Donations are not the only way

Updated: Mar 7, 2020

Many, if not most NGOs rely on donations for funding. Similarly, many NGO leaders may tell you that raising funding for an NGO is extremely challenging - especially in South Africa where there are so many NGO and there is so much need. But how can you get funding to run your NGO without getting donations?

One way of doing this would be to see your organisation more as a type of business whose purpose is to solve social problems. Your primary goal is to solve the social problem, not to make a profit - although profits may well be generated, it is not the sole focus and driver. This kind of business is known as a "social enterprise or business".

Social enterprise: home-based caring

Palesa lives in a rural area and has just matriculated. She is a very caring person and has seen that there are a few elderly, disabled and ill people in her village who could benefit from assistance. Their family members are mostly away in the bigger cities, working for an income. Palesa decides to start a service where she assists elderly, disabled and ill people with basic household chores and errands in the absence of their relatives being there to help. While their income-earning relatives are home in the village for Christmas, she proposes a monthly subscription fee, which entitles the subscriber to a few hours of assistance per week. People welcome Palesa's service as they know her and how well she will care for their relatives. Palesa is good at helping people and her service is in demand. Soon more people request assistance and Palesa asks her friend to join her in her business. In the meantime, Palesa has enough money for data bundles and is up-skilling herself by doing free online courses on home health care. Palesa's cousin in a nearby village hears of the success that Palesa has had and asks Palesa to train her, so that she can start a similar venture. Palesa is happy to pass on what she has learnt.

Explaining social entrepreneurship
Social enterprise: community vegetable garden

Another possible example could be a group of grandmothers who decide to start a vegetable garden to feed themselves, their grandchildren and the homeless people in the area. They need extra hands with the gardening, so the homeless people offer their assistance in exchange for a meal. The garden flourishes and they sell their extra produce that they do not need to local supermarkets. They use some of the proceeds to buy gardening tools, seeds and shade cloth. Because they are so good at gardening, they also start a training course for community members who want to have their own gardens and supplement their diets with homegrown vegetables.

Social enterprise: mobile clinic

Another example of a social enterprise is a mobile clinic that charges a small fee to community members for quality basic healthcare. The community members do not mind paying because it gives them the right to demand good service. The mobile clinic can keep on operating and expand its reach as there is funding available because of the fees charged.

Real examples of social enterprises in healthcare
  • Quali Health - Dr Nthabiseng Legoete started affordable private clinics in townships in and around Johannesburg when she realized there was a need for easily-accessible healthcare that provided quality care and catered for people's working hours.

  • Iyeza Express - Sizwe Nzima's business started when he collected his grandparents' medicine from the clinic on his bicycle. He now collects for over 2,800 people, has a pharmacy and employs others.


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