In the workshops on online fundraising I’ve been holding around Southeast Asia the past few months, I encourage the participating NGOs to think beyond the typical fundraising approach of writing endless grant proposals. Specifically I encourage them to develop their online network of individual supporters. But the implementing partner of the Smile Train, a GlobalGiving project partner organization, in Manila is a great example of an organization thinking creatively about how to support itself financially.
The Philippine Band of Mercy provides free cleft lip and palate surgeries to primarily children in low-income families. They started a fellowship program, which helps send surgeons to get special training in plastic surgery. After the training, the fellows go on to have very lucrative private practices, and in exchange they volunteer to do free surgeries at the clinic one day every week or two. Their financial support to these specialists pays a huge return in social capital and future services.
This pro bono work obviously significantly reduces operating costs; I was even more impressed with how they cover the rest of their expenses. Their office and clinic complex are centrally located in Manila, and there are a few popular restaurants nearby and adjacent to their property. Seeing a demand, they started selling parking space on their lot. Between that and renting out a bit of extra office space, they are able to completely cover their expenses. So many of the organizations I speak with are forced to spend much more time than they would like on fundraising; it was great to meet with one that is able to focus more completely on its programmatic goals by realizing the potential of all of its assets.