Do you value your NPO number? If so ….

This is an important time for non-profit organisations to ensure that they remain compliant with the provisions of the Non-profit Organisations Act No. 71 of 1997 (“the Act”) as the Minister of Social Development launched the “Know Your NPO Status Campaign” in early November to encourage registered NPO’s to check their compliance status, update their organisational details if required and submit their annual reports. The Department of Social Development (“DSD”) is the custodian of the Act, which provides for voluntary registration of NPO’s and establishes administrative and regulatory frameworks within which NPO’s can conduct their affairs.

To date, some 235,000 NPO’s have been registered by the DSD and issued with an NPO number, but as only some 30% of the registered NPO’s are compliant, the DSD has implemented a 4 phase process of de-registration of non-compliant NPO’s which will begin in April 2021:

Phase commencement date Original NPO registration date De-registration where:
1 April 2021 Between 1998 and 2012 NPO is non-compliant
1 July 2021 Between 1998 and 2012 NPO previously submitted reports but now non-compliant
1 October 2021 Between 2013 and 2015 NPO is non-compliant
1 April 2022 Between 2016 and 2019 NPO is non-compliant

The primary objective of the Act is to encourage and support NPO’s in their contribution to advancing South Africa’s developmental agenda (articulated in the National Development Plan (Vision 2030)), as a strong and capable civil society plays an important collaborative and developmental role in a democratic society. However, the Act is part of what Colleen du Toit* has described as the “entire creaking non-profit/civil society sector regulatory architecture”, which she, and many others, argues has “long been due for a holistic overhaul.”

One particular concern is that the components of the “regulatory architecture” do not speak to one another and NPO’s are “forced to interact with several different government entities that apparently do not communicate with one another”. These include the DSD for NPO registration; the Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission for non-profit company registration; SARS for the approval of public benefit organisation status and the NLC and the National Development Agency for funding and related support. 

Colleen argues that collective systems thinking is required, rather than a piecemeal tinkering with the component parts and calls for all role players to be included in that thinking so that shared understanding and practical solutions can emerge. She proposes that a multi-sectoral cooperative forum, coordinated by a neutral intermediary and directly accountable to the Minister, could be established to run on principles of collective learning and partnership with specific terms of reference and a strict time frame. The forum would collect and collate recommendations from civil society initiatives, commission new thinking and propose legislative amendments where necessary. 

So, as you relax over the holiday season content in the knowledge that your NPO compliance is up-to-date, perhaps your thoughts can drift to the vision of a non-profit sector that is well regulated and that leads developmental thinking into a new year.

*Colleen du Toit provides advisory support to organisations of civil society.