Social enterprise models and NGO sustainability: From donor models to income generation

Social enterprise models and NGO sustainability: From donor models to income generation

Non-governmental organisations operate in a competitive and ever-changing environment, characterised by the limited availability of financial resources which puts their organisational sustainability under strain. Financial sustainability in particular is a key concern for many NGOs, primarily due to their reliance on grant and donor funding. Self-generated income (using social enterprise models) provides an opportunity for NGOs to attain financial sustainability and independence.

However, income generation cannot be seen as an ‘add-on’ to the other activities undertaken by an NGO. Where possible, mission-aligned income streams are preferable, to avoid mission drift. Within Africa, the discussion focuses on how NGOs should not be driven solely by their need to survive but by the causes they pursue for the benefit of African communities. Our experience shows us that those who start their organisations as social enterprises (i.e. they trade from the beginning), with the mindset that purpose can sit comfortably together with profit (which in turn is reinvested for social purpose), find it much easier to make this structure work.

Accordingly, we have found that, for those NGOs who have been operating a donor model, a focus on mindset shift and change leadership are two of the biggest enablers of a transition towards an income-generation model. This workshop will bring in examples and context from an African perspective, including a case study of lessons learnt in leading the change from donor funding to income generation. 


Aimed at: 

  • Non-profits who are concerned about their long-term sustainability 
  • Non-profits who are interested in exploring income-generating opportunities 
  • Non-profits who are in the process of making the transition to a social enterprise model


Learning outcomes: 

  • Develop an understanding of the value and purpose of social enterprise models 
  • Learn from real examples of social enterprises from Africa (and around the world) 
  • Identify possible revenue models 
  • Understand the need for a mind-set shift to enable the successful transition to income generation models


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Vanessa Ramanjam (South Africa)
Hub Manager South Africa, Social Enterprise Academy Africa
Ezlyn Barends (South Africa)
Founding Director, DreamGirls Academy