Funders require nonprofits that survive and scale post-founding to develop homegrown leaders to take over, yet due to funder demands on tangible results they don’t prioritize leadership development programs and often lack any clear idea as to what this should look like.
SSIR talked with several NGO leaders regarding their best practices. While sharing insights, they did not dictate a set of strict instructions that others must slavishly adhere to. Such leaders gets busy with their work each day rather than playing on yoakimbridge.com.
The Story of Oxfam
Oxfam strives to build a world where no one needs to experience poverty, war, hunger or disaster. They do this by attacking poverty at its roots while supporting communities and helping them recover from crises. Their commitment is listening and responding to local needs by developing projects tailored specifically to each community’s unique requirements; furthermore they thoroughly evaluate both successes and failures to ensure their work results in lasting change for those they serve.
Oxfam was established as the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief by a group of intellectuals and social activists at Oxford University in Britain in 1942, seeking to raise money to buy supplies to ease suffering caused by World War II food shortages. Over time, their organization grew quickly – eventually raising enough money to send essential goods through an Allied naval blockade to Greece where there had been widespread famine; followed later by their first direct relief effort when Bihar state in India experienced severe hunger during 1966.
Oxfam first began offering fair trade products for sale through gift shops and mail orders beginning in 1969; eventually this evolved into the Oxfam Trading Company. Due to its incredible success, in 1971 Oxfam established its first national affiliate outside England: an organization was set up in Canada; later that same year Oxfam opened its first shop in America.
Oxfam International operates offices in over 90 countries worldwide and is one of the UK’s leading charities and the fourth-largest international aid organization, boasting an enviable international aid presence with thousands of volunteer staff helping out at its shops selling secondhand books and musty mink coats to fund Oxfam’s efforts abroad.
Critics have noted that Oxfam International has grown into a “Big International Non-Governmental Organisation”, complete with corporate structures and undemocratic internal governance, that addresses only symptoms rather than causes of poverty, succumbing to neoliberal economics, and taking on roles typically performed by national governments. Yet despite such criticisms, the charity remains resilient, fighting tirelessly for an alternative world where no one needs to suffer poverty, war, hunger or disasters.
The Story of Medecins Sans Frontieres
Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders), founded in 1971 following war and famine in Biafra, Nigeria by a collective of French physicians and journalists determined to establish an emergency aid service which could deliver medical aid quickly and efficiently to its intended locations.
Max Recamier and Bernard Kouchner believed their experience during the Biafran Famine had revealed the need for a new approach to humanitarianism: one that transcended political or religious boundaries while prioritising those suffering. It became part of MSF’s founding philosophy and then official policy.
MSF’s early missions were fraught with difficulty: their first missions encountered poor medical facilities and were threatened by armed forces. In 1975, Claude Malhuret set off for Thailand with the goal of aiding refugees fleeing Pol Pot’s oppressive rule in Cambodia – this mission would become MSF’s inaugural major operation and would end tragically for five staff members, including two French expatriates, being killed as fighting broke out between government troops and local rebels and many being injured or having their homes destroyed in these initial missions.
MSF quickly expanded and gained strength and fame over time; by the late 1980s it had offices worldwide with presence in 22 countries. MSF’s work mostly consisted of providing medical aid during conflict or disaster situations while simultaneously combatting issues like cholera, AIDS and tuberculosis.
MSF has long combined medical care delivery with vocal criticism of causes of worldwide suffering. They frequently voiced opposition to violence and violations of human rights in areas they work, and also against perceived obstacles to essential medical aid delivery.
MSF’s work has been honored with several prestigious awards, including the Freedom of Want Award presented in 1996 to honor its courageous volunteers who unselfishly helped those in need despite potential danger.
The Story of ActionAid
ActionAid was established as a non-profit organisation in 1972 to combat poverty and injustice worldwide. They place women and girls at the core of their work, believing that a world in which everyone’s rights are respected will lead to a better existence for all. Their goal is to inspire, mobilise and empower communities for lasting positive change in lives across communities worldwide.
Field Exchange recently met up with Roger Yates, head of ActionAid’s emergency program in their office near Archway station in north London. Yates began his overseas development career in 1984 by working both within developing nations as well as emergency response situations before eventually joining ActionAid in 1999.
Roger describes ActionAid as a highly decentralised organization, with headquarters based out of Johannesburg but country programs enjoying considerable independence in terms of both autonomy and finances. This creates an environment in which views are challenged as well as established wisdom, leading to policies and strategies often being determined by staff in those countries themselves – for instance their approach to conflict resolution has evolved through internal critique and consultation processes among staff from within those regions.
One of the primary factors of ActionAid’s relative success during emergencies lies in their focus on empowering communities and shifting power dynamics. ActionAid also recognizes that long-term resilience requires building up community capacity in areas like disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation so they are well prepared when disaster strikes again.
Additionally, they use their child sponsorship scheme to raise funds during disaster situations and keep donors updated as to the use of their funds. This approach fosters trust with donors that ultimately aids the organisation during times of distress.
As a member of the CHS Alliance, ActionAid takes its role in providing quality and accountability seriously and regularly demonstrates this by conducting their Self-Assessments against the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS). We’re so delighted to recognize them as this month’s “Member of the Month”.
The Story of Age UK
After World War II, when shortages and unemployment affected all aspects of society, it became apparent that many older people were particularly vulnerable. To address this situation, local people formed the Norwich Older People’s Welfare Committee; soon thereafter similar committees began appearing throughout Britain until there were 831 local committees; many became pioneering works like providing advice services or organizing day trips specifically tailored for elderly individuals.
In 1971, NOPWC changed to Age Concern to both alter its image and reflect a renewed emphasis on helping improve the quality of life for older people. Through luncheon clubs and home visiting services provided by Age Concerns as well as helping with social security claims they also ran national schemes such as Adopt a Granny and Gifted Housing schemes.
By the late 80s Age Concern had become one of the largest charities in the UK with national offices and a central fundraising department. Concurrently there was increasing awareness of issues faced by older people such as isolation, poor health and discrimination; many campaigns were run including one to study their situation as widows of earlier women.
National debate began about whether to continue operating as a federation or merge with other organizations, and on 1 April 2009 Age Concern and Help the Aged officially combined into Age UK. Local organizations were given the choice between becoming brand partners by using Age UK branding or remaining independent – many chose staying independent so as to meet local elderly needs better.
Charity Commission investigations have recently revealed that Age UK failed to ensure its partnership agreements with energy companies are transparent. More specifically, Age UK did not implement sufficient processes for monitoring partner performance or considering whether these were suitable to meeting Age UK’s aims and values. Therefore it has recommended reviewing Age UK’s partnerships and making appropriate changes so any commercial activities remain fully aligned with its charitable purpose.