Nigeria: Banking Response to Nonprofit Needs

The ‘Sterling CARES’, a free-banking service for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Nigeria, is expected to bridge the funding gap for nonprofits severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some NGOs in the country, like their equivalents in other parts of Africa, have been forced to downsize and lay off staff at a time when the work of nonprofits have become critical.

A 2020 survey of over 1,000 African civil society organisations (CSOs) across 44 countries showed that 98 percent of them had been adversely impacted by the pandemic.

CSOs, according to the report, were also not receiving necessary support from some national governments in addition to the fact that they are often excluded from emergency funding mechanisms.

The Sterling One Foundation, in collaboration with Sterling Bank and the Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNNGO), launched the free banking service to support the social impact and philanthropic activities of charitable organisations in Africa’s most populous nation.

The Sterling CARES account, according to the Chief Executive Officer, Sterling One Foundation, Olapeju Ibekwe, will allow NGOs to operate their corporate accounts without account maintenance and transaction charges with the only applicable charge on the account being for SMS notifications.

This initiative ‘is open only to NGOs, legal entities operated for a social benefit. It is introduced to help them keep costs down at this challenging time when their work and support is needed now more than ever by people with a low socio-economic background’, Ibekwe said in a statement.

The Sterling CARES initiative is expected to support NGOs in playing their essential role of providing services to and representing the needs of poor and marginalised populations in rural and urban communities across the country.

With the launch of Sterling CARES, everyday banking transactions for NGOs are effectively at zero cost and with conventional sources of funding growing thin.

‘This novel product is a revolutionary declaration of support by Sterling Bank and Sterling One Foundation for those organisations committed to helping the vulnerable and whose work supports the attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs] in Nigeria’, the NNNGO Executive Director, Oyebisi, Oluseyi, said in a statement.

‘It is indeed a landmark non-profit banking product in our history and on the African continent that we know of. This will go a long way in further increasing both the social and economic impact of Nigerian civil society organisations by freeing up more resources to scale non-profit solutions’.

Ibekwe noted that NGOs needed alternative sources of income and funding for their various programmes and services.

‘Sterling CARES is a child of necessity introduced to support financing of the Sustainable Development Goals via fee-free banking for nonprofits. With its introduction, everyday banking transactions are now at no cost’, Ibekwe added.

‘The era of payment of bank charges by non-profits is over! They can now bring their banking cost down and do more with the savings from account maintenance fees and transaction-related charges’.

It is understood that additional benefits include access to a full bouquet of online banking services and a donation link on the website of nonprofits for receiving local and international transfers.

According to Ibekwe, the product is exclusive to nonprofits and is not open to religiously shaped institutions, cooperative societies, schools, and associations.

Furthermore, NGO customers can expect to enjoy this free-banking service for as long as they keep an account with the bank.

Photo source: Sterling Bank

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