By Simon Mériaux, MAVA OD Manager, Impact & Sustainability

Organisational development (OD) is a planned, holistic process (involving the organisation as a whole) aimed at increasing the health and effectiveness of the organisation in achieving its mission and ensuring its sustainability. For three years, MAVA has been providing OD support, either directly, to around 20 organisations, or through BirdLife International to 19 organisations that are partners of both MAVA and BirdLife. In addition to the activities carried out and the observed results, we were interested in finding out how our OD partners feel about this. A perception study (the report can be consulted here) was carried out independently by the consultant Claudia Genier in order to understand what partners think of this organisational support, what they get out of it, and how these OD partnerships could be improved.

Partners very satisfied overall

Bearing in mind the biases inherent in this type of study, it nevertheless revealed a high general satisfaction rate for the partners who, overall, appreciate the quantity and duration of the financial support, as well as the diversity of the eligible activities (training, purchase of material, staff costs, etc.). Although each partnership is different, the subjects the organisations focus on most are strategic reflection, communication and fundraising. The availability of external expertise and the coverage of staff costs were the most highly appreciated contributions.

Beyond financial support

The partnerships are valued and three quarters of the partners fully acknowledge the quality, frequency and transparency of the communication through this organisational support. The level of confidence is high with both MAVA and BirdLife International: 90% of the partners are quite comfortable discussing their internal problems with these organisations. The dedicated support staff are appreciated for their ability to listen, to give advice, to find solutions and to understand the local constraints specific to each context. The partners are very fond of the non-financial support such as advice, coaching and the sharing of funding opportunities.

The responsiveness and flexibility of this OD support are particularly appreciated: an organisation’s life is rarely a long, calm river and it is very useful to be able to adapt the partnerships in line with any difficulties and opportunities. The flexibility provided during the spring 2020 pandemic was sometimes of great help to the organisations.

The effects of the pandemic and the public health restrictions have had a major impact on the work and life of organisations. Therefore, COVID has affected the level of funding, fundraising, interactions with local communities, management costs, teamwork, governance and the implementation of conservation activities.

Long-term results

The OD support reinforced the beneficiaries’ feeling of trust and legitimacy towards other donors. The main results of the OD were the strengthening of the organisations’ capacities and stability. These organisations have been strengthened, but this has not yet been reflected in growth (a higher budget and/or more staff), in impact in the field or in collaboration with peers. These impacts will probably materialise over time.

Unsurprisingly, given these results, the partners still want to benefit from OD support in coming years, with their main objective being to reinforce their capacities and fundraising approches. This no doubt reflects an accurate anticipation of the end of MAVA’s funding in two years time, as well as a perception of the need to renew fundraising approaches in a world turned upside down by the financial consequences of COVID.

A relevant study for improving our approach

Beyond the initial results of this study, which are in themselves extremely useful for allowing us to understand how the partners experience our OD partnerships, the exercise has also allowed for more in-depth discussions with many of MAVA’s partners and members. This points to the need to continue our efforts to maintain internal consistency within the Foundation between our OD support on the one hand and our funding for conservation projects on the other. This integration of OD and MAVA’s programmes will be reinforced over the course of the next two years, notably through the Foundation’s learning initiatives. It is also essential to clarify to what extent and how MAVA can help its partners look for new donors. Rationalisation and communication efforts on what the Foundation can do to support its partners’ efforts to develop partnerships with new donors will be implemented in the next few weeks. Generally speaking, and in light of the COVID crisis, organisational support appears to be a relevant and often essential tool for building the capacities and resilience of organisations, which will evolve over the next few years in an unstable economic environment.  On a case-by-case basis, MAVA will continue to provide OD support that can realistically help stabilise certain partners before the end of 2022.