One of the biggest challenges any organisation faces is ensuring strong engagement from beneficiary groups, community stakeholders and other groups involved with or affected by that organisation’s work. NGOs in the global South have gotten better at including beneficiaries and communities in their design processes and mobilising them to be involved with monitoring and evaluation. That is less the case in the North and is a particular challenge in the UK where the general perception of nonprofits and charities is still that they know best how and what to do to tackle beneficiary need and that beneficiaries don’t need to be engaged to find out whether a project or programme has worked.
Businesses of all kinds are developing communities around their products, values, brand, realising that these communities help them to deliver a better service, build a better product and ultimately make more money. The same is actually true for nonprofits, who have to build communities of both donors and beneficiaries to ensure that they are not only continuously improving and proving their impact, but responding to the changing needs of their beneficiaries, taking care of their donors and other stakeholders and generally moving forward towards their stated aim.
This can be much more than what the founder or early staff team thought they were signing up for and it is important to get this level of engagement right if the organisation is to be successful. Sometimes the biggest challenge is getting beneficiaries and stakeholders to be involved with an evaluation or review process. Yes, it takes time and often happens during office hours (which doesn’t have to be the case). Not doing this engagement risks not knowing whether what you’re doing is actually working or understanding why there is less engagement with one part of the project than another. Constant feedback loops can also help. But whatever you put in place to improve beneficiary, stakeholder and community engagement, know that it will take time and resource to get right. But the rewards of better designed projects, more loyal donors and supporters, better engagement with other stakeholders will reap benefits down the road.
How much stakeholder engagement are you able to do? What is your experience of getting beneficiaries and others involved in designing, monitoring and evaluating your work?