Sustain Impact: Donor practices to grow enterprise support organizations
Published by: Argidius Foundation


“The report, aimed at donors, underscores the transformative potential of reevaluating funding for Enterprise Support Organizations (ESOs) and its profound impact on the sustainability and scalability of services that bolster Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). SMEs are vital contributors to economic growth, particularly in emerging markets, offering innovation, employment opportunities, and societal and environmental advancements. These SMEs rely on Business Development Services (BDS) provided by ESOs. However, current funding often prioritizes short-term quantity over long-term quality. The report emphasizes the pivotal role of donor relationships in fostering ESO growth and sustainable service delivery. By analyzing the growth trajectories of prominent ESOs globally and the role of donors in their development, the report provides recommendations for more effective donor engagement to enhance sustained impact. Using the metaphor of trees, it distinguishes visible aspects (services provided) from less apparent ones (culture, governance, finance, systems) and stresses the need for balanced growth across dimensions to achieve sustained impact. Shifting donor practices towards comprehensive organizational development of promising ESOs is likened to nurturing a tree for consistent, quality fruit production at significant scale over time.”