Betsy Ings, the founder and MD of Tradelane Training & Project Management and Siyaloba Training Academy, speaks exclusively to u|Chief.
What advice do you have for other individuals or organisations eager to start their own NGO?
The key ingredient of all successful social and for-profit business ideas is that it solves a real problem through a simple strategy, which is executed with passion and consistency.
The three key points I believe you should consider when starting an NGO is to find a specific problem you are passionate about and create a unique solution; find a gap in the market and, lastly, do incredible research on your idea as you may find some great solutions out there already.
A great example of very successful social enterprises are:
Tom’s Shoes – “Wouldn’t it be nice when I bought a pair of shoes that someone in the third world could have some too.”
Thankyou Water – “Wouldn’t it be great if we could provide clean drinking water in poor communities?”
“Find a specific problem you are passionate about and create a unique solution; find a gap in the market and, lastly, do incredible research on your idea.” – Betsy Ings
What are the challenges NGOs face?
The greatest challenge all NGO’s face is financial sustainability. The majority of NGO’s have a very noble cause that they wish to address, but their offering is mostly reliant on grants or donations. This leaves the NGO vulnerable and they are not able to firstly deliver a consistent quality service and secondly pay their staff a market-related salary.
We have to move away from NGO’s being considered a “labour of love”.
How have you overcome some of these challenges successfully?
We have done our best to keep our overheads to a minimum. We also realise the importance of professionalism and how important a good reputation is to ensure return business and ongoing funding.
“Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionised the fishing industry,” according to the world’s foremost thinker in social entrepreneurship, Bill Drayton. He was the first to recognise and support social entrepreneurs, dubbing them change-makers.
At Siyaloba we took our goal of creating social impact to a new level by using innovative methods to organise, manage and measure our initiatives.
We continually seek to perfect the triple bottom-line approach of seeking financial, social and environmental impact simultaneously.
“We have to move away from NGO’s being considered a ‘labour of love’.” – Betsy Ings
How can corporates help in overcoming these challenges?
We have seen a remarkable increase in corporate funders wishing to be part of effective and sustainable solutions for transformation and economic development.
Businesses have realised that they will need to be part of the solution and must be committed to shared value for organisation to have longevity.
Assistance doesn’t need to be financial. A company can offer time and practical solutions. Siyaloba always needs workplace shadowing and experience opportunities for young people. Various organisations volunteer to allow Siyaloba learnership learners to undergo mock interviews so that these young people can gain confidence.
How can individual members of the public help in overcoming these challenges?
Get involved offer expertise and the greatest gift is that of mentoring and coming alongside.
Acknowledge the work done by NGO’s on all platforms and become their ambassadors.
“Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionised the fishing industry.” – Bill Drayton
What is your best financial advice for NGOs?
Look at blended funding models, create value add in your NGO and establish a product or offering that can generate income to sustain your social efforts.
It is good to have a surplus as it allows you to co-fund your own projects and gives you more credibility with partners and funders.
How important is accreditation or certification of NGOs?
Very important! Siyaloba is an industry leader because of our quality offering.
We are not only accredited with SAMSA (SOUTH AFRICAN Maritime Safety Authority), but also with TETA and Service Seta, allowing us to offer our participants high-quality, portable education options.
Siyaloba’s strategic product offering include: accredited maritime regulatory training, occupationally directed learnerships, business training, numeracy, literacy, as well as various short course programmes such as computer skills and life skills.
“Assistance doesn’t need to be financial. A company can offer time and practical solutions.” – Betsy Ings
Can you share any unique or innovative ways in which you manage, train, recruit or motivate your staff and teams?
We recruit staff and teams locally from our coastal communities – we train, upskill and invest in our trainers and project leaders. Many of our project workers have been retained from previous funded training projects and have proven to be the most committed staff.
We recruit across the board and do not exclude. We have built a phenomenal database in all our coastal communities by being inclusive and allowing all marginalised youth, elderly people and women to enrol. We do a baseline assessment and then place and recruit them against targeted empowerment programmes.
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