Shift the Political Debate - Better NFP Outcomes Need Better Infrastructure
29 August 2013 at 9:51 am
The current political debate needs to shift towards capacity development for the Not for Profit sector rather than focusing on the charity regulator, the ACNC, says Connecting Up CEO Anne Gawen.
Organisations need to have the right infrastructure to unleash their potential and unfortunately the recent political debate about the sector missed one of the most important issues – capacity development.
At the National Press Club pre-election debate last Friday Shadow Minister Kevin Andrews, Parliament Secretary Doug Cameron and Greens Senator Rachel Siewert each shared their view on the future of the sector.
I was reassured to hear all three major parties seem to have a strong commitment and passion for the sector (although the title of choice seems to be “civil society” at the moment), Kevin Andrews quoted that the NFP sector now employs around 8% of the workforce and Doug Cameron spoke about the importance of supporting the vulnerable in our community. Clearly they understand that this sector is a crucial part of Australian society.
However, what I didn’t hear from this debate is the need for the sector to look at the way it delivers its services to make them more efficient and ultimately increase the ability for better outcomes. It seems that capacity building – seen as being of highest priority by respondents to Pro Bono Australia’s 2013 Not for Profit Sector Election Survey – has been overlooked.
Kevin Andrews spoke about the amount of time that the sector is spending on bureaucracy. While there is value from reducing this from a regulatory perspective, from my experience often the reason for this is because of outdated technology systems and lack of appropriate ICT structures to support these systems.
While service delivery must always be our priority, we are best able to achieve that if there are adequate finances, planning and systems in place to ensure that organisations infrastructure and technology systems can support the service delivery. Will governments be prepared to fund this in future?
The good news is that there are already a number of leading IT companies extending their philanthropy to the Australian sector, providing not-for-profits and charities access to the latest technology. Donations from companies such as Microsoft, Cisco, Adobe, Symantec and Calxa have already saved Not for Profits millions of dollars through their partnership with Connecting Up and we are grateful for their contributions. Other partners offer substantial discounts to the sector.
However, building capacity doesn’t mean handing someone a fishing pole, they also need to know how to use it. The sector is crying out for better education and for all of us to move forward, we need to see a greater focus on up-skilling, especially in the use of technology.
As a sector, we’re strong. We employ around 900,000 people, inspire over 6 million Australians to volunteer each year and it’s not hard to see the amazing work that the sector is doing.
But we can do more. If the government is serious about supporting outcomes and building the capacity of the sector, the best outcome they can aim for is a more efficient, effective not-for-profit sector that has the right technology and education to continue serving the community to their full potential.
About the author: Anne Gawen is CEO of Connecting Up, a Not for Profit organisation which provides access to the tools and capabilities the NFP sector needs to fulfil its mission.
Connecting Up offers organisations access to donated and discounted technology products, training and educational events and a directory of Australian Not for Profits and charities.