Before U2GUIDE was created, our founders had more than 20 years' experience working for NGOs. We rely on their expertise to inform our decision when it comes to selecting the organizations to support in terms of funding and visibility. After all, our objective is to have an increasing number of people to be aware of how amazing and important the work of our partner is. We thus have to be cautious and systematic in our way to proceed.
It's already been said that as a first rule, we assess each NGO individually in order to make sure to carefully appreciate the work and effort they are putting to change the world. We often end up in a good mood after interviewing them: there are countless people out there changing the world... No matter the size of the NGO or its geographical outreach. What matters is the quality of their programs. For us, one measuring stick for our top non-profit organizations is that they count as many of the following 4 features.
1- Empower local people, build capacities and work with local partners
We are selective about the programs we support. We believe that the best way to help is to build local capacities. There is no one better qualified than local people to drive local changes. They know their context and the specifics of their country or region, better than any outsider could.
"Empowering local people and building capacities as well as working through local partners is an obvious and efficient way to ensure ownership and sustainability of the programs implemented" says Paul ZIADE, U2GUIDE's Head of Philanthropy.
2- Prefer quality over quantity
Although the two could go together (and ideally should!), they rarely do. There is often a proportional decrease of quality in a program when its outreach increases. It's a matter of resources and capacities, both humans and financials. Thus a choice has to be made, and not an easy one. Let's look at an example of disaster release intervention for instance: should we provide lower quality blankets to a higher number of refugees, or cover less of them, but support them with higher quality materials that will last in time? A typical question that will find so many different answers from an NGO to another.
It's often simpler and "sexier" to say to donors that a program will reach thousands of people. Very few people will actually think about the "how" behind the support. On the other hand, convincing donors that helping only a handful of people but in a long-lasting, effective and sustainable way will be much more challenging. This example of bias linked to the dependency on external funding can typically influence the choice of some NGOs when it comes to balancing the qualitative vs quantitative aspects of the programs they design.
At U2GUIDE and taking into consideration each scenario since there is no simple nor immutable solution to be brought, we tend to choose quality over quantity. We want great things to be done, and we want them to last through time.
3- Be accountable and transparent
NGOs need to be accountable. Both to the donors that financially enable them, and to the population they support. Indeed, if everybody agrees right away that the one who gives the money should be informed on how it's spent, it seems less obvious when it comes to applying the same logic toward those who actually benefit of the money in the end. But shouldn't the targeted people have a right to participate in determining the type of support they need, and even more importantly, to access the information whether the money allocated for their sake by the donor has been properly used by the NGO?
Accountability and transparency often go together since being transparent in information sharing (project progress indicators, budget lines and allocations...) is the most important element to be accountable. For us at U2GUIDE, the two are crucial. They are the most efficient "watchdog" of many sorts of embezzlements. Therefore, the systematic publication of reports and budgets is a powerful way to build trust and we look into it prior to establishing a partnership with any NGO.
4- Strive for sustainability and diversification of funding
Projects should have a long-lasting effect. No matter the circumstances, NGOs should think "sustainable" so that they design their projects with the objective that their impact last in time. It simply makes more sense than the other way around.
As a logical extension, seeking for various sources of funding is necessary. Relying on one only would naturally impair the stability of any funded project as well as the capacity to develop sustainable projects. Many NGOs have experienced and suffered the consequences from depending on institutional donors only for instance (this type of funding is often short term oriented and can stop quite abruptly). Thus, many NGOs are now developing alternative funding strategies and have started to draw revenues from selling local products, ecotourism activities or else, in order to gain in independency and durability.
U2GUIDE was conceptualized after realizing this urge for new, ethical and easily accessible sources of funding. Today, through 1% of all bookings, philanthropic guides willing to share their gains and 50% of our annual net profit, we are proudly becoming a source of diversification and reinforcement for our partners.
These 4 criteria are only a sample of the various aspects we like to check before engaging with a partner. However, an NGO coping with these 4 is already quite well positioned to ensure a remarkable work on the ground and access our funding opportunities. ;-)