“The Listening Project” Finds Fiscal Australia Not Listening to NFPs
30 September 2010 at 2:37 pm
A major study into the survival of Australian Not for Profits – The Listening Project- finds that the sector needs to be more visible and valued by government and corporate bodies.
Charities and community groups in every state and territory throughout Australia are included in “The Listening Project”, which studied more than 800 Not for Profits.
Commissioned by Connecting Up Australia and conducted by CUA executive Karen Gryst, research for The Listening Project has resulted in dozens of case studies about the struggle for survival by Australian charities, community services and other Not for Profit groups.
Study author Gryst says that one key finding was that the sector itself needs to present a united front, to share information for the benefit of the whole sector.
Gryst says the sector needs to work together and have a national focus – to be more visible and valued by government and peak corporate bodies, because right now their separate voices aren’t loud enough.
She says the year-long study confirms the big picture issues, daily challenges and priorities for Australia’s Not for Profits and it’s time that government and funding bodies listen and understand the best way to assist.
She says it comes as no surprise that the social sector is “poorly paid and burned out" with some NFPs working in decrepit buildings with next to no resources, where it’s difficult to keep staff motivated and hard to recruit new staff.
Gryst says that for some services, funding is retrospective – services that support refugees, people with a disability seeking employment, rural people who are ill and need a bed while getting health treatment in the city – which means staff can’t plan ahead and are under-funded for present demands.
She says most funding doesn't allow for capital items with one service in Queensland explaining that it can’t get enough funding to buy new pillowcases.
Yet Gryst says her journey around Australia interviewing hundreds of people who are the backbones of their communities was inspirational.
She says she was amazed, considering the pressure these services are under, that people gave so generously of their time for the study.
Gryst says there were common issues, from the smallest group right through to the biggest charities and they echoed the findings of the Productivity Commission: Australia needs more investment in social innovation and support for capacity development and technology infrastructure.
But, she says, there is a need for government to harness the quality of small battlers and adjust the competitive tendering model so they are not disadvantaged by the big, more visibly successful charities.
Connecting Up Australia commissioned The Listening Project to explore the Australian Not for Profit sector’s emerging and persistent priorities in terms of operational and strategic challenges to inform possible responses, programs and services that address the issues that have emerged. Connecting Up Australia is a Not for Profit organisation that has been focused on capacity development for the sector for nearly 30 years.
The issues as expressed by research participants can be categorised under the following headings:
A. Structure and resourcing of the sector
B. Government funding
C. Fundraising and alternative income development or social enterprise
D. Human resources volunteers, staff, board
E. Research, capacity development and evaluation
The report including extensive case studies can be downloaded at www.connectingup.org/listening-project-report