Last May, when I began this Blog, I said that I would revisit the organizations from time to time so as to update the readers on the progress these NGOs are making. (By the way, one reader questioned my use of the word NGOs for many of these organizations, and I would just like to say that using the World Bank's Definition of NGO, I believe that all of these organizations qualify.)
Anyway, because I kept finding more and more wonderful organizations about which to write, it has been difficult to find the time to review the progress of the organizations about which I have already written. But one organization has an Anniversary coming up and so I thought that this would be an opportune time to visit them again.
One reason that causes me to single out the organization I write about today is that this is a very EFFICIENT and EFFECTIVE organization.
SABRE is an organization about which I wrote on May 10, 2005. At the time I was very impressed (and I am still impressed) with the organization's philosophy that "when it comes to the educational needs of developing and transitional countries, indigenous organizations know best." And because they allow their overseas partners to "select the books and CD-ROMs that they want from a inventory list that is sent to them electronically.
So, why is this so great? I'll tell you. I know of a group that held a book drive for Haiti some months ago. Over 2,000 volumes were collected and not one was in French or Haitian Creole, which is what the recipients wanted. The books sat around in the hallways of the organization that held the drive until an English-speaking recipient could be found for them. When the books were examined to see if they were appropriate for the English-speaking recipient, it was discovered that half of the books were unsuitable for children. Many were paperback romance novels - and a number of those were rather adult in their themes. Many of the books were very Eurocentric in their interpretation of history and/or politics. So, I hope this real life anecdote illustrates why it is important to pay attention to the expressed needs of the recipient community or organization.
SABRE has not only operated in a manner to keep this type of problem for occurring, it advocates using Best Practices guidelines for "helping US and other western book donors to operate well thought out, appropriate and demand-driven programs."
There is another feature of this organization that I want to point out about SABRE and that is the fact that they are extremely efficient. The do all that they do with very few volunteers and only eight paid staff members. I know that a lot of the smaller organizations are wondering how they can do this with so few people. They are able to do this is because SABRE works very effectively in house and with its NGO partners.
I am going to take a moment to talk about working effectively with partners because there are so many non-profit organizations around the world that want to partner with an efficient and effective organization like SABRE but do not understand that in order to partner in projects of the type in which SABRE engages, there are certain responsibilities that are expected to be undertaken.
Below is a recitation of the responsibilities that SABRE requires of its potential in any particular project.
Customs & Excise
Upon arrival of the container which comprises 20 shrink-wrapped pallets, the partner is responsible for clearing the container through customs and warehousing the books. As per US tax code, the partner is responsible for stamping each book "Not for resale" on the inside front cover. The books are then repackaged for distribution to qualified individuals or holding institutions.
Logistics of Distribution
The partner is responsible for distributing the books equitably to as many needy individuals and holding institutions as possible, as widely throughout the country as possible. The costs associated in doing so are borne by the partner. If necessary and/or feasible, recipient institutions could be asked to pay a nominal handling fee to help ameliorate the partner's administrative, warehousing, transport and other similar costs. In many cases, books are simply picked up at the partner organization's facility. The partner is responsible for ensuring that each holding institution signs a copy of Sabre's Institutional Holding Form: signed forms should be kept on file at the partner's office.
"Tracking & Reporting
The partner is responsible for providing a distribution report showing which books went where. This should be forwarded to the Sabre office as soon as possible after the distribution process is completed. Sabre is also keen to get feedback from individual recipients. Personalised responses are very useful in assisting Sabre's ability to better plan future operations. Furthermore, these responses are the most eloquent way of illustrating to our supporters the good work that is being done. These personalised responses can take the form of letters of appreciation, photographs or videocassettes of shipment unloading, book processing, and the materials being used by end users.
This information can be found at the following URL:
Information for Prospective Partners.
Here, SABRE clearly spells out what is expected of its partners and also gives them a guide to follow in carrying out their portion of the project. It is important for prospective partners to be able to carry out these types of responsibilities because it is very easy for plans to be "waylaid" by any number of events when all eventualities have not been addressed. Yesterday I wrote of a wonderful organization called "Sporting Chance International." This group of hard working volunteers was able to acquire a trash truck in the UK to be donated to a recipient in Kenya and was to be used to help with a very severe refuse problem in Nairobi. The truck was completely restored, sand blasted, re-sprayed, serviced and sent to Kenya. But according to Sporting Chance International, unfortunately the "Kenyan authorities are currently unwilling to release the truck from the docks at Mombassa, in spite of a number of attempts by SCI and its Kenyan partners to solve the problem."
Now, let me say again, I think that Sporting Chance International is a wonderful organization as you can see from my ARTICLE about them on November 1st. But somebody, (and my guess is that it is probably the local partners in Kenya) should have engaged in some "prior planning" to make sure that the truck could be cleared through customs. These are the types of problems that dampen the enthusiasm of potential donors and volunteers.
While SABRE focuses on distributing Books, CD-ROMs and Videos, it can be used as a model for organizing the operations on non-profit entities that are interested in helping developing countries. I very much recommend that you visit their web site and take a close look at how they do what they do because they provide A GOOD EXAMPLE TO FOLLOW.