Red Tape & Compliance Key NFP Issues – Sector Survey Results
Thursday, 15th August 2013 at 12:39 pm
Australian Not for Profits believe overwhelmingly that the reduction in Government red tape and compliance costs have been the most important initiatives in developing the sector over the past three years.
They also believe engaging with business and capacity building are high priorities for the next Government after the election.
These are the findings of a major Not for Profit sector survey by peak body, the Community Council for Australia and Tomorrow’s Agenda Research Institute and initiated by Pro Bono Australia to investigate the extensive sector reform that has taken place in recent years and the future of that reform.
More than 1500 respondents from the Not for Profit sector took part in the online survey between June 25th and July 25th, 2013.
Almost 60% of those who took part have worked in the NFP sector for more than 10 years.
Overall, survey respondents stated that most of the initiatives introduced over the past three years were important for the sector and the organisations they are associated with.
Respondents reported a strong preference for the newly established charity regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission (ACNC), when compared to the Australian Tax Office (ATO).
The survey found that the establishment of the ACNC was important (81%) along with the Office of the Not for Profit Sector (73%).
Regulation by the ACNC was the most supported preference for the type of regulatory framework (44%), while only a small proportion of respondents supported regulation by the Australian Tax Office (6%).
The Federal Liberal Coalition has said it would restructure the ACNC into a smaller, educative training body, returning its regulatory powers to the ATO and ASIC if it wins the election.
Of the survey respondents who mentioned the ACNC, the majority were positive about the expected sector improvements as a result of its implementation.
“The ACNC is seen as the key actor in addressing a number of the areas of concern identified in the survey, including governance, accountability, transparency, and streamlining reporting,” the Director of Research at Tomorrow’s Agenda Research Institute, Les Hems said in the report.
Harmonisation of fundraising legislation (91%), a ‘report once and use many times’ reporting framework (90%), a one-stop-shop online information source for NFPs (90%), and a national register (87%) also received a high level of support.
The lesser profiled National Compact, which was set up by the Federal Labor Government in 2010 as the overseer of the Government’s Not for Profit reform agenda received the lowest level of support (71%) and also had the most polarised views.
Respondents identified a range of actions that they say will improve the performance of the sector over the next three years:
- Implementing the ACNC
- Increasing collaboration and partnerships
- Capacity building the sector
- Improved governance within Not for Profit organisations
“There were also calls for action relating to the clarity and certainty of funding, specifically relating to longer funding periods to allow organisations to better forward plan and provide stable work for staff,” the report said.
Earlier this month the Federal Labor Government announced four year funding contracts for Not for Profits working within its Family Support Programs.
The survey found that Not for Profit CEOs have the most positive perceptions for performance and outlook (65%) and funders were the most pessimistic (28%).
Consultants (60%), paid managers (57%), other paid staff (57%) also had positive outlooks.
Beneficiaries (50%), volunteers (39%) and other stakeholders (34%) were less optimistic.
Respondents who had been involved the longest with the NFP sector had the most positive outlook.
Respondents from the ACT had the most positive perceptions for performance and outlook (70%) and those from Queensland were the most pessimistic (26%). Other states were as follows: WA (61%), NSW (57%), SA (57%), Victoria (55%), Tasmania (55%), NT (39%).
Respondents were asked what they were looking for in a future Government.
The survey found that they identified two areas – engaging with business and capacity building – as being high priorities for the next Government.
Respondents also identified a range of other areas where Government can provide support in terms of policy and funding to improve the performance of the sector.
Respondents identified partnerships with business and social finance as being the highest priority for Government to support to help create a vibrant, efficient and effective Not for Profit sector (84.6%).
The survey said respondents also want a mechanism to expand and strengthen partnerships between business and Not for Profit organisations with most supporting a Social Finance Task Force to develop a strategy to increase the capital available to the Not for Profit sector (81.8%).
There was also strong support for social impact bonds and a program to support the development of social enterprises and cooperatives / mutuals delivering public services (62.3%).
Capacity building was also seen by respondents as being of highest priority.
There was also support for a Centre of Excellence in Not for Profit effectiveness which was recommended by Productivity Commission in 2010 and supported by the Coalition (79.7%).
Researcher, Les Hems said the study provided high quality responses from a large and diverse group within the sector.
“There seems to be a vast majority that are positive and are supportive of the past initiatives and think that these will increase in importance over the next three years,” Hems observed.
“It is understandable that the detailed components of the regulatory reform get the highest level of support, whilst the institutional forms get lower levels of support.”
The results of the Sector Survey will be delivered to the major political parties for comment before the election.
“There are few opportunities for the Not for Profit sector to make a stand and elections are one of those times, when parties are in listening mode and potentially responsive to key constituencies,” Hems said.
“The Not for Profit sector is not only a key part of the Australian social fabric but also a significant economic force.”
The CEO of the Communities Council of Australia, David Crosbie says the survey shows that the sector is coming of age.
“As a sector we want our own regulator, we want a more active input into the policies that impact on us, we want to plan for a future that is not just about asking the Government for more money.
“We are concerned about the imposts on us that reduce our productivity and effectiveness in our day to day work, but also concerned about our longer term future.
"In this survey the sector has identified that access to capital will be a critical issue in the future – in part recognising the pressure on Government revenue and traditional philanthropy.”
Pro Bono Australia founder Karen Mahlab says the results of the survey reflect the sector’s ongoing appetite for reform and its willingness to continue to engage in the reform processes that has been put in place over the last three years.
Sector Snapshot: The Australian sector comprises over 600,000 charitable, Not for Profit, voluntary, community and social business organisations.
These organisations play key societal roles in relation to individual and community well-being, education, health, disability, welfare, housing, employment, environment, animal welfare, religion, arts, sport and recreation, and overseas.
The Australian NFP sector has a turnover of approximately $100 billion per annum, has over 1 million paid employees and benefits from the voluntary efforts of 5.2 million Australians.
Prior to the last election in 2010 the Productivity Commission concluded that the sector was not achieving its full potential and faced complex and long standing problems (Productivity Commission ‘The Contribution of the Not for Profit Sector’).
Survey Methodology: The online survey was designed and analysed by the Tomorrow’s Agenda Research Institute.
It was commissioned and implemented by Pro Bono Australia.
Over 1500 respondents nationally completed part or all of the online survey between 17th June and 25th July. The respondents breakdown comprised:
NFP CEO’s 19.2%, Paid Staff 37.9%, respondents from social services sector 53.9%, Organisations with 25+ employees 47%, Organisations with 100+ employees 28.6%.
The report can be downloaded below.