Home Blog & Media Striking the right balance for NGO financial sustainability 

Striking the right balance for NGO financial sustainability 

August 17, 2023

Share this Post


Moulaye Camara

Technical Director, Funding & Financial Systems, South Africa


Dounia Chatto

Digital Content Manager, Morocco

In the realm of humanitarian work, NGOs face a continuous challenge: they must strike a delicate balance between fulfilling their short-term financial needs and securing long-term financial sustainability. In the previous blog, Moulaye Camara, Humentum’s Technical Director of Funding & Financial Systems, shared his expertise on how to do that.

This blog will explore how NGOs can navigate this financial tightrope and make sure their mission thrives. From fostering transparency and accountability with stakeholders to the value of technology, innovation, and collaboration across an organization, there are many ways you can secure a financially sustainable future for your NGO.

The benefits of transparency and accountability in financial management

External benefits: funding, compliance & risk management

When NGOs are transparent and accountable in their financial management, they can foster trust, attract funding opportunities, improve resource allocation, and enhance organizational efficiency.
Let’s look first at transparency. NGOs that openly disclose their financial information, including income sources, expenses, and how funds are used, help donors gain a better understanding of what it takes for the organization to be successful.

In terms of accountability, when stakeholders have confidence that an organization’s financial resources are used effectively and responsibly, they are more inclined to contribute their time and engage in long-term partnerships.
Organizations that can showcase their financial management systems, robust reporting mechanisms, and adherence to best practices are more likely to secure funding opportunities because donors take all those systems as a sign that their funding will be put to good use.

In addition to the advantage of building trust with individual donors, many funding agencies, foundations, and governments require NGOs to demonstrate transparency and accountability. It’s not a matter of a “nice to have,” it becomes a “must have” practice. NGOs face obligations to comply with various legal and regulatory requirements related to financial management, tax obligations, and reporting standards. Compliance with legal and regulatory requirements reduces the risk of penalties or legal issues that can jeopardize financial sustainability.

Internal benefits

No organization, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, can make good decisions without understanding their finances. For NGOs, when financial information is readily available, organizations can assess the financial health of different programs, identify areas of overspending or inefficiency, and track progress. This promotes operational efficiency, reduces unnecessary costs, and maximizes the impact of financial resources.

Additionally, by implementing internal controls, conducting regular financial audits, and adhering to recognized accounting standards, organizations can identify and address potential financial risks or irregularities. This proactive approach protects the organization from financial mismanagement, fraud, or reputational damage, which can undermine financial sustainability.

Whether external or internal, the benefits of being transparent and accountable in your finances are large and measurable. Although it can seem difficult to create and maintain good financial management, the results will propel your organization and its mission forward.

How technology can support sustainability

Transparency and accountability are practices for the financial and leadership teams to build and improve. Think of technology as a set of tools to make all parts of your organization more effective.   The rapid pace of innovation in this area presents an opportunity to transform fundraising efforts and enhance financial management processes.

Diversifying revenue streams

Technology enables NGOs to reach a broader audience and engage with potential donors and supporters globally. Digital platforms, social media, and online campaigns provide opportunities to raise awareness, share impactful stories, and solicit donations from a larger donor base.

Using those technology tools, NGOs can embrace innovative digital fundraising strategies to diversify revenue streams and increase fundraising effectiveness. For example, NGOs can leverage crowdfunding platforms, mobile giving apps, and online donation portals to facilitate easy and convenient giving. Additionally, exploring emerging fundraising models such as peer-to-peer fundraising, virtual events, and giving circles can attract new donors and generate momentum.

Data-driven decision-making

Leveraging data analytics and technology tools can provide valuable insights into donor behavior, campaign performance, and program outcomes. Analyzing donor data and trends helps NGOs make informed decisions about fundraising strategies, target high-potential donors, and optimize fundraising efforts. Data-driven decision-making leads to more effective resource allocation.

To streamline administrative processes and reduce time-consuming manual tasks, automation is the answer. For example, implementing cloud-based financial management systems, digital payment solutions, and automated reporting tools can simplify financial processes, save costs, and free up staff time for more strategic initiatives.

Collaboration and trust

Technology can also aid in effectively measuring and reporting program impact, which is crucial for building donor trust and attracting sustained funding. Innovative tools, such as impact tracking software and data visualization platforms, allow NGOs to collect, analyze, and present data on program outcomes, demonstrating the effectiveness of their work.

NGOs can leverage technology platforms to connect with other organizations, share resources, and collaborate on joint initiatives. Strategic partnerships with technology companies, startups, and corporate entities can provide access to expertise, funding opportunities, and innovative solutions to enhance financial sustainability.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Ultimately, achieving financial sustainability is more than crunching numbers and ticking boxes. It’s about giving NGOs the resources and tools to make a lasting impact on their communities. Teamwork within NGOs is pivotal to this endeavor.
Teamwork allows for a collaborative approach to fundraising. Different team members can contribute their expertise and skills to develop fundraising strategies, identify potential funding sources, and create compelling appeals.

Teamwork also ensures that financial responsibilities are shared and distributed among team members. This includes budgeting, expense tracking, financial reporting, and adherence to financial policies and procedures. NGOs typically have teams with diverse skill sets, including finance, program management, communications, and operations. Teamwork allows for the integration of this cross-functional expertise. For example, the finance team can collaborate with program managers to align budgets with program goals and outcomes. The communications team can support fundraising efforts by creating engaging content and leveraging digital platforms.

Teamwork also fosters an environment of collaboration and idea-sharing. By encouraging open dialogue and active participation, it enables the exploration of novel fundraising strategies, cost-saving measures, and partnerships that can contribute to long-term financial stability.

Financial sustainability efforts can be challenging and always require perseverance. Teamwork provides a support system where team members can motivate and encourage one another during difficult times. By working together towards a common goal, team members can share successes, overcome obstacles, and celebrate milestones.

Financial sustainability requires the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and seize new opportunities. Teamwork facilitates agility and flexibility in responding to emerging trends, economic shifts, and donor preferences. Teams can quickly assess and respond to changing financial landscapes, adjust fundraising strategies, and explore innovative approaches to adapt and thrive.

Sustainability = what you do + how you do it

Whether it’s transparency in reporting, or using new digital platforms to reach new donors, financial sustainability isn’t just one behavior or one tool. Achieving that balance between short-term needs and long-term goals takes a disciplined approach to daily practices, as well as a spirit of innovation to embrace new approaches. Striking the right balance ensures that NGOs can continue to make a meaningful impact on the communities they serve, both now and in the future.

Are your NGO’s finances secure enough? Humentum can help you build a strong foundation for financial sustainability. From training to consulting – our team has got you covered. 

Find out more