March "Get Resourceful" session recap: Blindspotting for your Organisation

In this month's Get Resourceful session, Shelagh Gastrow identified the need for everyone in your organisation to keep current on trends, news and events that impact on the sector of your work.  


Inyathelo kicked off the new “Get Resourceful” season with a bit of “Blindspotting”- what external factors, trends and key developments should we be looking out for in 2015?

This session, the first to be held in Inyathelo’s new Buchanan Square facility, saw a full house of visitors representing a wide sample of Cape Town civil society.

For the formal portion of the proceedings our Programme Co-ordinator, Lizel Shepherd, interviewed Shelagh Gastrow, Executive Director of Inyathelo, on the need for organisations to make a practice of “blindspotting”.

Blindspotting, as defined by Shelagh, is looking at your “external environment” that could impact on your organisation and your work. The effective blindspotter will look at, amongst other things, events and trends in politics, trends in your sector of work, or various big picture issues.

Shelagh explained that blindspotting for your organisation “is not something you just decide to do for a day.” Reading the news, keeping current, and engaging those outside your organisational bubble all should be part your daily tasks. “What is happening today that could impact on us?” needs to be a question on the minds of everyone in your organisation.

Why? It’s simple: “If you don’t understand what is happening outside your own organisation's activities, your work becomes irrelevant.”

In the informative discussion that followed, Shelagh held court on a number of issues raised by the participants: the need for organisations to market their message and their brand, how to shift your organisaional mission while still holding true to the original vision, and how to get donors to pay for “overheads" -- but it seemed the “NPO funding crisis” was blindspotting topic of choice around the room. 

Of course, the topic of funding is where it literally pays off to be up on the trends. “The money isn't running out,” says Shelagh,  “It's just coming from different places.” Organisations therefore need to adapt to the new funding environment and change their fundraising strategies.

How? Shelagh suggests that South African organisations need to move away from total dependence on donations, and look to other sources of income. “You need to earn some of your own money these days as non-profits. It means NO business as usual. The most important strategy you can implement is to build up your cash reserves.”

Shelagh develops these points more fully in Budgeting for Sustainability (2014). This and other Inyathelo pocket guides are available for free download.

The next  “Get Resourceful” session will be,  “Advancement Operations for different organisations and institutions” on 14 April.