MAIN PROBLEMS ENCOUNTERED IN MANAGING NON-GOVERNMENT ORGANISATIONS
Table of Contents
Recent literature has been brimming on issues relating to collective actions and social movements. Intents to establish a society far better than what we have now has been the driving force behind these collective actions and social movements. An apparent manifestation of this is the emerging number of non-government organisations (NGOs). For this paper, the definition provided by Teegen, Doh, and Vachani (2004, 463) on NGOs will be used in this study. Basically, they claimed that these are “NGOs are private, not-for-profit organizations that aim to serve particular societal interests by focusing advocacy and/or operational efforts on social, political and economic goals, including equity, education, health, environmental protection and human rights.” (p463) A growing of studies has interpreted this phenomenon as an indication of increasing mistrust in established institutions. In the same regard, these NGOs has been consistently been emerging and being more organised as they place a strong hold in the social order. This also denotes the increasing influence of these organisations to the political and business environments in the global setting. However, NGOs could only maximise their influence and social clout through if they are properly managed. Like any other organisation, NGOs encounter organisational problems that could trigger success or demise in their operations. Copious numbers of such organisations have come and gone in the past decades, however with the proper management, NGOs are assured of longevity. This paper will be focusing on the management of NGOs and dealing with problems that they come across.
II. Management of a Non-Government Organisation
The management of non-government organisations is a rather new area of discussion in terms of organisational management studies. Studies that cover these principles tend to be scarce. However, the work of Lewis (2001) compiled a collection of works that details the different views of NGO management. He claimed that there are three prevailing perspectives that constitute the NGO management literature. He coined the first perspective as the generic management view. (p189) In its simplest sense, it presupposes that management is management regardless of the type of organisation or the ends on which they seek. Basically, this indicates that NGOs like any other organisation has the capacity to take on organisational development initiatives by acquiring basic development initiatives like training and learning.
A second school of thought in NGO management is coined as the adaptive view. (p189) This NGO management perspective accepts that the traditional management is indeed effective in the development of the NGO, however one must realise that the structure and culture surrounding such organisations tends to differ from the conventional for-profit organisation. These distinctiveness should be taken into account and make certain adjustments on the application of the management principles. Thus, development in NGOs should still adhere to the principles and values on which the organisation is based.
The third perspective is called the distinctive view. (p189) Basically, this perspective assumes that NGO management is still an “uncharted” region. This means that being a new area of management; managers have yet to clearly perceive the entirety of this field. There are new problems that are encountered in a daily basis. Moreover, Lewis (2001, 190) maintained that new models are required to help managers deal with this new area of organisational management.
III. Problems Encountered
The discussions above resolved that NGO management is indeed a new field. In fact, there has yet to be an exact school of thought that could unify these three perspectives. Though the NGO is in fact different in context, it is surmised that, to a certain extent, it encounters the same organisational problems and address it in a similar manner. The following part will detail the major issues on which a NGO manager encounters. Specifically the discussions will include programme problems; management and staffing problems; issues with members of the board; fundraising and financial management problems; and internal and external communications.
A. Programme Problems
As indicated in the earlier part of this paper, non-government organisations have a specific mission statement to work on. In order to realise these mission statement, normally specific programmes are instituted for the NGO to carry out. (Ott 2001, 103) It is in these specific programmes, these specific objectives are then realised.
In this area, problems tend to arise when the demand for that particular programme has ceased to be popular. (Shaw 2001, 189) Some of the grounds for this issue may be caused by inefficiencies in the services provided by the NGO or the management has failed to maximise the resources they possess. In any case, this shows the possibility of the NGO’s imminent demise. Without the demand for their programmes, there are fewer possibilities to acquire funding to keep their operations running. At this point, organisational development initiatives as well as assessment of the internal and external environment are required. For instance, the NGO have to take a closer look on their target audiences. They have to determine if there were any changes in the demands of these people. More likely, the demands have indeed changed. In this regard, the NGO has to specify the areas on which they have to change. Would they have to add certain features to meet the requirement or should they take away what appears to be obsolete? To do this, proper management of change should be taken into consideration. (Lewis 2001, 99) On the other hand, it would also be advantageous for the NGO to look at the performance level of their staff. (Roberts 1995, 197) It must be established that their skills and knowledge fits with the demands of the programme as well as with the changes that will be implemented. Further training and organisational learning will be able to address this issue.
B. Management and Staffing Problems
Like any other organisation, there is a huge possibility that NGOs encounter management problems and personnel issues. For instance, NGOs tend to have far fetching mission statements which lead to possible confusion and difficulty in finding practical ways of implementing this end goal. Specific projects may become lost in the confusion and stray away from the goals of the organisation. To deal with this, the NGO could acquire the help of third parties. (Nighswonger 1999, 58) Specifically, they can find certain experts in the field to take an objective look at the organisation and provide some suggestions in improving their operations. It is possible that changes in the specific processes in the NGO are required. It may also be recommended that change in the management would be needed.
In a related case, NGOs are also susceptible to office politics despite its honourable ends. Conflict could easily arise between personnel seeking to establish a seat of power and influence in the organisation. (Chenier 1998, 557) To address this issue, common human resource management techniques would be appropriate. It would be helpful to establish some reorganising in the structure of the organisation and at the same time institute an exact set job descriptions and responsibilities expected from each staff member. (Preece, Steven, Steven 1999, 87) In the process, appraisal of the individual capacities should be made in order to place certain individuals to specific positions in the organisation. In this regard, confusion and the consequent conflict brought about by the ubiquitous propensity for power struggle is minimised if not totally eradicated. Ultimately, the personnel and management should be in sync with regards to realising the goals of the organisation. To a certain extent, bickering for power and mismanagement among its leaders tends to defeat the honourable and principled purposes of these organisations.
C. Fundraising and Financial Management Problems
Possibly one of the distinct features of NGOs is its dependence to funds bestowed upon them. Being non-profit, these organisations tend to deem funding an important element in their operations. (Flake 2004, 9) Seeking sponsors thus ranks among the top priorities of the company. This distinctiveness tends to chase sponsors for funding which could mean that there is a huge possibility for the NGO to veer away to the original mission statement in order to match the sponsor’s desires and essentially gain its favour.
Compromising the end goals of the NGO essentially equates to the perfidy of principles of the organisation. In this case, going back to basics may well be the answer. The management must adhere to the mission statement more closely and review any possibilities of creating funding opportunities that will not compromise it. In the same regard, it is advisable that organisation consider sponsors more discriminately with reference to those who mirror the principles espoused by the NGO. In this manner, funding will essentially be guaranteed without veering away from its mission statement.
D. Internal and External Communications
A major component in the success of the traditional organisation is communication. However, like any organisation, NGOs do encounter issues pertaining to the flow of data from both internal and external environments of the organisation. For instance, a common problem involving the staff is the failure of the personnel to voice out their grievances or concerns with the operations of the organisation. (Haraway 2005, 329) This may be triggered by the alienation of the management to the staff, especially in terms of employee participation. This does not only compromise the overall operations of the NGO but also sets up the foundation of low morale on the part of human resources.
In this regard, the management should start initiatives to open up the communication lines between them and the staff. They should start establishing a culture of openness and transparency. (Muir 2005, 485) Essentially, this addresses the low motivation of the personnel and in the same time give the organisation employee loyalty and possible flexibility in dealing with certain distresses in its operations.
The importance of communication is also established in the external environment of the organisation. Basically, the sponsors of a particular NGO needs to know whether their donations and the funding that they have offered has indeed served its purpose as promised by the organisation. As with any organisation, failure to communicate with the shareholders and investors will essentially hurt the reputation of the NGO. (Nelson 2000, 405) Transparency to these individuals will eventually rectify this issue.
Non-government organisations are inevitably infused in the social order. As long as there are people who seek a better society, these organisations will continue to exist. The discussions have established the importance of NGOs and their implications in the political and business environment. Although these types of organisation do not aim ultimately for profit, they do encounter management challenges like any for-profit organisation. The discussions above has maintained the manner on which the NGO is managed shows how these organisation still come across roadblocks and barriers in their operations. Moreover, the discussions also shared that these issues are easily resolved by the management initiatives that are similarly implemented in for-profit organisations. Ultimately, the study shows that there are two factors that ensure NGOs are managed well and guarantee longevity. First, the NGOs must have an understandable mission statement that serves as its guide in its project. Be an operational or advocacy NGO, having a strong grasp on its ultimate raison d’etre will enable the members to be steered towards that goal. Secondly, NGOs must possess a capable and competent set of managers. They will serve as the bulwark on which this mission statement are realised. They are given the mandate to keep the members motivated and constantly remember the ends towards which they intend to achieve. The study has established that to solve the organisational problems of NGOs, the managers should be aware and vigilant of the indicators of distress. Basically, early detection of symptoms of distress is imperative in NGO management. In this process, the management would have ample time and find ways to practically resolve the issues without compromising the operations of the NGO.
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