Saturday, June 25, 2011

Global Charity Trends: Challenges for National Monitoring Organizations

Shiftung ZEWO, the national monitoring organization of Switzerland, co-hosted with the International Committee on Fundraising Organizations, ICFO, its annual event with the public portion of the Annual General Membership Meeting of ICFO.  The focus this past May, was on globabl trends in the charity sector and the challenges involved for national monitoring organizations.

While new fundraising techniques, such as those based on Internet technologies, mobile phones (and especially the newer types of smartphones with many "apps,") and those equipped with SMS capabilities, and instant, on-site high-definition satellite broadcasting, and all the techniques used to manipulate psychological and charitable impulses, international NGO developed fundraising activities in different local markets around the world, the challenge is how to promote charity transparency and accountability.

What do donors, development agencies, and NGOs in this context expect from national monitoring organizations?  Or, maybe to put the matter more bluntly, what to these donors, development agencies, and NGOs expect from government authorities in the context of regulating their activities and promoting transparency and accountability?

 This presentation presented the question as to how civil society develops around the world?  What do research and studies say about global charity trends?  How can ICFO help national monitoring organizations be prepared to address these trends?

Internet, mobile phones and new apps open up new possibilities to make payments.  How could charities use these new options to raise funds?  What are the upcoming trends in fundraising?

How do donor's feel about new fundraising trends?  What can be recommended to them?  Where are potential risks of misuse?  How should monitoring agencies deal with the new developments?

International NGOs (INGOs) raise funds in various local markets.  What are their most common business models? What are the challenges for a monitoring agency operating in the European market?  What does DZI (Deutsches Zentralinstitut fur soziale Fragen, Germany) request from international NGOs and their local subsidiaries to deserve domestic donors' trust?

Questions presented in this session included:  How do international development agencies measure the effectiveness of their activities to reduce poverty in developing countries?

Questions presented in this session included: What are the requirements of the Swiss Agency for Development (SDC) towards international NGOs?  What role does a national monitoring organization, like ZEWO, play in this context?  Presentations of the new admission process of SDC and some of the main challenges will be discussed.

More and more companies are willing to act with social responsibility.  At the same time, charities look more and more for institutional donations and cooperation with companies.  What is needed for a good cooperation?  What do institutional donors expect from national monitoring agencies?  What role can a national monitoring agency play in this context?

Some tentative thoughts about some of the themes and some conclusions

  • There are differences between people in affirming comfort in giving through these new technologies.
  • There are differences between countries as to the triggering mechanisms for giving -- printed material, email, and new media.
  • Social networking may be good for branding and connecting with charities, but is not particularly effective in raising funds.
  • There is increased attention to, and calls for measuring effectiveness impact of the work of the charity or NGO.
  •  Over the years there has been an increased depends on government or public funding, and with the economic crisis around the world, there are diminishing funds available from government sources thereby jeopardizing the work and identity of civil society organizations.
  • People generally, and donors more specifically, tend to be confused or misled by the nature of certification or seals granted by national monitoring organization, thinking that such certifications suggest effectiveness of the work of the charity. 
  •  As a result of postmodernity, the nature of dissemination of news, and an increasingly prevailing sense of skepticism in society, there is a declining trust in institutions at all levels of society, including civil society raising the challenge of how trust is to be restored to the sector.
  • There is an increasingly important role in civil society played by institutional donors, such as for profit companies, either operating as limited partnerships with public benefit purposes while minimizing the objective of profits, or in partnership with charitable organizations as key players and donors. 
  •  Problems with charity monitoring are complicated further with internationally operating charities. 
  • Money flow is difficult to follow.
  •  Responsibilities and accountability are not so clear.
  •  Truthful information on international structures is not always forthcoming or clear to understand.
  • Outsourcing costs are difficult to track.
  •  Monitoring online platforms is complicated by lack of standard practices, languages, and methodologies of presenting information.
The purpose of ICFO is to ensure that fundraising for charitable purposes is being organized and performed in a satisfactory manner and that the administration of the collected funds is adequate.  ICFO and its Members look after the interests of donors.  This Annual General Membership meeting was directed like all of the Annual General Membership meetings, to that end.  But, beyond that, it gave each member organization the opportunity to hear what challenges we face in this era of new media, to network within our association, and to hear the views of those leaders in the nonprofit sector that came to participate in this important meeting.

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