Tekkie Tax, a national fundraising project, is changing public and corporate perception on how non-profit organisations (NPOs) should be run. Founded in 2013, the public benefit organisation raises funds through selling Tekkie Tax stickers each year. Since its inception, it has raised just over R22 million in funds for charity.
“There are more than 100 000 registered welfare organisations in South Africa. At least once a week, someone approaches me to say I really want to start a non-government organisation (NGO). My first response is always, why do you want to start an NGO when there are thousands out there already? Rather help an existing one to get bigger and better,” says Annelise Coetzee, founder of Tekkie Tax.
Here’s how it works. The project works with 12 national welfare organisations, which each represent nearly 1 000 local organisations. These organisations are divided into five groups: animals, bringing hope (elderly and the poor), children, disabilities and education. The public buy the stickers of the group of their choice. Participating organisations sell the stickers for R10, of which they keep R4. This year, the public can also buy shoelaces for R35, of which R10 goes directly to the organisations. Once the sales of all the Tekkie Tax stickers and shoelaces are audited, funds are allocated accordingly.
“Tekkie Tax is the only project of its kind that brought NGOs together. My philosophy is that NGOs should be run like a business, and it is time to stand together and share resources. Every new organisation needs a secretary, telephone system, tables and chairs, premises, and so on. There’s no longer time to be on your own and protect your own mountain,” says Annelise.
Tekkie Tax runs an NGO empowerment programme that focuses on people, marketing and technology. “If people are not developed, they won’t be able to use the tools you give them. Often in NGOs, people are passionate about what they do but don’t have the right skills. We do a lot of personal development to empower the individuals. If they don’t understand the importance of marketing, they won’t be able to use platforms effectively to promote public trust in their organisations.
“We have also found that many NGOs are alarmingly illiterate when it comes to technology. People often think that this happens only in black rural areas, but we recently met a white person who runs an organisation near Ratanga Junction: she has a fancy laptop but has never done a Google search in her life.
“Corporates are technology driven. If organisations want corporates to fund them, they need to understand the basic language of technology and know how to use it to their advantage,” explains Annelise.
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Tekkie Tax is not only empowering organisations, it also helps corporates plan their corporate social investment spend, and change the way they view NGOs.
“In my core I believe that organisations should be run like businesses. You can’t just say that we’re an NGO and don’t know any better. That is no excuse. If you are a charity organisation you need to be sustainable, know the basics and deliver the best possible service.
“If you agree that NGOs should run like a business but don’t want to fund expenses like salaries, your perception is skewed. It’s easy to say that NGOs should be run like businesses but in our minds we think that NGOs should be run by volunteers.
“We’re not discounting the contributions of volunteers, but you won’t let volunteers run your business, so why is it okay to do this in organisations? How can you expect a social worker who studied for four years to work for free, or a physiotherapist, psychologist or cleaner, for that matter? Why is it okay that you can pay your cleaner who cleans your office but I can’t pay my cleaner or caregiver who takes care of a disabled person? Everyone needs to be paid as everyone needs to make a living.
So the corporate doesn’t want to pay salaries because they want to make sure that the money goes to the children, but what about a social worker who needs to remove a child living in appalling conditions? How will a volunteer be able to pay for the legal process that needs to be followed?
“Corporates should be prepared to pay for salaries. If they think that NGOs should be run like a business, then enable them to do so,” says Annelise.