These are challenging and extremely critical times for international aid and non-governmental organizations. The recent pandemic eroded decades of development and social progress, and aid organizations are tasked with meeting and restoring essential functions.
For instance, the World Bank estimates that the COVID-19 pandemic will push 150 million people into extreme poverty by 2021. At the same time, the institution calculates that reduced access to healthcare services will increase child mortality by 45% in developing nations. Meanwhile, education systems are disrupted, social structures are frayed, and the needs are urgent.
That’s why, as The Brookings Institute wrote, international aid organizations have their work cut out for them.
Of course, nonprofits have problems of their own. The Washington Post estimates that the pandemic will wipe out a third of nonprofits, and 75% report declining contributions, reducing their capacity to meet the moment.
In this environment, nonprofits can maximize impact by focusing on outstanding governance. In doing so, nonprofits can best secure needed funding, optimize operational necessities, and remain agile during these transformative times with these three key best practices:
# 1 Adapt to a Shifting Fundraising Landscape
For decades, international aid organizations developed compelling fundraising campaigns that tapped into donors’ compassionate ethos. Now, those images are less impactful. As The New York Times Editorial Board notes, “The images of starving children used to raise money for famine relief are now decried as ‘poverty porn’ that portrays Africans as helpless victims so that American and European organizations can collect funds.”
Compelling causes still move today’s funders, but they are data-driven when choosing projects to support. Nonprofits need to adjust to maximize every opportunity with international aid funding down by more than a third from pre-pandemic levels.
For example, according to the report Research-informed Philanthropy: Donor Behavior in Seeking and Using Information,” funders are evaluating specific metrics, including insights into organizational impact, before contributing. Similarly, nearly 70% of potential donors require nonprofits to disclose overhead expenses before committing financial resources.
Outstanding governance empowers nonprofits to capture and convey this critical information. While success metrics vary by organization, every nonprofit can control its internal spending policies and procedures. Most prominently, time and expense tracking is a strategic imperative for nonprofits committed to providing high-quality service without compromise. In addition, nonprofits can leverage their insights to demonstrate value in several ways, including:
- Storytelling. Stories help donors connect with the cause in an intimate and valuable way.
- Data. Everything from the number of people served, outcomes reached, and lives changed can convey donor impact and foster continuing financial support.
- Efficiency. Donors want to support a cause, not a bloated organization. Demonstrating efficiency honors their contribution and demonstrates organizational efficacy.
Outstanding governance is the key to capturing these metrics that are now imperative for nonprofits building a sustainable fundraising apparatus for today’s donors.
#2 Optimize Operational Necessities
Undoubtedly, many nonprofits will try to do more with less this year. To thrive, nonprofits will need to identify and pursue what matters most. However, significant service drawdowns could further dissuade donors from contributing while reducing impact and effectiveness.
In this regard, nonprofits can optimize operational necessities through novel efficiencies to improve overall outcomes. Enhancing time and expense management standards can be the first step for nonprofits focused on international aid.
For example, time and expense best practices can curtail spending by identifying instances of organizational drift or poorly prioritized resources that increase costs without improving results. Similarly, as international aid becomes more centralized in local communities, nonprofits can evaluate personnel allocation to demonstrate a commitment to this priority and to improve overall effectiveness.
#3 Remain Agile
COVID-19 posed unique challenges that will continue to shape the international aid sector for years to come. However, the pandemic isn’t the only thing driving change. For instance, a 2019 survey of nonprofit leaders found increasing concern about state fragility and climate change, even as traditional nonprofit initiatives related to poverty, health care, and education remain important.
Consequently, nonprofits will need to remain agile in their approach and practical implementation. As international aid organizations traverse a challenging landscape, outstanding governance reflects critical priorities, including resource allocation, overhead projections, and staff/volunteer cost & payment equity.
In this way, aid organizations can remain strategically agile, focused on the future and adapting to continually shifting circumstances.
Regardless of the current climate, the most powerful success metric remains lives changed and improved through nonprofit work. However, altruism and organizational governance are not anathemas. They are united in purpose and result. International aid organizations are doing essential work under less-than-ideal circumstances, and emphasizing outstanding governance puts them in a position to provide the best possible service to those relying on their efforts.
Chris Harley serves as the Vice President of Sales for DATABASICS, an enterprise time and expense management solutions provider recognized by leading global organizations for its deep expertise, next-gen technology, and customer-focused platform. Since joining DATABASICS in 2000, Chris has held numerous roles, and he now manages business development, sales, marketing, and partner activities. As an industry veteran, he has spoken at numerous events. Chris is a graduate of Villanova University.
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