Non-profit Self-Assessment Tool Validation Workshop – Lessons Learnt, Challenges and Prospects
As a non-profit organisation, the first step towards organisational effectiveness is self-assessment. Generally, the goal of self-assessment is to identify knowledge and experience gaps by evaluating various aspects of an organisation’s structure; governance, board effectiveness, level of risk management, deployment of personnel and resources, bearing in mind that a solid structure guarantees a more sustainable organisation.
Depending on an organisation’s needs, self-assessments can be organisation-wide or focused on specific areas of activities which would entail collecting data focused on answering specific questions, to check whether or not it is making progress towards various goals, including whether the non-profit can demonstrate that it is making progress to advance its mission. For example, the management department can carry out a self-assessment to determine how effective its management strategy is and if it requires a re-evaluation.
On March 13th, 2019, the Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNNGO) set out to address capacity gaps within the non-profit sector by launching a Non-Profit Self-Assessment Tool (NOPSAT). This tool was targeted at supporting Nigerian non-profits to build stronger organizational structures by measuring their governance strategy and structure, human resources and administration, programme management, monitoring and reporting, along with their financial management and sustainability. At the launch, non-profits within and outside the NNNGO membership were encouraged to conduct this “health-check” by visiting the website, specifically created to host the Non-Profit Self-Assessment Tool, through a link shared on their social media platforms. At the end of the exercise, a total of 324 organisations accessed the tool.
A validation workshop based on the Non-Profit Self-Assessment Report to review the capacities analysed, identify strengths and weaknesses and develop plans to build capacity where gaps have been prioritised, was organized on July 3rd, 2019, where recommendations were made by participants to provide plausible solutions to many of the problems identified.
The validation workshop was an eye-opener on the capacity gaps of non-profits as participants noted that some capacities needed strengthening. While most recommendations made at the workshop tilted towards the need to build a more transparent and accountable civil society, many non-profits at the workshop indicated a lack of sufficient knowledge on local laws and regulations guarding the sector. It is noteworthy that non-profits who currently receive donor funding were observed to be more knowledgeable and compliant of regulatory laws than self-funded NPOs and this can generally be attributed to the fact that the former stick to guidelines to receive funds.
Discussions on stipulated guidelines within the Nigerian regulatory milieu focused on the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) which established the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and Part C – now Part F, in charge of incorporated trustees and monitoring registration of non-profits. A certificate of registration from CAC is then followed by one from Special Control Unit Against Money Laundering (SCUML), charged with monitoring, supervising and regulating Nigerian non-profits in compliance with the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Finance of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regulations.
Lessons from the workshop show that CSOs need a more defined governance structure – many non-profit leaders who participated at the workshop noted that some executive directors are also members of their boards and therefore face transparency, accountability and sustainability issues.
Part of lessons learnt at the workshop is that facilitators are required to be well-grounded in the subject matter such that they have the prerogative to incorporate more information and topics based on the needs of the participants. For instance, at the validation workshop, for participants to fully understand the governance strategy and structure based on series of questions, the facilitator had to leverage on his knowledge of the Companies and Allied Matters Act for a better understanding of the capacity.
We also realised that to achieve better results, a face-to-face questionnaire administration is preferable as it gives room for clarity and enables respondents to comply speedily unlike when using online means, where they can ignore questions, and may even fill it unjustifiably to score points.
Organisations tend to be more open to responding to questions about their organisations when they respond to the questionnaire as anonymous respondents compared to when they fill in their organisation’s name.
The workshop served as a meeting point among NPOs which further gave room to rub minds and build the capacity of member organisations. It was observed that the time frame for the workshop lasted more than expected because most topics that were assumed to be narrow were broad, as questions from participants gave room for a detailed explanation of each capacity and indicators.