Sustainability of NPO’s is critical in today’s economic environment

(Linda Morrison’s USB Assignment)

For a ship to leave a harbour, it needs four things in place; an intact structure, the resources to move (i.e. fuel and manpower), a purpose or reason to leave and an environment in which to do so.  The same can be said for ensuring the sustainability of an NPO in today’s economic environment.  In order to tackle the topic effectively, definitions need to be addressed upfront. Cannon’s (1999) description of sustainability is useful; “sustainability is the ability of an organisation to secure and manage sufficient resources to enable it to fulfil its mission effectively over time without excessive dependence on any single funding source”.  A NPO (non-profit organisation) is an organisation that in itself cannot distribute any profits among its board members.  It is set up to serve a need in the community that is not adequately addressed within the government sectors and is not profitable for a company to address.  South Africa’s current economic environment, though technically showing that we have exited the recession, still is abysmal.  There is low confidence in investment and political interference causes much concern (Focus Economics, 2017). This is the turbulent environment that the NPO ships face as they attempt to deliver their service to the community.

Like the structure of a ship enables the ship to float and perform a function, organisational clarity provides structure that empowers the NPO to deliver its service.  Without organisational structure the NPO is going to sink (pun intended).  It allows for all stakeholders to operate effectively so there is maximum benefit.    The structure is created by the Board through good governance, management practices and strategic direction and translated through the leadership to everyone in the organisation so that all understand and buy into the unique identity of the organisation.  In applying the King IV codes of good conduct and specifically the addendum for NPO’s or Inyathelo’s Independent Code for Good Governance, to the organisation, the organisation’s Board set themselves up for the benefits of good leadership and ethical well-run organisations.  Good governance ensures accountability, transparency, responsiveness, dealings that are equitable and inclusive, the organisation is meeting strategic imperatives, it follows the rule of the law, it is participatory and is consensus orientated (Boyd, 2017).  Strategic plans are key to ensuring the organisation is thinking long term.  What are the plans for the next three to five years?  How are we going to achieve them?  Who is needed to achieve them?  What is needed to achieve them?  What budget is required to do so?  When thinking of these questions the NPO reduces surprises in their futures increasing their ability to deliver their services to their beneficiaries, long term. Stemming out of good strategic plans are the appropriate management practices to bring about those plans.   What are the structures in place that ensure the work that needs to be done, is done in the correct time frame?  Management practices also ensure services are delivered to the required standard.  Identity is such a key, but often forgotten, aspect of sustainability.  Many NPO’s spend all their time focusing on service delivery that they forget the brand that they are building and end up building it haphazardly.  In today’s world of social media, it is so key to always, in every dealing with people; deal with them in a manner that is consistent to the vision, values and identity of the NPO.  Failing to do so can result in a judgment being made of the organisation that is not necessarily a representation of the organisation.  This can be so easily avoided if leadership is clear and those who are a part of the organisation are bought into the vision.  York says “that organisations that have strong internal leadership and leader vision are significantly more sustainable than those that do not”.  If all people in the organisation whether the board, management, employees and volunteers are all working together towards a common goal with clear guidelines and an inspiring vision, the organisation will achieve a great measure of sustainability as all efforts are unified.  When there is a sound organisational structure of good governance, management practices and strategic direction and translated through the leadership to all involved, it enables NPO to move forward and make long term impact on the community they wish to serve.

Resources are required to move a ship forward.  It is not good enough to have a ship that will just float, but that ship needs to be able to move.  In order to do so, fuel and people are needed.  The same in a NPO, except fuel takes the form of finances.  Funding is required to fuel everything.  Most people understand the need for finances; without it there would be no facilities, staffing or raw materials.  Here consideration needs to be made to both income generation through fundraising, grants, donations or self-generation and to appropriate management of that finance. In today’s economic climate, it is becoming more and more essential to diversify streams of finance. (Coblentz, 2002; Tyler 2017).  The more varied the organisation’s income base the more sustainable they are (if one source dries up it does not jeopardise the entire project).  With increasing donor fatigue today, it is imperative that funds are managed appropriately and to the highest standards.  Good financial management ensures greater impact and reduces wastage of resources.   The second resource, that is equally valuable to the organisation, is the correct human resources.  There is no point in having a great, structurally sound ship, and the fuel to go where you need to, if you do not have the correct staff on board. Each person in the organisation needs to be bought into the vision, understand their roles and responsibilities and have the capacity to act within the policy guideline for the organisation.  Having the right people in the organisation allows the ship to move in the right direction in line with the purpose it was intended.  In order for the organisation to be sustainable, and long term, the resources needed (i.e. finances and human resources) for it to deliver its services demand consideration and appropriate management, otherwise the NPO will fail its mission.

The third important factor to consider with a ship, is its intended purpose.  Just as with a ship there is going to be a problem if people sign up for a cruise, to discover they are being loaded on a cargo ship, or vice versa. If your organisation has a mandate in a certain area, it is purpose-built to deal with that certain need in society. There is no point in wasting time building a structure and capacitating it with fuel and people, if the purpose of the ship is not clear or even existent.  The purpose of the organisation is its value it adds to society and its service delivery.  Often an organisation that is addressing a prevalent or even trendy problem will find it easier to raise funds and find good funding partners.  When an organisation develops a positive reputation funding often finds them too.  Society will often fight for a well-known but struggling organisation, when they face a funding crisis, as has been the case with Childline KZN in recent years.  Key to this is good monitoring and evaluation ensuring stakeholders all know the benefit the organisation adds to society.  When the purpose of the organisation is clear and all stakeholders are aware and bought into the value of the organisation, the organisation is likely to sustain for the long haul.  Latham (2016) says that an organisation “will never leap the chasm of sustainable success with small thinking and cost cutting”. She goes onto say that when the NPO shift their focus from money and capacity, to value they add, they will “leave their woes behind”.

In conclusion, there are many factors that need deliberation when looking at sustainability of a NPO.  The common thinking, is always to look at the funds coming in to know whether an organisation is set to last, but there are far more factors that affect the longevity it.  “Organisational sustainability represents an ongoing process rather than a state of perfection”, Coblentz (2002).  When looking at a NPO, just like a ship, the whole needs to be considered.  When the organisational structure, resources and purpose are developing and improving continually, the organisation stands itself in good stead to last, even in the tumultuous South African economic climate.

References:

Boyd, M (2017); Governance issues specific to NPO’s and their Boards; MRB Bus ©

Cannon, L (1999) Life Beyond aid: 20 strategies to help make NPO’s sustainable; Innitiative for Participatory Development

Coblentz, J (2002); Organisational Sustainability: Three aspects that matter; for ERNWACA’s first strategy session

King IV: Report on Corporate Governance for South Africa 2016; Institute of Directors Southern Africa

Latham, A (2016); The Secret to Sustainability for Non-profit Organisations; Forbes

South African Economic Outlook; (2017) Focus Economics; https://www.focus-economics.com/countries/south-africa

The Independent Code of Governance for Non-Profit Organisations in South Africa; (2015); Inyathelo: The South African Institution for Advancement ©

Tyler, P (2017); USB Management Programme for NPO’s: Financial management; C Masters Development Services CC

Weerawardena, J, et al; (2010) Sustainability of non-profit organisations: An empirical investigation; Journal of World Business 45; www.elsevier.com/locate/jwb

Wenreb, E (2012); When sustainability meets human resources; GreenBiz; www.greenbiz.com

Impact Zone – NPO Conference

“Let’s go surfin’ now…..Everybody’s learning how….Come on and safari with me…”

With a surfing themed NPO Conference, how could we not begin this report with lyrics from the iconic Beach Boys!

It was perfectly titled “Impact Zone” and lived up to its name in every way.   It was a conference on setting a NPO for a successful 2018.

We were treated to fantastic speakers again with Travis Gale from Apple Tree speaking on the culture in the workplace.  He challenged the delegates to ensure their values are aligned. He encouraged teams to spend time speaking up when there is conflict so that it is resolved timeously as it impacts on the organisation.  Travis encouraged us to remember we are adults having conversations with adults and to whenever we have to deal with situations to ensure we respond as an adult no matter how we are being treated.  Great wisdom to ensure our organisations “shred”!

Simon Kozlowski (The Reinvention Coach) was back again giving great insight that will set up our NPO’s to “set their line” for 2018.  His great model makes large changes manageable and attainable.  We look forward to seeing Durban flourish due to goals being met next year.

We were able to allow our organisations to “Hang ten”, while we had a surprise guest performance by Freddy Lalendle, of The Voice fame.  His unique sound resulted in him progressing well in Season 2 of the Voice.  His love of the NPO sector meant giving back was a easy yes when asked.  Thanks for sharing your gift with us.

Craig Mannheim (Unprecedented Pictures), got everyone to turn their smartphones into fancy cameras taking beautiful pictures that can be used in marketing material, social media and reporting.  Craig is a fantastic asset to our organisation and was such a blessing to those who heard him speak.

Our desig(nerd), Sarah McKenzie, shared incredible insight into telling a story with your material you release.  Useful tips and trends were shared so we know that all our NPO’s ideas will be “off the wall”.  Sarah has been volunteering her time, talent and energy to we are Durban making our branding incredible.  It was so exciting to see her on stage sharing the gift with 40 other organisations.

So as we head into summer and our thoughts head to the beach, we hope that all who attended our final conference for 2017, will be reminded of the valuable lessons learnt and incredible connections made this year.  May this time be a time of regrouping and setting up for an excellent 2018 in the “Impact Zone”!

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Sawubona

As I reached the summit of the umpteenth hill on my afternoon run there was a lady waiting for her lift.  I timed my words with the exhale, as a pant is all I could do at this stage. “Morning”. We looked each other in the eyes.  “morning”, she replied.  A smile clearly in her eyes.  A connection made. I laugh, inwardly (there is no way I could get it out at this stage). Even in my jumble, a stark contrast comes to mind. A run, a week ago, in one of our other South African cities…

I went to reception of the B&B I was staying in and asked where in the area is not safe to run.  The man behind the counter appears confused, “where are you from?”. “Durban”, I reply. “Lady, you’re in X now, I wouldn’t go running here, you’ll get mugged!”.  I had to do some exercise, so I made a compromise and ran up and down the short distance in front of the B&B. Not at all satisfying but it was better than nothing and being cooped up all day!  The first commuter comes towards me. I look for his eyes; he looks away as I say “hi”.  No response. I try again on the next one, except I don’t get any eye contact at all. It gives me the feeling of unease and isolation amidst people, like no one trusts anyone here.

So as I push through the remainder of my run back in our wonderful city, I ponder the difference.  Everyone I go past, there is a “hello”, “sawubona”, “yebo”, “afternoon” and the occasional “morning” (which rather forgivingly, is smiled at, maybe because the person who receives it thinks I am out of my mind anyway for running). There is a connection.  Though we are different; different races, genders, age groups, social classes; we are people.  How did we get it right in Durban? That is the question on my mind.   Has the Peace Agency’s Stop Crime Say Hello campaign really worked well? Or maybe it has something to do with our Zulu culture. Is there, perhaps, something in the greeting of, “Sawubona” that has instilled a togetherness, even across difference?

Sawubona. The spirit in me sees the spirit that is in you. I know it is not considered “cool” among the many of the youth and young adults in Durban.  They say it is overused and outdated.  I want to argue that it potentially is the “warmth” of Durban.  Every person is yearning for connection.  It is the very essence of humanity to be a part of something.  I feel that here we have a connection, a togetherness, an openness. Though we do not always fully understand each other, we realise every person is a person created for community. I dare say we need to fight to maintain “Sawubona” and its plural “Sanibonani” in our culture, despite how “uncool” it may be. From my recent experience out of town, there is no place I would rather be. Well done Durban, I am proud to be a part of this community.  It truly is the “warmest place to be” and not because of our weather!

Linda Morrison

Amashova 2017

We had a small team of 17 cyclists rode the Amashova Cycle Race, on Sunday 22 October, in our beautiful jerseys to raise funds and awareness for the work we do.

This year, the funds they raised, will be used to develop a We are Durban Volunteer App to make volunteering in Durban easily accessible and more effective!  We will update you on how much was raised when all monies are collected.  The app is going to cost us in the region on R300,000. We have R50,000 in the bank and we are looking to raise the remaining amount.  Contact volunteer@wearedurban.com for more information on the app.

So we give a massive thank you to our cyclists, their seconds, generous sponsors and cheerleaders…well done for your efforts in making a change in Durban!

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Volunteering: You at your Best

Volunteering: Part 2

With our Volunteer induction having just happened on Monday 2 October, it felt fitting to post another article on volunteering well.

In eThekwini we have about 3500 registered NPO’s.  That is not including all the charities that are not registered as they are going on quite nicely without the paperwork.  There is a wide variety of services that are offered in various locations.  Choosing an organisation that would bring out your best or benefit from you the most can be quite daunting. But just like you (generally) do not get married on your first date, you should not pick an organisation because it is the first one you heard of.  To make the most of your volunteer time do some research before you marry yourself to an organisation.  Here are some questions to help guide you:

  • What is being done in my community? Most people cannot go off on extended volunteer trips, and when you have to travel an hour to where you are going to give your time, you probably will not last that long. Look local, local to your office so you can pop in on your way to or from work, or even during your lunch hour, or look close to home so that it is just a short trip on a weekend or during your free time.
  • Match up with what you want to do. You may have to do some real digging. Not all organisations have web presence, use your networks.
  • Prioritise your top 4 and interview them. Make a site visit and ask them questions.  You know you, they do not, find out if you are going to be a good fit in their space.  Is your heart aligned to their vision?  Is there something you can do (within your limited capacity) to help them reach their potential?
  • What are the organisations expectations of volunteers? Some organisations are very structured, you submit paperwork, you are inducted, you sign your code of conduct, and you are given a task, you are monitored. Others you can literally could do anything. If you are going to have contact with minors, you are going to be checked on the sexual offenders list and you will be required to submit a police clearance certificate.
  • What cultural boundaries am I crossing? Most of us don’t think of our own culture too much.  It’s just the way we are; the normal way we do things.  Here in Durban, we have a literal melting pot of cultures.  Where this question is only often pertinent is in foreign volunteering,  here is Durban it is relevant all the time! Be mindful that not all people you will volunteer with will react the same way you do when you work together.
  • Does the organisation have the capacity to handle a volunteer? It may seem a strange question, but volunteers take a lot of time and manpower to prepare for. Some NPO’s can cope with volunteers and others cannot.  If you feel like you going to the organisation is a burden on them, it probably is. Respect that and move on to another organisation who has the capacity to host you.  Organisations cope on minimal budget and are stretched to capacity on their human resource if you are taking someone away from their usual job or if you do not do your work to the exact standard that is required you are wasting someone’s time and sometimes the organisation’s resources.

The more knowledge you have of the organisations in your area the more you are able to help and the more likely your volunteering experience is going to add value to the community and be enjoyable for you. If you would like information on some organisations in your area, please ask us and ask one of the organisations in your area as they generally know who else is operating nearby.  Enjoy your time giving back to making Durban all it was meant to be!

We have another volunteer induction happening on 13 November.  If you would like to hear about some organisations that you would be able to serve in, in eThekwini, this will be your last chance this year! Email volunteer@wearedurban.com for more information.

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It’s Time to Grow Up

Being a mom of three I have read the same books numerous times, but there is a firm favourite (so much so that I can recite the entire book!). It is called “Cave baby”, by Julia Donaldson.  In it, the cave baby paints on two sets of cave walls; his parent’s and a grey woolly mammoth’s.  Both exclaim, “Look what he’s done!”, one furious and one with pure joy.  Both are the same pictures, but they are received differently by the parents and the mammoths.  So too is the work of NPO’s, businesses and government.  We need to find the correct context and partners so that we receive the excited, “Look what he’s done!”

In reflecting on the “Aligning perspectives panel”, it reinforced the marriage analogy that Nationbuilder has developed over this past year in the collabs. I believe many of the panelists were talking about it inadvertently.  Even in their conclusions they alluded to long term partnerships being the solution to seeing sustainable social change. However, I want to lay the challenge to each partner. What was described as struggles in the partnerships between the role players in the form of problems in dealing with NPO’s, the power struggle and even in working with the government is immaturity.  The key to a great partnership is not finding the right “one”, or good chemistry between donor and funder, or great M&E structures, or even trust.  These things are wonderful but tend to be a symptom of something else, something far deeper.  I would suggest the key to beautiful, sustainable long term change in partnership is in identity.  Umemulo.   If we are truly serious about seeing complete social dignity, social health, in SA, I think we need to grow up.   We need to know who we are and what we have been called to do.  No one organization, business or system is going to bring dignity to all those who are suffering. We need to become mature in what we do and no longer play childish games.  The games we play indicate our immaturity, in the corporate world, government world and the NPO sector. The games we play are the begging game, the changing game, the blaming game, the hiding game and so many more that are unbecoming of adulthood.

Umemulo.  The person is ready to marry. They are an adult.  They know who they are, what they are doing and where they are going in life.  If a person knows their true identity, they are attractive to all around them, they accomplish much in their short years, they are focused and we are in awe of them.  Expectations are clear, and communication is easy – there are no games.  Their “yes” is yes and their “no” is no.  The same for business, government and NPO’s. Being an adult does not mean you are free of flaws and you do not make mistakes, it means that you know who you are. We are all still growing and learning, but if you know who you are, you are able to be responsible and powerful in your decision making processes.

There can be no power playing when a mature business enters into a relationship with a mature NPO. The two are partners. One may be the “breadwinner” the other is the “helpmeet”, the goal is the extension of the gospel through giving dignity to those in need, to the helpless and the hopeless of our time.  The breadwinner is created for the purpose of funding; the helpmeet is created with the purpose of meeting the need but they both have the same ultimate goal in the relationship.

Trust, they say, is earned, but there are definitely some who are more trustworthy. A mature business and NPO are much easier to trust – communication seems easier, there is no need to hide or blame as there is active growing in both.  Both develop together in a way that is healthy and beautiful and they are better at what they do because of their relationship with each other.  M&E flows freely when it comes from a mature helpmeet.  It is a minor technicality versus the focus of their effort.

What they achieve together is always way more than what each would have done on their own.  If, in Cave Baby, the mom had painted with her baby, the artwork would have been enjoyable to both and would be enriched by the experience. Let us look at who and what we are, stay focused on those things, and build partnerships that will last a lifetime as we tackle the issues that we are faced with together.

This is a blog Linda Morrison wrote for Nation Builder, after their In Good Company Conference last month.  It is a commentary on one of the sessions held there and will be worth your while reading some of the other posts around the session as well as their marriage analogy in order to fully grasp what has been said here. http://www.proudnationbuilder.co.za/single-post/2017/09/15/It%E2%80%99s-time-we-grew-up

Considering myself a Volunteer…

VOLUNTEERISM: Part 1

There is a certain amount of joy that comes from giving.  Whether it is financially or of your time and effort.  When we invest in someone and they succeed there is a deep feeling of satisfaction that comes over us.  On the other hand, when we invest and they do not succeed we get angry and hurt and it often ruins us from trying again.  I want to encourage these people to try again, and do it wisely.  The beauty of living in South Africa in a time such as this is we have plenty opportunity to engage and bring about positive change.  If every one of us saw the opportunity to be a community changer in some small way, we would definitely see a society that the world would look towards for guidance.

Working in We are Durban has given me plenty of opportunity to work with volunteers.  I have seen pitfalls and victories and I would like to share some guidance to make your volunteer experience beneficial for all parties involved; you, the beneficiaries and the organisation you partner with.

Before you engage do some soul searching.  Ask yourself the following questions and be honest with your answers;

  • Why do I want to volunteer? It may be that you want to give back to society, or you have some spare time to fill, you may be lonely and want to meet other people, you may think you are so fantastic at everything you do so you could solve the problems that everyone is having, or you are being forced to by work or school, there might be any number of reasons. Be aware that whatever your reason for volunteering is, it will come out in the quality of service you offer and the relationships you form there.
  • How much time do I have to give? This is important to know upfront otherwise you or someone is going be disappointed and struggle with you. Is it one hour a week, a morning, a month or is it full time, be clear.
  • What do you have to give? Everyone has talents and abilities. Sometime these are just what the organisation needs and sometimes they just need an extra responsible person around.  One of the best ways you can serve a need is by knowing what you have to offer up front and essentially telling the organisation you want to come in and offer this or that service and these will be the benefits of that.  In a way that will not drain the organisation and will not require the organisation to raise funds to cover you.
  • Am I able to be consistent? There is a reason you go into work every day, your employer needs a job done.  If you volunteer you will be given a task that needs to be done, if you are inconsistent or unreliable you will be given tasks that do not actually matter.  This will be demoralising and you will eventually stop.
  • What would I like to see changed in the world? We are all wired differently, some of us love children, some of us are angry with human trafficking or prostitution, some have the grace to bring some dignity to the homeless person and others wish drugs had a face so that they could punch it… there are so many issues that could be tackled. What does your heart bleed for? If I cannot post a picture of me doing this on social media would I still want to do it? Do this thing and it will make your work you do in that field so much sweeter, your victories greater and your asks of others way easier.
  • Am I a starter, a worker or a finisher? Most people are naturally one of these. If you realise what part in the process you best fit, you can suggest to the organisation that this is where you would best serve.  I know for me I like to start things, give a vision and a system and let someone else finish it.  It is hard for me to maintain my energy and focus to the end, but when it is complete I get very excited.

Volunteering should be an extension of who you are.  It should be natural and freeing and not something in which you have to study to fill a position.  If you are volunteering out of your capacity, you will find it difficult and a slog and it you will eventually quit. You are a solution to an organisation’s problem, you need to be true to who you are to fill their need.  Take the time to know you, before you try to fix someone else.

Written by: Linda Morrison

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Let’s get Professional: Not just a NPO

On Friday, 18 August we held our 3rd NPO Conference.  This time it was entitled “Let’s get Professional: Not Just a NPO”.  The history behind this is the unfortunate excuse that so many NPO’s make when they fail to deliver their services, or reports in the expected time or to the expected standard; “But we are just a NPO”.  We believe that Durban NPO’s are so much more than that and are able to deliver excellence in their services and reporting and we wanted to equip them with some tools to make it easier.

About a year ago we were looking at We are Durban’s systems and processes and trying to streamline and systemise as much as possible.  We were looking into ways that our board members, volunteers and staff could take some of the workload off our Managing Director, in a way that maintained the standard.  After trying a few options, we discovered Trello. According to their webpage, “Trello is an easy, free, flexible and visual way to manage projects and organise anything.  Trusted by millions of people from around the world”, and we would have to agree.  Bradford Wills, of Fulfil Engineering, has spent hours mastering Trello and teaching people how to use it in their own workspaces and we were thrilled that he joined us to help the NPO’s gain a technical advantage.  It was so well received that the energy levels were at buzz status come tea break.

The excitement continued the rest of the day as Dr. Thea van der Westhuizen challenged the NPO leaders to get very clear on their proposals and requests when they send them off to potential donors.  Her years of experience in this field were of huge value to the organisations as she pushed them hard to find their truly unique point and name all the resources required to deliver their service.

These days come at a huge cost to our donors and we thank VUM and StyleEyes for backing the work we do with the NPO’s of Ethekwini.  We really appreciate your generosity that allows us the freedom to make the day memorable and fun for the leaders.  We also have to thank our speakers and many volunteers who take time out of their regular lives to serve the community of Durban – you are the “we” in We are Durban.

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our wonderful volunteers

our wonderful volunteers

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June Volunteer Induction

One of We are Durban’s goals for 2017 is to link more qualified professionals with heads of NPO’s to help encourage and develop their organisations to reach their full potential.  Regular conferences are hosted for Durban organisations and they are given the opportunity to request assistance in areas they believe are most pertinent for them and their continued success.  From the briefs received we are then able to connect a volunteer with them.

 

The latest Volunteer Induction evening was held on Monday, 12th June, at Olive Tree Church.  This was our second one this year, with our first batch of volunteers already impacting Durban. The aim of the event is to provide as much information as possible regarding the volunteering process and provide an opportunity to for interested individuals to see which organisation they feel most connected with.  Over 30 prospective volunteers attended the informative evening of how their involvement could make an impact within Durban’s NPO’s.

 

Information was provided on the various organisations requesting assistance and their specific need.  The most requested are for qualified marketers, financial advisors, legal consultants, business strategists and human resource agents.

 

Volunteers spent the evening learning about how to volunteer in a way that helps and not hurts, and the parameters in which a We are Durban volunteer serves.

 

At the end of the presentation there was an opportunity to sign up to an organisation, but the beauty of the induction evening was that no commitment was expected.  Some signed up immediately, others wanted to go home and think about it and others felt that this wasn’t what they expected and would prefer to donate their time in another capacity.

 

The evening was a success and we thank all those involved in setting up, serving and most importantly you, the enthusiastic volunteers, for attending and wanting to be a part of making Durban better, together.

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