The Donors’ Den: M&E Edition at the Trialogue Business in Society Virtual Conference 2020 consisted of an interactive pitching session in which three non-profit organisations (NPO) presented on how they are using monitoring and evaluation (M&E) to strengthen their programmes and impact. Fatima Adam, (Zenex Foundation), Angie Maloka (MTN SA Foundation) and Charlene Lackay (Momentum Metropolitan Holdings) made up the panel of donors offering advice and asking probing questions of the NPOs. Three monetary prizes were on offer and were awarded based on the voting results of the online delegate attendees, with the third-placed NPO receiving R10 000, the second-placed NPO receiving R15 000, and the winner receiving R25 000.
Cradle-to-career support for the young people of Freedom Park and Eldorado Park
Mthandazo Khumalo of Phakamani Young Minds Academy (PYMA) presented on behalf of the youth-led NPO, which provides academic assistance, support and mentorship to learners throughout their schooling career. The support PYMA provides is in the form of extra lessons, homework supervision, exam preparation, mentorship, career guidance and extra-mural activities. Grade 12 support includes assisting learners to apply to a minimum of three post-school opportunities and then to guide them through these post-school opportunities. The objective of PYMA is to assist young people to break the cycle of poverty.
Operating since 2014, Khumalo gave a detailed overview of the PYMA strategy, the role that M&E plays in the organisation, a view of their insights based on their M&E, and the organisation’s response to Covid-19. Khumalo emphasised that PYMA uses M&E intentionally for the improvement of their programmes and accountability and went on to showcase some of their successes between 2017-2019:
- 42 learners completed grade 12
- 86% of learners passed grade 12
- 55% of learners accessed tertiary opportunities
- 70% of learners placed in internships or learnerships
Sewing for skills development for the disabled youth of Nelson Mandela Bay
Stanford Slabbert presented on behalf of the Association for the Physically Disabled (APD) Eastern Cape Nelson Mandela Bay region. The organisation, which employs 59 people (70% of them differently abled), has been serving the disabled community of Nelson Mandela Bay for 80 years and over time has evolved into a social enterprise with a garment manufacturing initiative that competes in the open market, servicing corporate clients such as The Foschini Group (TFG), Aspen Pharmaceuticals and Dynamic Commodities.
The organisation provides a host of social services to their disabled community, has several income-generating projects, and provides employment to a mix of able-bodied and differently abled employees. Based on the learnings coming out of APD’s participation in the National Institute for the Deaf (NID) learnership programme over a two-year period, APD is launching a sewing-skills-for development project for disabled youth. Slabbert highlighted several strategic linkages the initiative will have with local TVET colleges, corporate partners, and government entities (referencing the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disability). The intention is for the project to provide a structured career path for the young participants. The intention is to use M&E to drive productivity and quality within the project.
Solving unemployment by rewarding volunteering
Liam Smith presented on behalf of an organisation called Vollar, which is using its technology platform to enhance the impact, efficiency, and transparency of donor funding to achieve its mission statement, “Solving unemployment by rewarding volunteering”.
Vollar partners with donors by converting their social investment into a token called a vollar token (with monetary value). Vollar simultaneously partners with local organisations and champions to assist them in working towards a desired project by running incentivised volunteering programmes, using the vollar tokens as payment. Individuals that participate in these incentivised programmes then earn vollar tokens after completing certain tasks and these tasks are linked to the key performance indicators (KPI) of the broader project. Vollar tokens are then spent by individuals at registered and vetted local small, micro, medium enterprises (SMME), which are enabled to accept payment for the transaction for the commodity or service, for example, local spaza stores, plumbers, ECD centres and so on. The SMME then simply cashes out the vollar token to receive the donor money that funded it initially. The initial donor investment therefore funds not only the local project but local economic development as well.
Smith went on to highlight that, owing to the nature of the initiative, M&E is built into the process flow as the technology is able to track who earned a vollar, as well as where, why, and when that vollar was spent. Smith shared the qualitative and quantitative data from a three-month pilot project Vollar ran in the community of Kylemore in the Cape Winelands, which included women volunteers sustaining their households with the supplementing income earned through vollars, with local SMMEs seeing an income increase of between R6 000 and R8 000 per month.
Commentary from the donor panel
Adam had the following three top tips for the presenting NPOs:
- M&E is full of jargon and one should be careful not to get caught up in this. It is better to get to grips with a project and really understand what needs to be achieved, what the underlying assumptions are, and what it is that the NPO wants to deliver and change, which should be the focus.
- It is important that an NPO has a theory of change that it can clearly and succinctly articulate.
- Less is more – it is better to not collect too much data as it overwhelms organisations and overextends what are often limited resources.
Maloka noted that, in her experience, donors often overload beneficiary organisations with reporting requirements. She encouraged NPOs to engage with donors and to be proactive in discussing and understanding the donors’ reporting requirements.
The closing advisory remarks were by Lackay, who urged NPOs to be bolder in ensuring that an organisation’s M&E makes sense to the organisation and works for them.
Based on the online delegate voting, Vollar was the winner, and received R25 000.
Image: Gugulethu Mfuphi, Mthandazo Khumalo, Charlene Lackay, Angie Maloka, Fatima Adam
Article was written by Kelly Brownell
Photo taken by Janelle Strydom