Streamlining Governance challenges in Civil Society Organisations – how not to scare funders?

By: Refilwe Pico

02 June 2021

It is undeniable that a correlation between good governance and the sustainability of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) exists, and now more than ever, is it pivotal for CSOs to have good financial management practices and adequate governance systems in place for them to survive. These provide organisations with an edge to thrive in these competitive and ever-changing CSO environments.

Organisations that have good governance systems and are registered and compliant with Department of Social Development as well as the South African Revenue Services, have a better chance at being sustainable compared to those that are not.

Codes such as the King Code of Governance for South Africa (King III, 2009), the Department of Social Development’s Code of Good Practice for South African Non-Profit Organisations (2001), the Independent Code of Governance and Values for Non-Profit Organisations in South Africa (2012) guides organisations on how to uphold good governance standards.

According to, “The Impact of COVID-19 on African Civil Society Organizations – Challenges, Responses and Opportunities,” a survey exclusively on the impact of COVID-19 on African CSOs which was released in June 2020, 55.69% of CSOs had already experienced a loss of funding, while 66.46% CSO expected to lose funding 3 to 6 months therein.

Unfortunately, many CSOs find themselves on the backfoot of good governance and thus the resulting effects are that numerous CSOs face serious financial challenges with many already closing or scaling back their activities primarily because there is a diversion of funds from CSOs to other institutions for COVID-19 programmes.

Implementing CSO intermediaries such as non-governmental, non-profit, or community-based organisations tend to be small, with limited resources, both financial and human. However, the work that these institutions carry out is simply too important and too immense to not intervene.

In early 2021, Seriti Institute, through one of its programmes, Seriti PARTNER, identified good governance and financial management as a serious challenge in NGOs, CBOs and CSOs. Seriti PARTNER was designed with an intention of strengthening CSOs contributions to the communities they work with and serve, using a hybrid approach that draws on the experience and best-practice tools used in both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors. The aim is strengthening the whole non-profit sector and not just to support a few organisations.

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