of the issue by conducting a survey. This is when they turned to Survey Monkey, an online survey tool that allows users to design and share a survey quickly and easily.
“This is a sophisticated tool,” says Sophie Hobbs. “It allowed us to very quickly share the survey widely, meaning we could reach a valid sample. It also makes collating the findings easy, providing tools for graphical presentations.” While most of the hard work is in the designing of the survey, Survey Monkey provides tips on developing questions and a bank of questions that can be used to inform the process. However, Sophie adds, these surveys cannot replace robust M&E processes – it should be used to check the pulse of specific situations and topics.
By Denise Archer