Identifying the top ten NGOs in South Africa is quite a cat-and-mouse game. Several we contacted turned out to be smaller than we thought and had to be dropped as larger ones became apparent. Size, in this case, was measured by annual budget.
As it is, we have included only those which responded to requests for information or whose websites were relatively forthcoming. Requests for information were limited to three or four emails and in some cases, an additional few phone calls and several What’s App messages.
There may well be some NGOs which are bigger, in terms of annual budget. Two that we know of were excluded here: one declined to give information and asked not to be mentioned, and the other had a website and phone number so out of date as to suggest they may no longer be functioning.
The non-responsiveness we encountered in putting this article together eventually became part of the story. Why are some of our top NGOs so impossible to reach? Is this just part of a generally slack attitude to service amongst South African entities? Or is it because some websites are dreadfully out of date, reflecting a low level of awareness regarding the importance of a digital presence in today’s world? We
suspect the latter.
These are all organisations that do great work and we are unlikely to take them to task for lack of service
delivery. But the online presence of some and the general unresponsiveness of many do leave a lot to be
desired, and are cause for concern. One has to consider what the experiences of a prospective donor might be in browsing and trying to contact organisations online.
Access to information is a foundational principle of an open and democratic society, and according to PAIA (Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000, all public and private bodies are required to give information requested if it is in the public interest to do so, or if it is needed in the exercise of the requester’s human rights.
In the case of most NGOs, information is not deliberately withheld; however, by making it difficult to acquire, NGOs are not acting according to the spirit of the law, nor in their own best interests.
We often decry the level of responsiveness in government departments.
Let us hope that all NGOs in South Africa recognise the importance of public relations and continue to allocate the resources necessary to answer emails and phone calls!
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