A vision of the future of NPOs in South Africa through transformation, inclusion and sustainability
According to Dr. Jerry Gule, the Chairman of The Love Trust, many NPOs have shown themselves to be innovative, resilient, and quick to respond to the pandemic and subsequent government regulations. He believes that through the hard lessons learnt by NPOs and truly generous spirit of partners and government initiatives, such as the Solidarity Fund, the future of NPOs could be even brighter.
Dr. Gule is a highly knowledgeable academic and holds a master’s and doctorate (the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Harvard in the USA are amongst his alma maters) in the field of education – a topic he is incredibly passionate about. He is also a seasoned board director of public listed companies and NGOs, and is currently Chief Executive Officer of the Institute of People Management. Yet, despite his impressive resume, he remains a humble and compassionate man with an intimate understanding of, and need for social development. All of which makes him the ideal chairman for The Love Trust, which is committed to delivering excellent quality Christian education and social care to vulnerable children.
Education as a liberator against poverty
Dr. Gule’s background only underscores his belief in the importance of education in the fight against poverty. Although he foresees that most funding (public and private) will go towards healthcare, to safeguard the economy against stringent lockdowns, he believes it would be a mistake to overlook education. It’s only by investing in both that we guarantee a more prosperous future for the citizens of our country: “If we neglect education, particularly those first seven years, we will be dooming our country and communities to utter poverty. Because education is a liberator and the benefits are long term.”
As an experienced director, Dr. Gule has identified a number of strategies that The Love Trust has benefited from and believes other NPOs can also implement to not only survive the current crisis but also help them flourish in the months and years to come. Besides investing in a good communications department, to aid the understanding of the investors and communities on the NPOs mandate, Dr. Gule feels that instead of passively waiting for funding to come in, like-minded NPOs (whether they’re in the same sector or not) need to collaborate and take the initiative.
Stronger partnerships provide more meaningful programmes
According to Dr. Gule, by teaming up with other NPOs and by sitting at the table with companies when they plan their Corporate Social Investment (CSI) strategies, NPOs will be able to provide more innovative, far-reaching, and meaningful programmes. Meaning that companies can rest assured knowing that they are contributing to something truly transformative. This means that NPOs will need to do their due diligence on the companies that they want to partner with and not just pitch a standard package – one size does not fit all.
Another area he feels where more can be done is an NPOs budget and expenses: cutting wastage and seeing how available funds can be stretched further. This frees NPOs up to truly focus on their main objectives when it comes to empowering the vulnerable and getting the communities to actively participate in the initiatives.
Bringing about change in NPOs
The speed at which things are done and authorised also needs to be increased. Due to the suddenness with which the pandemic struck and subsequent regulations and lockdowns that had to be implemented instantly, independent schools and other NPOs had to do away with a lot of red-tape in order to act fast. Dr. Gule believes that this agility, speed and sense of urgency while ensuring good governance in the process, is something we need to keep moving forward.
Technology has also played a key part in how NPOs (not just those in the education sector) have been able to keep functioning during the lockdowns and were often implemented in creative ways. Dr. Gule feels that NPOs should invest in technology and integrate it not only at an administrative level but also with regards to how they work and communicate with their beneficiaries.
Dr. Gule lastly points out how the pandemic made clear the need for a hierarchy of succession (who will replace you in your role should you become unable to complete your duties) within organisations. Until now it hasn’t been much of a problem but as more companies run the risk of being shut down for long periods (if not completely) as vital staff can no longer execute their duties and there’s no one to replace them. Dr. Gule believes that to ensure the longevity and sustainability of their NPO, management needs to re-evaluate the organisation’s structure. Assessing the functions and roles that everyone plays within it, as well as who will act as supporting role for the most vital of positions within the company – from ground level to upper management.
In closing, Dr. Gule’s vision of the future of NPOs, such as The Love Trust, speaks of a deep need for change. One of transformation within the organisation; of inclusion of other NPOs (who intimately know the needs of their communities) and partners at the same table when it comes to planning for the future; and reassessing their current resources to improve the organisation’s sustainability.