Monthly Archives: April 2012

Exploring the Non-Profit Sector: How does Literature define the Field?

Exploring the Non-Profit Sector:  How does Literature define the Field?

It is first and fore mostly important to consider the environment where and context in which the Institute for the Blind operates. An understanding and a degree of knowledge with regards to this environment is crucial if research is to be optimally conducted in the field.  The Institute for the Blind operates in the non-profit (NPO) or charity sector, and as a program of Badisa, the Institute for the Blind is registered as a non-profit organization (NPO number: 011-891), as well as a Public Benefit organization (number: 930 006 348).  A definition of this complex sector needs to be analyzed, and the following standard theoretical definition of the term “non-profit organization (NPO)” is provided by the Business Dictionary (2011): “Associations, charities, cooperatives, and other voluntary organizations formed to further cultural, educational, religious, professional, or public service objectives. Their startup funding is provided by their memberstrustees, or others who do not expect repayment, and who do not share in the organization’s profits or losses which are retained or absorbed. Approved, incorporated, or registered NPOs are usually granted tax exemptions, and contributions to them are often tax deductible. Most non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are NPOs and are also called not for profit organizations.”  Nonprofit organizations are usually classified as either member serving (addressing the needs of only a select number of individuals) or public.

 According to Morris (2000: 26), it has long been recognized that individuals and communities choose to associate and meet their needs for goods and services through institutions other than states, markets, or households. During the last quarter of the twentieth century, however, there have been “increasingly formalized attempts to organize the study of these institutions through the development of a language and set of theories that delineate a distinctive sector.”  In terms of the theoretical definition, NPOs therefore are mostly charities or service organizations – they may be organized as a not-for-profit corporation or as a trust, a cooperative, or they may be purely informal. Sometimes they are also termed foundations, or endowments.   A nonprofit organization is formed for the purpose of serving a public or mutual benefit other than the pursuit or accumulation of profits for owners or investors. “The nonprofit sector is a collection of entities that are organizations; private as opposed to governmental; non-profit distributing; self-governing; voluntary; and of public benefit” (Salamon 1999: 10 in Luckert 2011). Luckert (2011) continues to state that the nonprofit sector is often referred to as the third sector, independent sector, voluntary sector, philanthropic sector, social sector, tax-exempt sector, or the charitable sector.

 Resource mismanagement can be regarded as a particular problem with NPO’s.  The nature of this type of organizations allows for employees not being accountable to anybody with a direct stake in the organization.  An employee for example may start a new program without disclosing its complete liabilities.  Liabilities are promised to employees on the full faith and credit of the organization but not formally recorded anywhere, leading to accounting fraud.  NPO’s therefore can very easily be greatly affected by financial problems unless strict controls and measurements are instated. 


Morris, S. 2000. Defining the Nonprofit Sector: Some Lessons from History. Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, (11)1: 25-43.

Luckert, Kate. 2011. Nonprofit Organizations (Definitions and Examples) [Online]. Available: [2012, March 27].


Star of the Study: The Institute for the Blind – A short Historical overview

Star of the Study:  The Institute for the Blind – A short Historical overview

The Institute for the Blind

Rev Kobus Conradie, Chairman of the Board of Control of the Institute for the Blind, recently stated the following in the Institute’s ANNUAL REPORT (2010 – 2011):

 “Our society is no longer controlled by the largest deemed denominator, the view of the community, but by what you deem correct.  And together with that comes the evil of hedonism – take as much as possible out of life to make it pleasant and worthwhile.  It is therefore logical that an organization such as the Institute for the Blind that depends on the generosity of people will suffer during these times.  And we have indeed observed the decrease in income at the Institute. But on the other hand, we are also surprised by the many people who move in against the stream of this storm – people that still do not live for themselves, but are rather prepared to, on all levels, lighten the burden of those who are less privileged.”

The blind person has always been part of mankind, but has not always been part of society.  For centuries the blind person has been marginalized by society.  The care and responsibility for the blind person has always been the responsibility of the family. The first school for the blind was established in 1784 in Paris, France.  In 1877 two ministers of the Dutch Reformed Church, Pastor William Murray of Worcester and Pastor Christiaan Rabie of Piketberg, became aware of the special needs of deaf and blind children in their congregations as well as in the greater South Africa.  In 1881 “Het Doofstommen en Blinden Instituut” was established in Worcester, which paved the way for the education of the blind.  This was the beginning of the meaningful integration process of the blind into society and the workplace.

The first teacher entrusted with the educational needs of these learners was Mr Jan de la Bat.  Lenie du Toit was the first ever learner and was within two months followed by 7 co-learners of whom one was blind.  After 25 years, it was found that the differences in teaching methods, determined by the diverse needs of the disabilities, necessitated the establishment of two separate schools. 

By the end of the 19th century music training and handwork were established as main focus areas.  A need for baskets in the local agricultural sector led to the training and further development of cane weaving.  The academic programme with special adaptations was developed, and very soon the blind child followed the National Curriculum as offered in mainstream schools in the country.  The school has developed into a leader in the field of education for the blind and partially sighted learner.  Braille Printers, nowadays Pioneer Printers was established to produce literature and learning material for the visually impaired.  In 1998 the school opened its doors to the specific learning-disabled learner. 

During the course of many years, many dedicated men and women were involved in the development of the education for blind learners.

 Past and present Principal(s)

  • Mr BJG de la Bat – first principal of “Het Doofstommen en Blinden Instituut”
  • Mr MJ Besselaar – first principal of the School for the Blind after separate schools for the two disabilities were established in 1905.
  • Dr PE Biesenbach – 1929
  • Prof Theo Pauw – 1961
  • Dr JH van der Poel – 1979
  • Dr PJ Botes – 1996
  • Mr PH Pettit – 2005
  • Mr PA Greyling (Acting Principal July 2006-2008)
  • Mr HF Mentz – 2009 till 2011

The school currently caters for learners with special educational needs in 3 focus groups: visually impaired learners, learners with learning barriers and the multiple disabled/deafblind learners.  The Institute is a programme of BADISA, a jointly ministered undertaking of the Dutch Reformed Church (Western and Southern Cape) and the Uniting Reformed Church of SA (Cape).  In 1991 the Institute for the Blind appointed its own Board of Control. The organization regards its overall vision to be “Equal opportunities for visually impaired persons”. Today, the Industries provide employment opportunities to over 160 visually impaired adults in six different factories. Various opportunities have been developed over the years by which the public can become involved and support the Institute, including being involved as a volunteer, purchasing their products (mattresses, cane-furniture), utilizing their services (audio magazines and –newspapers), making a bequest, becoming a supporter and enjoying a tax benefit, etc. 

 Vision, Mission and Objectives of the Organization


To provide Equal Opportunities for Visually Impaired Persons.


The mission of the Institute for the Blind is to empower persons who are blind, partially sighted or deaf blind, including persons with additional disabilities, by means of education, training, development and care towards a fulfilled life and complete citizenship.

 The main aims of the Institute are to:

  • provide accommodation and employment to visually impaired persons, depending on availability and in compliance with specific criteria;
  • employ and accommodate multi-handicapped visually impaired persons in a supportive living and working environment, depending on availability and in compliance with certain criteria;
  • improve the quality of life of frail older persons by providing accommodation
  • initiate the training of professional and non-professional staff involved with the visually impaired;
  • encourage community involvement at all levels
  • provide employment opportunities to the visually impaired and generate funds, through commercial ventures, though not for profit
  • initiate or participate in outreach programmes and supportive ventures connected to visual impairments to ensure integration into the community
  • promote co-operation with national and international associations for the visually impaired;
  • promote formal education, training and care to blind, partially sighted, deaf blind and multi-disabled scholars by assisting financially
  • contribute financially towards investigating career opportunities for visually impaired persons, providing applicable training (career development) and to undertake career placement
  • Contribute financially towards promoting literacy and enhancing the quality of life of persons with visual impairments through the production and distribution of literature in all the mediums accessible to the visually impaired.
  • Raise awareness throughout society including at family level, regarding blind, partially sighted and deaf blind persons and to foster respect for their rights and dignity
  • Promote awareness of the capabilities and contributions of blind, partially sighted and deaf blind persons
  • Promote positive perceptions and greater social awareness towards blind , partially sighted and deaf blind persons
  • promote recognition of the skills merits, abilities and contributions of persons with disabilities to the workplace and the labour market


…The third and Final Step: Final Revised Proposal – This is it!

…The third and Final Step:  Final Revised Proposal – This is it!

From Charity Organization to Charity Brand:  An exploratory (reception/audience research) study into the importance of Brand Orientation in the Charity Sector, with a specific focus on the use and representation of the Institute for the Blind’s ‘brand’ in local media texts and the effect this perception of the brand has on the donating practices and choices of two age-related differing groups of potential donors.


Over the last 50 years, the commercial sector has developed and built brands as a means of differentiation in an increasingly competitive environment. The charity sector, on the other hand, is becoming similarly competitive as consumers demand transparency and clear information about the added value of the charities.  Kooiman (2010) argues that, in recent years, “there has been a tremendous growth in the charity sector. This growth is reflected in a huge increase in number and in competition, but also within the charities themselves, through developments in their brand thinking.” Some charity organisations are turning to charity brand status, not only in terms of a name, slogan and logo, but more importantly in terms of communicating value and meaning to their stakeholders and donors.


As this study will mostly be focused around the concept of “Brand orientation”, it is thus important to note that the term encompasses that the formulation of a company’s strategy is based on brands. By focusing the company’s commitment, energy, time and resources on creating, building, developing and nurturing their brand, a platform for a sustainable competitive strategy is achieved. The essence of having a brand orientation approach for any company in any sector,  therefore lies in the fact that successful application of branding can create “distinctiveness and value for the organization, its product and the consumer” (Graham, Harker, Harker & Tuck , 2003: 33). ‘Branding’ thus provides benefits to both the company, its products and the final consumer.  A branded product or service distinguishes itself from the competition in similar markets, enabling it to be easily recognized and recalled by consumers.  The adoption of the practice of branding ultimately presents the opportunity to a company to increase a product′s recognition, awareness and visibility, and to clarify the image of the product in the consumer′s mind.  According to Graham et al (2003: 33), branding therefore is a significant marketing tool and, as mentioned earlier, is used to differentiate an organization′s product(s) in the marketplace. Branding strategies are “developed by the organization, for the product, in order to position and identify the brand with positive product benefits to attract potential customers (or in this case, donors).” Aaker (1991: 271), on the other hand, defines brand awareness as “the ability of a potential buyer to recognize or recall that a brand is a member of a certain product category”.  Many generic or undifferentiated consumer goods have been differentiated by means of branding and successful branding can therefore be said to achieve high market share and sales for an organization in both the commercial as well as charity sector.  Charity organizations are increasingly realizing that they should professionalize their conduct in order to continue their existence.  The Institute for the Blind (the specific NPO chosen for this research study) is a non-profit organization based in Worcester which is over 130 years old. Their mission is “To empower persons who are blind, partially sighted or deafblind, including visually impaired persons with additional disabilities by means of education, training, development and care towards a fulfilled life and complete citizenship” (Institute for the Blind, 2011).  The question this study aims to answer is whether non-profit organisations such as the above mentioned, accept the theory, practice and effective implementation of branding, and whether or not they regard it as strategically important to endorse the conversion from charity organization to strong charity brand. An organization that centers around the brand in this way can thus be described as “brand oriented”. For the purpose of this study, exploratory research needs to be done to determine whether (and how much) or not age plays a role in the donating behaviour and donor choice  process in terms of the representation and strength of the charity’s ‘brand’ in the media.  A non-profit organization such as The Institute for the Blind is well defined in terms of their target market or target donor segment, but the primary question this study will try to answer is how the organization’s ‘brand’ in the media is perceived by two different age groups in diverse life stages, and how the Institute can use these findings or insights to appeal to and target more segments in its quest for donations.


The purpose when undertaking this study is to conceptualise and explore, through qualitative exploratory research (specifically through reception/audience research using focus group interviews), what the effect and perceptions regarding the use of the Institute for the Blind’s ‘brand’ in media texts (print, video, audio) are of two different age groups of potential donors.  The selection of the two groups will be based on age and life stage, in an attempt to answer the research problem whether the perception, reception and importance of the strength of a charity’s brand in the media is influenced by the potential donor’s age and if the latter plays a role in donating behaviour. Thus, the effect of the existence and strength or non-existence of this brand- orientated approach and its use in the media will be evaluated and interpreted according to the selected young adults (18-24: group 1) opposed to selected older individuals (50+: group 2).  Depending on the results and insights born from this study, recommendations can be made to assist the Institute in using its branding strategies and brand identity to appeal to a wider donor segment.


The overall objective is to explore the increasing importance of a brand-orientated approach by charity organizations, and what the effect of brand-orientation is on the donor behaviour of two different age groups. This overall objective can be broken down into three main objectives. The primary objective is to determine the level of brand orientation implemented by The Institute for the Blind in media texts. The secondary objective is to verify whether or not donors are influenced by the strength and efficiency of a charity’s brand identity. The tertiary objective is to identify whether the Institute for the Blind is making the best use of their current ‘brand’ in the media to appeal to a wide range of audience in different life stages.  Due to the subjectivity and qualitative nature of this study, the following proposition can be drawn: The use of a brand-orientated approach in the media by non-profit organizations has an effect on the perceptions and donor behaviour of different age groups in different life stages, which consequently influences the donor choice processes of these groups. (Omitted the entire ‘dependant and independent variables’ part, as you suggested – more appropriate for a quantitative study)


A qualitative approach to address the research problem will be used in this study.  The specific research methodology that will be conducted is of an exploratory nature. Exploratory research (specifically in this case, reception/audience research) is not intended to provide conclusive evidence, and further research needs to be done to determine a particular course of action (Zikmund and Babin, 2008). Exploratory research is thus used to gain new insights and understandings regarding the complex world of non-profit organizations using a brand-orientated approach in their operations and consequently its effect on the potential donating behaviour and choices of different age groups.  The prescribed and preferred methodological approach to reception analysis entails a kind of qualitative interview, thus the research method that will be utilised in this study is focus-group interviews (where respondents can specifically verbalize their experiences of the media material presented to them).  According to Deacon et al (1999: 55), “focus-group research is becoming an ever more popular qualitative research method within communication and cultural studies…(and) one of the most popular means for analysing media audiences.” This research technique is appropriate because it is relatively easy to execute, relatively fast, provides multiple perspectives, produces rich qualitative material suited for interpretation, and is relatively flexible. The interviews will contribute to the existing knowledge of the charity industry as a whole as well as the donating experience; and more importantly new insights regarding the role that age and different life stages play in the choices made when donating will be born.  For the purpose of this study, non- probability sampling will be used. The latter sample selection is based on the personal judgement of the researcher or convenience of the sample selection. Thus, the probability of a member in the population being selected for the purpose of this study is unknown. In this specific study judgement and snowball sampling will be mainly used where the researcher will purposively select the sample units. Experts in the charity field, employees of the Institute as well as a recent donor database of the NPO will be consulted to assist with the selection of the respondents. The reason for selecting a focus group for this study is supported by Zikmund (2003: 117) for “the focus group interview has become so popular that many research agencies consider it to be the ‘only’ exploratory research tool.  Two focus group sessions will be held with a total of 6 to 8 respondents in the group selection. One group will contain respondents aged 50+, whereas the other group will consist of a selection of 18-24 year-olds.  The criteria for the selection of the two groups of respondents (besides their age) will predominantly be based on demographic factors such as income, previous donating practices/experiences regarding the Institute for the Blind, LSM group, history of involvement with any other NPO, religion, access to basic local media material (TV, print, radio), residential area (all respondents should be located in the town of Worcester).  The focus groups will be held in Worcester and will be of an informal and relaxed nature. A convenient location, most probably at the head-quarters of The Institute for the Blind, will be provided where the focus group sessions will take place. The discussion will be based on the use of a schedule of questions, and the interviewer will facilitate the group discussion by actively encouraging group members to interact with each other.  The interviewer will expose different forms of media texts (TV commercial, radio interviews, newspaper clippings, brochures) in which the Institute’s ‘brand’ has featured and is used. The discussions with the two different groups will be recorded using an audio recorder, after which the data will be transcribed, and then analysed using conventional techniques for qualitative data, most probably thematic analysis. The findings will be used as building blocks for concluding arguments concerning the proposition made.

Primary and Secondary research

Published books and journals, such as the Marketing Research Reader, the Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Consumer Marketing, Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, Journal of Business Research International Journal of Management Reviews, International Journal of Voluntary and Non-profit Organizations, Journal of Voluntary Action Research, will be consulted to gather additional information.  Professionals and experts working in the charity sector (specifically managers and selected employees of The Institute for the Blind) will be consulted for further knowledge of the industry and the organization itself. The University of Cape Town Library database will be used to further gather additional secondary research material. Furthermore, internet sources will also be consulted as a tool to gain information and insights regarding the subject.  The primary research (assembled specifically for the project at hand) that will be undertaken in this study is of a qualitative nature; thus subjective, and “leaves much of the measurement process to the discretion of the researcher” (Zikmund 2003:132).


 Aaker, D. 1991. Managing Brand Equity: Capitalizing on the Brand. The Free Press:

New York, NY.

 Deacon, D.; Pickering, M.; Golding, P. & Murdock,G. Researching Communications: a Practical Guide to Methods in Media and Cultural Analysis. London: Arnold.

 Graham,P., Harker, D., Harker, M. & Tuck, M. 1994. Branding food endorsement programs: The National Heart Foundation of Australia. Journal of Product & Brand Management, (3)4: 31-43.

 Kooiman, N. 2010. The succes of ideals [Online]. Available: [2012, February 14].

 The Institute for the Blind. 2011. [Online]. Available: [2012, February 15].

 Zikmund, W.G. & Babin, B.J. 2008. Exploring Marketing Research. Louisiana: SouthWestern Cengage Learning.