World NGO Day: Giving back to those who provide crucial services and support

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NPOwer helpline continues to assist thousands of NGO and NPO workers

World NGO Day is celebrated every year on 27 February to recognise the critical work done by various NGOs around the world. Locally, NGOs and NPOs (Non-profit organisations) provide crucial services, support and care to thousands of South Africans. Even though resources are often stretched, and teams are overworked and face high levels of stress and trauma every single day; staff, leaders and volunteers continue to work tirelessly to provide help, resources and support to others.

The COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years has shone a spotlight on the crucial work done by these organisations, but has also highlighted the profound psychological, financial and social impact. Not only has the need for support services within communities increased, but so too has the strain on NPO workers who have had to deal with ‘crisis’ conditions as well. This has resulted in NPO staff experiencing extremely high levels of stress, anxiety and burnout.

It was for this very reason that Tshikululu Social Investments in partnership with the South Africa Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) launched NPOwer in October 2020. This first-of-its kind mental health support programme includes a 24-hour toll-free helpline to offer free mental health care and support to all NPOs in South Africa.

“The negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our organisation has been evident not only on our finances but also the additional pressure on staff both at work and at home.  The constant living in fear of being infected by the virus, loss of close friends and family members to the virus, their job security being threatened and having to adjust to new ways of working due to restrictions all threatened overall mental health,” says a spokesperson from LITTLE EDEN, a registered non-profit organisation that provides life-long care to 300 children and adults with profound intellectual disabilities.

“LITTLE EDEN is very grateful to NPOwer for offering assistance to staff, helping them cope through support group meetings, self-help tips and offering counselling sessions”.

To date, NPOwer has had over 4 500 incoming calls. Through the helpline and support programme, NPOwer has assisted over 6 000 non-profit organisations and has made over 3 775 courtesy calls to non-profits who have become a part of the NPOwer database.

“On this World NGO Day, two years post the start of the pandemic, Tshikululu is more committed than ever to support the wellbeing of NPOs – a key partner in driving the social impact required for a world where everyone has the opportunity to thrive,” says Dipalesa Mpye, a Social Investment Specialist at Tshikululu Social Investments.

Trauma Debriefing sessions, whether for individuals or groups, have proven a valuable support intervention to assist NPO staff and volunteers who are working on the frontline, and dealing with the physical or psychological symptoms that are generally associated with trauma exposure.

These sessions allow those involved to process the event and reflect on its impact. Over 400 individuals have been assisted with trauma debriefing sessions through NPOwer.

“When the first hard lockdown hit, it was difficult for all staff, more so because we had to stay home for a few months not knowing whether our NGO would continue to function or not,” recalls a spokesperson from Courage Youth Southern Africa HIV/Aids collaboration, a public benefit organisation that endeavours to change the destinies of South African youth from the current reality of poverty, abuse, addiction, violence and HIV. 

“In 2021, we as an NGO faced the most difficult time yet when our Managing Director passed away due to COVID complications. All of us were very broken. Realising that NPOwer is a space for NGOs to receive the necessary help, a webinar was organised for us to learn about coping skills, especially regarding grieving and mourning”.

Since the launch of the programme in October 2020, NPOwer has hosted 7 online webinars. These have included expert guest speakers discussing various topics such as burnout & compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, anxiety and depression. Here participants are able to get expert advice, tips and tools on mental health issues specifically related to the non-profit sector at no cost at all.

Over 1 000 people from the Non-profit Sector have attended these webinars. NPOwer continues this year to host monthly webinars on relevant topics, with the next one scheduled for mid-March.

In August 2021, NPOwer launched the first ever support group for NPO staff. These groups have become a non-judgmental environment and an invaluable source of empathetic understanding where members have a voice and learn to take control of their situations.

Since launching the support group, over 200 individuals have joined and shared the difficulties they face on a daily basis working in the non-profit sector. 

“We were at an all-time low emotionally when COVID-19 broke out and continued unabated. Over the past two years, our staff needed help desperately; like everyone else they were under tremendous strain with work, family, and personal issues. It was overwhelming!” saysMerle Fred, an Administrator at the Adult Learning Forum (ALF), a Non-Profit Organisation based in the Western Cape, South Africa that promotes lifelong learning for all.

“When we contacted NPOwer, they immediately came to our aid. We had an online session for our staff in early 2021, with staff affirming that this helped them to put things into perspective and learnt information that most probably saved their emotional lives.  The packages that we received helped us spread the information and use it for ourselves, our network partners, and communities. We will continue to make use of their services and wish that NPOwer goes from strength to strength for doing such amazing work amongst communities in South Africa,” she says.

Anyone working within the non-profit sector in South Africa who may be in need of extra help and support are urged to contact to find out how to join a support group. This safe and supportive environment enables you to meet like-minded people, struggling with similar stressors and anxiety, be it personal or work related.  The next two Support Group meetings will be held on the 11th of March and 8th of April. 

For more information, go to which comprises a free library of resources including all webinar recordings, handouts and information booklets on various mental health topics, newsletters and database sign-up sheets as well as key NPO resources such as NGO Management Online Toolkits.