BY THERESA CUA
Civil society in Malaysia is relatively young. Almost 80% of its 80,000 pool of non-profit and voluntary organisations are less than 20 years old. This ‘Third Sector”—comprising of organisations that fill needs not addressed by either State or Market—face a multitude of challenges: from lacking structural support from the state, to being highly fragmented, and having inadequate human capital equipped with necessary skills to effectively deliver impact.
In such a sector where collaboration and partnerships are essential in working together to solve social challenges, what can philanthropists, foundations, and funders do to strengthen Malaysia’s Third Sector? In a recent roundtable organised by APC on Building Stronger Organisations, participants identified common challenges funders face in working with their respective partners and grantees, and heard from speakers from YTL Foundation, Creador Foundation, and Lien Foundation on various models and solutions by which they can support organisations beyond the chequebook:
- Developing leadership to navigate complex challenges and respond to rapidly changing situations an organisation may face;
- Building capacity amongst staff, from developing soft skills to sharing business and financial know-how that enables an organisation to function better;
- Investing in organisational development by providing long-term funding and resources to enable organisations innovate without the continuous need to find funding;
- Helping organisations measure and communicate impact, which would attract other partners, funders, and engage a wider pool of supporters;
Foundations can also help their partners grow by re-examining how they conduct their own philanthropy and adopting a longer-term approach in working with partners—from providing multi-year funding, to having a higher tolerance for mistakes, and encouraging innovation.
Ultimately, we at APC understand that solving social challenges requires a group effort—one where philanthropists, foundations, and funders play a critical role. In the end, we all want to help shape a third sector that is strong, thriving, and ready to take on the toughest problems of the world in the most effective manner possible.