To self-regulate or risk being regulated by government and business — that is the reality facing the nonprofit sector in South Africa. Non-profit organisations (NP0s) around the world are under pressure to be more accountable and maintain public trust in the face of scrutiny from governments, the media and citizens. It is important to move fast on this issue if we do not want a code that does not adequately reflect our values.
Already, attempts have been made to make the sector comply with the King III code, despite that it relates to the corporate sector and is impractical, unaffordable and unattainable for many non-profits. King III also does not address the rights and interests of various distinct constituencies, such as social beneficiaries and donors, and it does not give adequate recognition to the particular realities and challenges with which non-profits must contend, such as that board members usually serve without remuneration.
We must clearly define and communicate the core values and standards we want to set for ourselves in terms of governance. Self-regulation can also be a bridge to sustainability, improving our capacity to attract donors, quality board members and volunteers and enhance organisational reputation. At a Civil Society Consultative Forum meeting in August 2010, a working group, of which I am a member, was formed to address this need. The group has consulted hundreds of non-profits across the country and a draft independent code of good governance for non-profit organisations in South Africa is ready for feedback. It is now being circulated and the sector has been asked to make suggestions. Individuals and organisations have until the end of April to submit their views. The process should culminate in the formal adoption of the proposed code by the end of July. The draft code does not impose oversight, sanctions or unaffordable standards. It is intended to be voluntary. We believe compliance should be aspirational and supportive rather than prescriptive. The code recognises the diversity of capacity and resources, but seeks to identify core values that should be attainable by and acceptable to the sector as a whole. It has support from the donor community and the non-profit organisations directorate in the department of social development. It brings together inputs from previous documents, including the South African National NGO Coalition's code of ethics. The working group is hosting workshops in Cape Town, Gauteng, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Bloemfontein in April to get further input. The code can be read at or downloaded from inyathelo. org.za. Comments can be submitted to Janine Ogle at janine@inyathelo. org.za or by phoning 021 465 6981 before the end of April. Shelagh Gastrow is the executive director of Inyathelo: the South Afticap Institute of #dvAnceanent