Social Justice, Vietnam
Needs of re-structuring organizational and finance management capacity in organizations supporting vulnerable people in the time of Post Covid-19 - South Vietnam
This qualitative research is based on the assumption that Vietnam’s social assistance organizations (SAOs), which support the vulnerable groups such as elderly, poor and abandoned patients, terminal illness survivors, immigrants and their children, orphans and children at risk - are facing serious challenges and financial vulnerability in the economic downturn due to the Covid-19 outbreak. However, the crisis could also turn into an opportunity for capacity building and restructuring for these non-profit organizations.
The research data was collected from eight (8) SAOs, which are mainly located in the South of Vietnam and have a long history of operation, to discover the main trends of practice models and management capacity; their general internal and external challenges; the particular challenges and vulnerability they deal with during Covid-19 and the intermediate and structural causes of these struggles. Based on those discoveries, the research points out the needs and recommendations for restructuring and capacity-building for those SAOs, in the hope that they will be considered in the strategic planning of SAOs and other stake-holders of the social assistance field in Vietnam.
The research reveals that though facing a lot of obstacles in establishing and operating at the beginning of their founding, SAOs have gained many achievements in addressing the state system’s deficiencies in social assistance for the last two or three decades. They have created or introduced either unique or leading models for supporting their communities. They are also creative in finding ways to raise funds and mobilize resources to support their beneficiaries.
The data analysis from the SAOs in this research suggests that there are two main models of founding and operating an SAO: faith-based and non-faith-based. The faith-based SAOs’ advantages are the devotion and compassion of priests, monks and nun in serving vulnerable people against discrimination and hardship; and the ability to mobilize funds and contributions from religious communities. Meanwhile, non-faith-based SAOs rely on outstanding individuals whose family members or they themselves are from the vulnerable community, and hence retain a proclivity for understanding and strong commitment to the needs of their communities.
In general, governance and management practices of these SAOs are at the basic level with clear needs for capacity-building. Almost none of them have a complete governance body with official and written procedures and regulations. Some SAOs have vision and mission statements but there is no clear systematic coherent link to all strategic planning for reaching goals, directing actions or setting priorities. Strategies exist in some ways but not in the form of a written official document with support from independent boards or external experts.
Planning and management practices of SAOs are simply repeating the previous years’ activities with minor adjustments based on changing beneficiary numbers or other factors. Similarly, the practices of monitoring and evaluation, fundraising and development, finance management, human resources management, are at a very basic level with not many improvements made since the SAOs were founded. New activities depend on funding availability, while sponsors often prefer to donate directly to beneficiaries rather than invest in organizational development. Most SAOs have limited ability to scale up or replicate their existing programs.
Fund-raising practices of these SAOs are more opportunistic than strategic. Fund infrastructure and skills are basic: mostly applying trust-based and traditional ways such as face-to-face meetings and personal relationships. Although the SAOs have diversified fund-raising categories, the main sources are from individual and corporate funds. A majority of SAOs could not reach funding from international and professional foundations or state funding for more stable sponsorship. Although faith-based SAOs have stronger funding stability, particularly when their monastery has a larger religious community with strong connections, their fund-raising status is still vulnerable when relying too heavily on religious individuals and corporate philanthropists. Non-faith-based SAOs also mainly rely on individual and corporate philanthropists through collaboration in fund-raising events. Fund infrastructure (system for tracking and managing donors’ data/information, information technology tools) is insufficient and not integrated with internal systems such as accounting and other internal systems. Moreover, most SAOs participating in this research are not familiar with using technology, internet or online fund-raising, crowd-funding tools, with some even lack a web-based donation platform.
Data and analysis highlight that SAOs are facing many challenges both externally and internally. Externally, they lack systematic support from the government in executing vulnerable people’s rights and privileges written in the law and other official government documents. Additionally, there is a negligence towards comprehensive legal and professional frameworks/codes of conduct for social assistance. This deficiency could prevent vulnerable people from re-integrating into social life via mainstream education or health care services, and in many cases even leave them unprotected from the risks of being abused.
Concerning sponsorship, common practices are mostly based on faith (religious) and trust, which consequently does not encourage SAOs to improve their organizational capacity. The trust-based norm of sponsorship practices leads to many false or disguised “social assistance” schemes, with the intent to loot from the contributions of individuals and even corporate charity, causing bad reputations for social assistance organizations in general and even putting vulnerable people at risks. Additionally, there is also a lack of networks and associations support for sharing information, resources, professional information across SAOs. In the same way, they lack connection for support, cooperation, capacity building from research institutions, science and technology institutions on a professional and macro level.
For internal challenges, SAOs face insufficient or unstable resources for infrastructure in both physical and capacity forms. Most SAOs are struggling to upgrade their property spaces for operation; as well as other infrastructure for serving their beneficiaries. Additionally, they lack capacity in organizational and program management, including monitoring and evaluation procedures; planning and financial management; human resources, fundraising and fund development; and information technology. All these capacity deficiencies, in turn, prevent the SAOs from developing new programs or more sophisticated services to their community; access to international foundations’ sponsorship, or effective income generation. Eventually, the deficiencies structurally contribute to the funding vulnerability of the SAOs in the time of crisis.
Based on these findings, the research discusses further the need for restructuring and capacity building as an alternative for those SAOs dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic and similar crises. Since the organizational development should be overall and interrelated, the process of restructuring and capacity building should cover all aspects of organizational development such as leadership, management (including financial management system), human resources, technology, fundraising strategy and management, planning and evaluation, learning process. This process of restructuring is also a surviving strategy for SAOs as organizations are facing big and threatening challenges in sustaining their impacts if they only manage to maintain the status-quo.
This process of capacity building of SAOs needs investment and funding to transform them into more professional entities. There should be a big change from SAOs themselves and sponsors in strategy, philosophy, and development culture, funding and fund-raising. This new culture envisions a more sustainable and empowered future of SAOs, in which SAOs are less dependent (on some sponsors) and less vulnerable (during social or economic crises).
The capacity-building process also needs a mobilization of resources and supports from many stakeholders, such as the engagement from higher education and research institutions in every aspect of SAOs and community organizations in general. For the government, there should be more research and policies for “socializing social assistance”. The government should provide official and legal frameworks and training for SAOs with more detailed and realistic requirements; codes of ethics and code of conduct for social assistance work in general to protect vulnerable people; and enact strong and detailed policies for capacity building for SAOs.
Author: Center for Community Engagement Education
Download: Needs of re-structuring organizational and finance management capacity in organizations supporting vulnerable people in the time of Post Covid-19 - South of Vietnam (En)