Christmas Gift Ideas on an NGO Budget! The Jar Edition

It’s that time of the year when we usually pause to appreciate our colleagues; from board members, staff, and volunteers. While we would all love to individually acknowledge their sacrifice and contribution to the cause our budget can get in the way.

So the question arises, can you say ‘Happy Holidays and Thank You’ without going into debt? The answer; yes you can! We’ve put together some really awesome, thoughtful and affordable ideas using jars and we hope you’ll love them!


The Jam Jar of Sweets

Using a jar (recycled jam jars with the label cleanly removed can work) fill with various candy. Decorate the jar with ribbons and add a personalized note. The note can acknowledge how sweet the person has been during the year!

Average cost $45 can make 2 – 3 jars depending on the size of the jar.

Personalize the jar more by placing a photo on the inside of the jar that really captures that person in their NGO mode!


The Mason Jar of Calm- Whoooosah

Managing and even just working with an NGO has its stressful and even sad moments. Sometimes we need to take a step back and breathe. For this gift idea, you’ll need a mason jar with a handle – You can personalize it with a sarcastic saying, cute picture or a reassuring and motivational Bible verse.

Fill the jar with an assortment of tea, hot chocolate, and coffee packs. Average Cost $45- $65


The Green Jar

Now, this is a messy, but a worthwhile gift to put together. You’ll need a tiny glass jar, some colourful pebbles, potting soil, some ribbon or string, and the cutest succulent ever!!!!  (Ask a neighbour or get one at the plant store). Layer the bottom half of the jar with pebbles, the top with dirt, and insert the succulent. Tie a bow around the jar and attach your note! Succulents are low maintenance and look great on any desk.

Not ready to get down and dirty? You can buy one at the agricultural store for $25- $45

What do you think about our NGO Christmas Jar Edition? Have you tried any of these yourself or, do you have an idea you’d like to share with us? Leave your feedback in the comment section below!

Eye on Dependency- From government funding to learning the hard lessons about private sector alignment

Fundraising is, for the most part, a tricky task but most non-profits will agree that doing so in the face of an economic downturn can be as complex as a cirque du soleil routine. Natasha Nunez-St. Clair and her husband Garth have been the producers and hosts of the radio talk show Eye on Dependency since 2003. Considering the vagaries of government funding which sustained their on-air presence for much of that time, they decided to take the leap to form an NGO.


Garth and Natasha described Eye on Dependency as being in a comfortable nest of sorts; benefitting from quarterly funds from a state agency to cover air time and production. This benefit left them with plenty of time to create the award-winning and timely content for which they have become known (Prison radio station- RISE Maximum Radio and feature film- Trafficked). When ministry funding was abruptly axed and no prospect of future support, it was time to bank on their reputation and body of work to attract sponsors.

A production company convinced the couple to forget radio and develop a television series as ‘no-one listens to radio any more’. Without a cent in anyone’s pocket, production began on a 26-episode series. Unfortunately, the show only lasted four episodes as the production company decided it wasn’t worth the debt they were incurring. They downed tools and demanded payment of an exaggerated invoice. Lesson learnt!

The road from there was a rocky one, and Garth and Natasha started to believe that their service was not one companies wanted to associate with, despite the fact that their focus on drug demand reduction is one that impacts us all.

Garth approached a popular firm with a carefully crafted sponsorship package. Although interested, the company wasn’t prepared to pay for the smallest package paying half of its value with all the entitlements. Ordinarily, Garth and Natasha would have refused such a counter offer but their mountain of debt with the radio station swayed their decision.

An agreement was signed with the understanding that airtime would be made available for employees of the firm to talk about their encounters or battles with drugs. After two weeks on the program, it was utterly clear that the company intended to use their employees as marketing representatives. Their discourse was not on topic and listeners could not engage them via calls. There was no regard for the program format, content or audience.

In an attempt to resolve the misunderstanding the contract was canceled and the disbursed money would have to be returned!  Understandably baffled and irate the couple saw this this as a welcome escape hatch and negotiated a manageable payment schedule.

The lessons learned from this experience are valuable and thus worth sharing:

First, ensure that you have a clear understanding of the sponsor’s objectives. What do they want out of the relationship? Will they contribute to program content or merely provide advertising material? If a contract is to be drawn up, be sure to review it thoroughly before signing. If there’s anything that raises a flag, point it out and clear it up. It may prevent you from entering into an agreement you aren’t prepared to fulfil. If the company is going to add content through interview subjects, find out who they are and do a pre-interview to ensure that the individual can perform on live radio and their speech won’t be influenced by management, or that the company management turns up to the studio and takes over the interview!

Since then, Eye on Dependency has been the beneficiary of support from three other companies – an alcohol beverage company supporting a responsible drink and drive PSA and for good measure, an insurance company and a major banking institution purchasing commercial spots during the program. These companies are charged the market rate for a commercial spot on Sundays and the cost of six spots per show which equals the airtime cost per program to pay the station.

Garth and Natasha are already planning their next steps that involves developing a website, content for the internet, maybe even a podcast! Advertisers on Eye on Dependency can be confident of value for money by advertising on a long-standing and respected radio program that is tackling serious societal issues in a responsible and sustainable manner.

Eye on Dependency remains the only program of its kind in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean that is proud to deliver #realityradio in a space where every life is a biography.

Christmas Campaign Planning

Christmas is around the corner and for many in the NGO world, this period is one of the biggest fundraising opportunities.

A successful fundraising Christmas campaign needs to make the most of the momentum that the holiday season can create. Why? It’s during this time that people are more inclined to donate. Just think about the Salvation Army Santa Claus we see ringing the donation bell on the street; Christmas sounds the alert for sharing, caring, and donating.


So here are some tips to help your non-profit utilize that Christmas cheer to maximize your objectives:

Identify Your Christmas Campaign Goal

Before you bring out the ham, decide exactly what your organization is seeking to gain from facilitating any Christmas initiative. While donations are critical, don’t limit yourself to monetary goals only. Your goal may be to increase brand identity, recruit 20 new volunteers, strengthen relationships, or draw attention to your cause. Once this is specified, it can be used to help guide your campaign decisions.

Plan in advance

Don’t wait till until you hear parang on the radio to realize you have not started planning. Your Christmas event or fundraiser should be included in your annual event listing. This ensures that planning is executed months before the season begins.

Make Merry

Be sure to find creative and personal ideas to highlight the campaign’s goals. Santa hats may be pink to promote breast cancer awareness, or purple candy canes for lupus awareness. There are several ways you can tie your message into the celebration that will transform your initiative from regular Christmas event to a unique experience.

Say Thank You Genuinely

Make your supporters (donors, volunteers, staff members) feel like their role or contribution was truly appreciated by simply expressing your gratitude. For an intimate event, a significant contributor or a dedicated stakeholder or team effort it would be a great idea to have the Chairman or the entire board sign thank you cards or Christmas greeting cards with their personal messages.

So think ahead, plan early, customize your initiative and say thank you genuinely. How do you make the most of your Christmas initiatives? Share your suggestions with us below and be sure to share your events with us; email

JB Fernandes Memorial Trust II Grant Application 2018

The JB Fernandes Memorial Trust II is inviting NGOs to apply for grants for the 2018 year.   

Please find the application form here

Please submit this application electronically in word format (not a PDF). Additional attachments may be in PDF format.

Please include the following with your application:

  • A cover letter on your organization’s letterhead, briefly outlining your request, and signed by your executive director or board chair.
  • Most recently audited or independently reviewed financial statements
  • List of current board of directors, with board titles and professional affiliations
  • One paragraph resumes of key staff, including qualifications relevant to the specific request.

Submit your organization’s completed Application Form by October 31, 2018, to:

Trinidad Country Club

137 Long Circular Road, Maraval

Attention: Patrice Forde

OR mail completed nomination and any supporting materials to:

P.O. Box 602, Port of Spain

Please note:

  • Unsolicited applications are not accepted by the JB Fernandes Memorial Trust II;
  • An invitation to submit a proposal does not guarantee funding;
  • The Trust may request additional information during the application process;
  • A completed application form is required for consideration for funding.


Does your NGO have an Emergency Response Plan?

On Tuesday 21st August, 2018 Trinidad and Tobago was rocked by a 6.9 magnitude earthquake that triggered nationwide panic. Some citizens were at home, some on the roads and some were still at work. The varying responses to what we should really do in an event of an earthquake was still unclear to most as people ran into the street, some ran for cover and others were too afraid to move.

These responses evoked the question: Does your NGO have an emergency response plan?


We’ve talked a lot about strategic plans, financial plans, and even marketing plans but not emergencies.

Here are the Guidelines for Emergency Response Planning by the Occupational Safety and Health Authority and Agency of Trinidad and Tobago:

Emergency planning is imperative and while we hope the worst doesn’t happen it’s a great idea to be prepared.  This can make the critical difference in life safety outcomes. Here is a brief overview of planning considerations:

safety plan


We’d like to hear from you. Does your NGO have an emergency response plan and do you know what to do in an event of an emergency?

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Start an NGO ONLY if you have these Attributes

So you have a great idea to help solve a social problem in your community or the even better, the country. You’ve thought about how to increase awareness and rally support for your worthy cause and concluded that an NGO is the best way to go. You’ve checked out registration process and spoken to a few friends and family who have pledged to support your goal. But, guess what? It takes more than the desire to want to successfully launch an NGO, it takes a dynamic personality.

Here’s a list of 15 traits a nonprofit leader or executive should aspire to possess. While no one may have all of these attributes it’s definitely worth having them among your core team members:

  1. Passionate

All great things are born out of the passion to achieve them. You must be truly believe and be driven by your NGO’s mission and your team must be too.

  1. A Self-Starter

This is self-explanatory, no one will start your NGO for you! You must be a goal driven go-getter to overcome the challenges your NGO will face.

  1. Committed to Hard Work

This road is certainly not going to be an easy one to travel. Managing a nonprofit takes a lot of long hours, hard work and commitment to persevere through challenging times.

  1. A Motivator

In order to get others to wholeheartedly support your cause you should be capable of attracting and inspiring stakeholders to not only believe but to take action.

  1. Team Player

Building an NGO takes a team of people. While one person may have established the vision or mission, it’s the team (volunteers, donors, staff members) who make it a reality.

  1. Good Listener

Being a team player requires you to be a good listener, capable of receiving feedback and criticism while respecting the viewpoints of others.

  1. Flexible

Being open to feedback means that you must be flexible to deliberate and adjust your plans and strategies for the benefit of the NGO.

  1. Financially Knowledgeable and Responsible

Sustaining an NGO requires financial acumen. You must know or have a solid idea as it relates to fundraising, budgeting, taxes, and financial accountability and transparency.

  1. Innovative Thinker

This is one of the most important attributes as nonprofits regularly depend innovative ideas to help solve their social problem more effectively and efficiently.

  1. Always Willing to Learn

Leaders never stop learning. This empowers them to lead with confidence, speak on and about the NGO’s social problem with authority and to be actively involved in almost every aspect of the functioning of their NGO.

Are there any attributes you believe are imperative to establishing an NGO?  Share them with us in the comment section below.


Don’t Rule Out Email Marketing

When it comes to employing a marketing solution that is powerful, affordable, and easy to implement email marketing should be considered an integral component of the organization’s marketing strategy.

Email marketing is similar to direct mail marketing however instead of sending mail through the postal service messages are disseminated electronically online via email thus it is a segment of internet marketing.

The importance of email marketing lies in its power to help engage audiences while developing relationships with potential and current: volunteers, donors, supporters, customers and/or clients in a resourceful and time efficient manner.


Here are the top five reasons why your NGO should definitely use email marketing:

  1. It is Affordable

Believe it or not, this innovative marketing tactic is one of the most affordable marketing solutions for budget or resource sensitive organizations like NGOs and community-based organizations. NGOs should take advantage of the several free and effective email marketing software available online.

  1. It’s a Quick and Easy Strategy to Implement

Creating a professional email marketing strategy has become easier with the help of email service providers sharing professionally designed templates that seek to help your organization customize your message while highlighting your call to action. It gets better, email marketing allows your organization to notify stakeholders immediately, saving time and allowing for even faster responses to be gathered.

  1. It Fosters Relationships

We cannot emphasize enough about the importance of maintaining relationships with stakeholders through regular communication with them. Email marketing serves as another point of contact through which you can engage and update your audience to secure their support and shows transparency.

  1. It a Fundraising Avenue

Does your NGO have an upcoming fundraiser or event? Email marketing can be utilized to solicit funds through occasional or monthly donations, ticket purchases or pledges. Online donations via email marketing also has the potential to significantly contribute to your online revenue.

So while it can seem as if social media has dominated internet marketing strategies, it is clear that email marketing should not be underestimated.

Does your NGO use email marketing? Then be sure to add us to your mailing list at

Mechanisms to Ensure Accountability

Being accountable goes beyond board reports and annual general meetings. It must become inherent to the way your NGO seeks to develop and maintain public trust and sustainability.

Having previously discussed ‘NGO Accountability and Transparency’ here are some mechanisms that can be actively employed to secure both:

Legally Register your NGO as a “Charitable Organization’

While this might seem like an obvious suggestion, not all non-profits that have made it past the required one-year milestone are registered.

Get more information on ‘Registering for Charitable Organization Status’ here:  in order to certify your organization’s legal status.

Make Communication  Effortless

Getting in touch with your non-profit should not require a private investigator. Make sure that your NGOs’ address, email, telephone number, and social media handles are clearly published on your website and included in your letterhead and other relevant forms of communication.

Introduce Management and Staff

Who are the people managing your CBO and why should they be trusted? Introducing those charged with the responsibility of managing the operations of your non-profit should be done publicly and be available both online and in-house. Adding a short biography of each person reinforces their suitability and strengthens transparency yet again.

Provide Updates

Utilize all channels of communication such as social media, press releases, blogs, and newsletters, to publicize your stories, plans, progress, and challenges with your audience. Regularly sharing updates significantly enhances your organizations’ visibility and public trust as the public is made aware of what is happening.

Publish Your Annual Reports

Annual reports can sometimes seem to be super-secret documents only available to a select few and that AGM’s. Providing full disclosure via the publication (print or digital) of your annual reports is another method that illustrates your organizations’ commitment to being transparent.

Practice Ethical Fundraising

Ethical fundraising is another debatable topic for non-profits. Your NGO should develop fundraising policies to safeguard its reputation. This includes conducting in-depth research and selecting reputable donors with a clean and unquestionable background. Transparency and accountability can also be demonstrated through accurate and truthful donation implementation and reports.

Compile Financial Reports

How can donors, corporate or otherwise, trust the financial reputation of a non-profit if data on income and expenditure is not available? We’ll admit, this is a mechanism filled with contention especially when it comes to making these details public.

Comply with Accounting Standards and Norms

When it comes to accounting practices and reporting, your NGO should adhere to all applicable accounting standards and norms. External audits can provide the guidance necessary to guarantee compliance while accreditation and certification from external agencies can be used to demonstrate this.

Implement Self-regulation procedures

One final method to improve accountability and transparency is to develop your own unique mechanisms such as policies, reports, record keeping formats, and minutes. This helps with record keeping and management decisions.

Adopting mechanisms that best suit your non-profit and making the information easily accessible and understandable will vastly contribute to your credibility.

Do you have any additional tips to add? Be sure to leave your feedback in the comment section below!

NGO Accountability and Transparency


The topic of NGO accountability continues to be a sensitive and complex subject to raise given its multi-faceted nature. The rising number of NGOs and the influential power they possess has brought their credibility and legitimacy into question. As a result, NGOs have responded differently to the call for more accountability and transparency; some have voluntarily established self-regulatory mechanisms while others submit themselves to external audits.

But what does it mean to be accountable and transparent?

Accountability is a very large term and encompasses several concepts. Simply put, accountability is about being responsible to a third party for actions taken, being able to explain, clarify, justify and accept responsibility for actions taken and transparency is about being easy to understand, being open, frank, honest and accessible in all communications, transactions, and operations.

SOURCE: Adapted from

All NGO stakeholders expect accountability and transparency. The Board of Directors, staff, donors, members, partners, volunteers, trustees, and of course, those you serve seek to be reassured that there are no discrepancies between what your NGO says, and, what it actually does.

There are major benefits to being accountable and transparent in your operations:

  • Increase financial donors- Companies, like NGOs, seek relationships with organizations that are void of scandals and financial mismanagement.
  • Foster mutual respect and trust between NGOs, funders, partners, and supporters- Proper accountability practices demonstrates your NGOs’ reliability and credibility; this encourages beneficial partnerships and collaborations with other organizations.
  • Boost your reputation and secure greater commitment from staff, volunteers, and communities- People tend to commit to organizations that have a trustworthy reputation.
  • Improve effectiveness- Sound organizational decisions that serve to improve performance can be made based on financial reports, checks, and audits

It’s clear that the importance of accountability and transparency to the success of your NGO should not be underestimated. If there are currently no mechanisms in place to demonstrate these qualities, it’s time to reevaluate your organization’s reputation amongst its stakeholders.

Be sure to subscribe to our blog for more NGO insight and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more NGO news.


 6 NGO Management Skills You Need to Succeed

Managing a non-profit, like any business, is not all rainbows and butterflies despite the worthy cause involved. The effective management of an NGO, CBO, or any civil society group requires leaders to establish and refine specific skills that secure the survival and advancement of the organization.

Here are six essential skills that managers need to consistently develop:

Team Leader Showing The Way | New Biz

Strong Leadership Skills

In order to get the most out of your team members a manager must know how to inspire, encourage, and guide employees, delegate tasks, oversee operations without abdicating responsibility, demonstrate decisiveness and problem-solving skills, prioritize tasks and constructively multitask to maintain productivity. It’s quite the balancing act.


Business Development Skills

A good manager must know how to keep their finger on the pulse of the industry in order to know when and how to change to gain the competitive advantage. They must be capable of spotting areas whereby the organization can be advanced, processes improved, and collaborative relationships developed.


Financial Management Skills

Another critical skill is understanding and being able to manage the finances of the organization to some extent. Managers should be able to read financial statements, forecast cash flows, and profit and loss. This allows managers to be able to consider the future financial security of the organization in their decision making and problem-solving pronouncements.


 Communication Skills

Great managers must seek to communicate in a way that makes people listen, think and willingly cooperate. Therefore, it is important that managers develop an effective communication style that actively caters to addressing body language, tone, facial expressions, choice of words etc…


Project Planning and Project Management

Project planning and management skills provide managers with team management, time management, risk management, negotiation, organizational, and problem-solving skills crucial to proficiently oversee the operations of a non-profit.


Marketing, Sales and Customer Service

As the head of an organization, a good manager must be able to effectively market the organization in order to secure donations and support. This includes being able to ‘sell’ the organizations’ vision and mission and also being able to provide customer service!

While as a manager or future manager you may not be strong in every area, it’s a great idea to be familiar and flexible with the role and requirements of each area and purposefully invest in developing and sharpening these management skills.