Sustainability is an organization’s ability to define a relevant mission, follow sound management practices, and develop diversified income sources to ensure long-term continuity of quality, community-oriented services. It is also the creative and ongoing processes which organizations engage in to sustain their programs over the long term, after initial funding has ended.
Long-term survival and sustainability is critical for an NGO in being able to reach its target clientele and cover administrative and other costs. While social goals of reaching the poorest and those in need, and poverty alleviation are valid, sustainability - standing on one’s own feet - is as true for families in need as for the NGO itself!
Sustainability of NGO’s has internal and external implications - internal, in terms of deposit and savings mobilization, financial performance, staff motivation, loan and administrative costs, etc.; external, in terms of availability of funds, grants for community organizing and training etc.
Besides being efficient and self-sufficient, sustainability goals for an NGO also have other benefits - attracting external financial investment, satisfying any funder reporting requirements if any, building trust among its clients and supporting institutions (including donors).
As described above there are plenty of issues NGO’s have to deal with when it comes to sustainability. As the name already implies, SustainAbility Solutions Africa offers sustainability advisory services as part of our service delivery.
For many major funders sustainability implies:
– Linkages with multiple program objectives
– Creating synergy amongst programs
– Human capacity
– Management systems
– Relationships with government programs
– Financial independence
– Meeting client’s needs
– Systems in place to measure services
Strategic monitoring / capacity building on M&E skills
Sustainability Solutions Africa believes that there are four major key elements when developing a sustainability plan. These are:
- Top down & bottom up
This is made visual in the following figures:
Fig. 1 Approach on Sustainability
Sustainability can only be achieved when top management, middle management and staff communications on an ongoing basis, transparently in such a way the optimal teamwork is achieved.
This process is re-iterative and should be supported by all staff.
Fig. 2 Achieving Goals
SustainAbility Solutions Africa identifies the following components as part of the ‘circle of life’ when it comes to sustainability:
Fig. 3 Circle of Life
Based on the top down & bottom up interaction this results in the following ‘grid’ that forms the basis of our interviews when developing a sustainability plan.
Fig 4. Competency Grid
Finally the complete plan of action continues with a ‘Strength-Weakness-Opportunity-Threat’ analysis. This analysis will result in an identification of maximum 3 objectives, agreed upon by management and staff in order to be fully supported and feasible to achieve. These objectives will be split into tasks for departments as well as sub-tasks per employee (where applicable) with specific measurable (SMART) criteria. Where needed plans can be adjusted after reflection. When objectives are met, new objectives should be identified.
Fig. 5 Plan of Action