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Reinventing the NGO

• Published on 10 Dec. 2012 • Category :Sport • Tags : NGO Youth 2012 Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are businesses and should behave as such, with the same focus on professionalism, efficiency and brand building that is central to for-profit organizations, according to the “Reinventing the NGO” think tank, held on the first day of the Doha Goals Forum. The difference for NGOs is that they have a social bottom line.

During the discussion among participants, who included nearly two dozen heads of sports-focused NGOs from across the globe, a number of tools were identified to help build and strength these organization. Challenges and opportunities also were discussed.

Participants agreed that there is a “moral obligation” to grow, since their growth means more people are served; however, growth must be decentralized and must avoid a one-size-fits-all approach. The core objectives, focus and mission of the organization – as well as its brand and reputation – should be universal, participants said, while it is crucial that implementation be localized to address specific needs, cultural conditions and stakeholder requirements.

There was agreement that the structure of funding should be done deliberately, with Fred Engh, Founder and President, International Allinace for Youth Sports, saying that too diverse a funding base “can distract a program and cause too much confusion in trying to please too many people.” Others warned that corporate and government funding can impose lots of restructions and reporting requirements that also can distract an organization from its core work.

David Duke, Founder and CEO of Street Soccer Scotland, supported the idea that NGOs must think and act like for-profits by developing revenue streams such as consulting and service contracts.

Participants agreed that an NGOs board can be a major asset, by providing expertise not available among staff. Duke said a board should be selected so its members reflect a diverse range of industries and skills, which the organization then can call on as needed.

Iñigo Arenillas, head of International Projects in Africa and the Middle East for Real Madrid Foundation, agreed, adding that NGOs must work to “reduce the distance between boards and the staff who work on the ground. You must involve the board in their work.”

He also said organizations don’t need to spend a lot of money to make a big impact, citing his organization’s success in setting up programs with little upfront costs, but providing countless opportunities for participating youth

The relationship between NGOs and the media was another topic, with several participants agreeing that the media only covers NGOs when there was scandal or mistreatment of the people they serve. There was a call on media to report positive stories as well.

Matt Winkler, Associate Dean of Sports Industry Management at Georgetown University, said that telling an organization’s story is a big part of its success, and that new media offers organizations a way to “tell their stories using unpaid, free technology. The grassroots approach – from social media to viral videos – is some of the best investment you can make. There are plenty of ways to tell your story with a limited investment.”