Heads or Tails : Should NGO’s like Vibha fund, ‘few major projects’ or ‘many small projects’?

“Heads or Tails” is a new section of Vibhascope where we aim to get volunteers to present arguments about two sides of a topic. The idea is to generate a healthy debate about issues which NGO’s normally face on the road to achieving their goals. We hope to bring out new ideas and give better understanding to volunteers about the workings of non-profits like Vibha and the challenges faced by them. To pilot this column, I am presenting my views on the topic, ‘Should NGO’s like Vibha fund, ‘Few major projects’ or ‘many small projects? Let’s call the debate Prashanth vs. Prashanth.

‘Vibha’s focus should be on one or two prime projects’

While doing my share of research among Bay Area volunteers, this particular view point found supporters in people closely associated with projects like Door Step School or Sikshana. These are two major Vibha projects that also get a large chunk of Vibha funds, i.e. $65000 for DSS in 2009 and $40000 for Sikshana. Now why should we pick these projects just as an example to focus all our efforts and funds? There are many reasons. They are shining examples of how a successful non-profit grass root level organization should be run. They use minimum resources to maximize results. They have a well planned, executed and documented model of operation and success measurement. They have shown tremendous improvement; over the years that Vibha has supported them for and are continuing to do so. They listen to Vibha for feedback on how the funds are being used and what they should do to improve their operations.  These two projects are a great advertisement of what Vibha hopes to achieve through its efforts, a symbol and an extension of Vibha’s ongoing fight to enable a brighter future for children. If we focus all our energies and funds towards these two projects the possibilities are endless. The amount of scalability that can be achieved if all of Vibha’s funds are shared between these two projects is massive and from where they are right now, restricted to a few districts, to, the entire country.  I don’t want to take away from any of the other projects. I am sure all of them do a great job. But as an organization we need to see how we can maximize our efforts to making significant impact through one or two projects. By helping few but major projects maximize their potential, we can set an example for everyone else to follow in their footsteps. Over the long term this promises a far better future.

‘Vibha needs to support multiple small projects that are diverse’

Vibha currently supports 38 projects. Out of these, some of them are projects like Door Step School (DSS) which are highly funded based on the scale of the project. However majority of them are smaller projects like Rajasthan Mahila Kalyan Mandal (RMKM) which provides community based rehabilitation for mentally challenged children. This is a very niche field. Many of the other 38 projects may not be large when it comes to the number of children getting impacted or the amount of funds being provided. Nevertheless these are also targeting specialized areas in terms of demography or the type of problem faced by children. The, per-child cost of some of these projects is high compared to larger projects like Sikshana where the overhead cost is pretty low. But what these projects do in terms of impact is no less valuable. By supporting several small projects addressing diverse causes, Vibha will be able to not only help a wide range of less fortunate children, but also raise awareness about several problems not brought into the limelight. It is very hard to raise awareness about children in a remote village or mentally challenged children. Multiple reasons can be responsible for this situation, like access to the region or in case of mentally challenged children the stigma associated with them in society and the lack of enthusiasm among certain sections of society to talk about the problem in public, let alone address it. Such problems require special focus and if an organization takes up the challenge, then it requires a lot of support. By supporting RMKM and other small organizations we have managed to highlight many problems in line with Vibha’s mission of empowering a child through education, health and overall development. Supporting projects which address different problems is the key to making an impact. As a senior Vibha volunteer once said, “What Vibha does by supporting projects is that, it lights lamps and shows the path for the rest to follow. The more lamps we light the more light there shall be”.

I know these two points of view have a lot of contention. Your opinion matters, so let us know which point of view you support and why?


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