The Director of the Department of Gender and Family Affairs in the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development, Dr. Jacinta Higgs, is urging those Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in The Bahamas that haven’t already done so, to complete the process towards being registered as Non-Profit Organizations in order to position themselves to be better able to receive grant funding at the national, regional and international levels.
The invitation is also extended to Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs) and Community-Based Organizations (CBOs).
The call comes on the heels of a collaboration involving officials from the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development and the Office of the Attorney General that has resulted in the registration/approval of 580 of the 900 Non-Governmental Organizations as Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs). The process is ongoing.
The move means that those organizations are now compliant with the Non-Profit Organization Act, 2019. That status allows those organizations greater access to grant funding at the national, regional and international levels.
Dr. Higgs said: “It is very important to do so because if a NGO is not compliant, it is not able to get funding from the Government of The Bahamas, nor is it able to get funding from the regional level or from the United Nations. The fact that we now have 580 and counting Non-Governmental Organizations registered as NPOs is critical because you are now talking about those organizations having access to millions of dollars in grant funding — particularly at the regional and international levels — to assist with their programmes that benefit Bahamian society, including the marginalized and most vulnerable persons.”
Higgs added: “To have been able to regularize the 580; to have been able to make them legitimate is phenomenal. It is my fervent prayer that persons and organizations fully understand what is happening so that they will be able to take advantage of the many opportunities for funding that are available at the various levels. This is a powerful moment for us as a country.”
Dr. Higgs labeled the registration process, which was launched in accordance with the Non-Profit Organization Act, 2019, as critical.
“In the past, there was a very small number of NGOs in The Bahamas that would have been compliant and so much of the international funding was channeled basically through just those few organizations. The trickle-down effect is a win-win for those who are doing their passion and a win-win for those who are recipients/beneficiaries of the efforts of the work of these organizations.”
Dr. Higgs, whose Department works directly with the NGOs/NPOs on many issues that are of national importance, gave two key examples of the “profound impact” the registration process can have on Bahamian society going forward.
“Templeton Foundation approached the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development regarding their desire to make available a grant of $25,000 to a local NGO to assist persons affected by Hurricane Dorian and sure enough we were able to call on a registered NGO/NPO and all Templeton needed was a copy of that NGOs Constitution, a copy of their Certificate to ascertain if they were ratified, were approved by the Government of The Bahamas, and their Bank Account No. in order to transfer the money to their account.
“As a result, young people affected by the Hurricane were able to be trained in a number of areas that will now allow them to become entrepreneurs. Ordinarily that money would have gone to another, more established registered NGO, but it was able to go through one of the newly registered NPOs.
“A second example is the European Union extended over $200Million pounds to NGOs/NPOs in the Caribbean for anyone wishing to execute a project, programme or an intervention on Gender-Based Violence. NGOs doing work in this area but that were not compliant could not take advantage of this opportunity for funding, as international organizations cannot, will not, provide that opportunity to organizations that are not compliant.”
Dr. Higgs said NGOs/NPOs that are compliant, have invaluable roles to play in society.
“Three of the more recognized pillars of Society – outside of the Church – are government, business (private and public companies) and Civil Society which serves as the umbrella for the NGOs/NPOs,” Dr. Higgs said.
“Civil Society serves as those organizations that assist governments to further their reach; and so this is huge because now we can be even more confident knowing that there are arms, that there are tentacles, that there are fingers, that there are hundreds of Bahamians operating these NPOs, FBOs (Faith-Based Organizations), CBOs (Community-Based Organizations) who are helping to elevate the status, the life experiences, the essential needs of the marginalized and most vulnerable members of our society,” Dr. Higgs added.