International development NGOs are constantly searching for new, innovative ways to illustrate their impact on communities where they work. Most organizations tell the heartwarming story of the little girl or boy in “X” developing country that will benefit from a donation. And while once compelling, these stories now get lost in the throng of similar tales from other NGOs vying for the same donors and grants. With growing competition for funding, it’s more critical than ever that NGOs find better ways of distinguishing themselves and demonstrating their positive impact. How can NGOs develop a fresh strategy that sets them apart?
The International Futures (IFs) forecasting model can help. NGOs can easily say how their work produces visible, immediate outcomes for individuals or communities within a given area of development. With IFs, however, they have a tool that helps them broaden their scope and observe the effects of their interventions in the long term, as well as across human development systems.
Let’s say that an organization that works to increase access to water and improved sanitation in Uganda wants to help its donors conceptualize the long-term health benefits of their efforts. The NGO’s mission is to eventually help Uganda get to 100 percent safe water and sanitation access, but the funding must come first. They have already told potential donors that a donation could save a little girl from malnourishment from a diarrhea-related illness. But the story is only going so far. Donors only see their immediate impact on access to improved water or sanitation; they can’t quantify how their money might contribute to lasting positive change in other areas.
However, by building a scenario through IFs that models their mission, this organization can tell a much more compelling story, one that illustrates the far-reaching value produced by the NGO in Uganda—beyond that one child or a single community. For example, if Uganda reaches universal access to safe water and sanitation in the next 20 years, IFs forecasts that 475,000 less children will suffer from malnourishment. By packaging such a forecast for donors, the NGO can make their story about saving a little boy or girl 475,000 times more compelling.
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