Sustainability planning is something organisations in South Africa cannot afford to overlook. The funding environment is increasingly constrained.  The possible reduction in international agency budgets and the notion that South Africa is a middle income country and should fund more of its own development needs are both things that will impact funding for the AIDS response. In PEPFAR’s latest strategy, South Africa is not listed as one of its 13 priority countries. Indeed, all governments that support NGOs – including South Africa – are having problems with their own budgets and seem to be cutting grant funding to organisations.

An organisation must nowadays look at its own business model and focus on strategic planning and risk management and incorporate sustainability tactics in all its processes. If you don’t look at ways of accessing new funding avenues and new ways of developing your income streams, you are not going to make it. Organisations such as the Networking HIV & AIDS Community of Southern Africa (NACOSA) suggest there is a need to look carefully at opportunities for partnerships, consortiums and collaborations. Groups need to be doing things together, where each partner can focus on their strong points and pool resources.

NACOSA has over the last five years been looking at other avenues for its funding and our new strategy places even more emphasis on this. As NGOs, we must find ways to link more with entities and businesses where there are synergies with what we are doing. That is why we are focusing on developing strategic partnerships with corporate South Africa and other institutional partners where each of us can add our own special value. Civil society has to learn to be more resilient but also find ways of cutting costs. We must do more with less.

There are some definite trends developing in the HIV and AIDS response funding sphere. UNAID’s 90-90-90 targets to have 90% of all people living with HIV knowing their status, 90% of people on antiretroviral therapy and 90% of people receiving ART have viral suppression is a major focus. As is the approach of saturating geographic areas and certain populations with highly focused interventions where it is going to make the most difference. Organisations need the required knowledge but also to be able to show they are having an effect in these highly targeted areas and populations.

You have to be able to show impact, to demonstrate your theory of change and also to pinpoint where in the bigger picture your organisation and its interventions fit.

The other thing we need to explore more is volunteerism. There are many skilled people who want to help and this is a golden opportunity for civil society to sensitize the public about the circumstances they work in. This will help us to grow together towards making a change in society rather than continuing down parallel tracks.

True sustainability is looking at the whole picture of your organization – from its finances, to its programming and operations – to ensure it can be resilient to external and internal shocks and keep on providing vital services. Managing risk and performance (staff spending time on the right things) should be a golden thread from governance, planning, implementation through to evaluation.

The global funding environment is not going to get any easier in the near future and we must all be well prepared so that we do not simply survive, but grow and thrive.

Marieta De Vos is the Programme Director at NACOSA. Before joining NACOSA, she was the Executive Director of MOSAIC Training, Service and Healing Centre and has also worked for government in the Departments of Health and Population Development, Welfare and Education and Training

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