Thursday, 4th September 2014 at 10:22 am
Federal Government policy, regulation and funding have been identified as having the biggest negative impacts on the Australian Not for Profit sector, according to a major survey by Pro Bono Australia, Net Balance Research Institute and the Community Council for Australia.
The national online State of the Not for Profit Sector Survey of 1250 Not for Profit leaders, volunteers and sector managers reveals that the confidence of the sector after the first twelve months of the Abbott Government has delivered a 34 point drop in the Not for Profit Sector Perceived Performance Index.
The survey again confirmed the Not for Profit sector’s support for the Australian and Charities Not for Profit Commission (ACNC) which the Federal Government is in the process of abolishing. Some 82 per cent (compared to 83 percent in the 2013 survey) believe the ACNC is important or extremely important for developing a thriving Australian Not for Profit sector.
Six out of 10 respondents stated that they preferred the ACNC as the form of regulation for the Not for Profit sector. Three out of 10 preferred a co-regulation system (a combination of formal and self-regulation) with only one in 17 supporting regulation through the Australian Tax Office and one in 20 supporting self-regulation.
An analysis of the survey results by Net Balance Institute researcher Les Hems found that whilst most respondents perceive that the Not for Profit sector is currently performing ‘well’ or ‘average’, respondents overall perceive that the performance of the sector is declining.
“The key findings from the survey are the decline in sector performance over the last year and expectations for performance to get worse over the next year and the drivers identified as generating this negative impact are government policy, regulation and funding – especially Federal Government,” Hems said.
“Similar concerns have been expressed for some State Governments with Queensland, South Australia, ACT and Victoria prompting the most concern.”
“Comparing respondents perceptions of sector’s current performance with the last year and looking forward to the next year, there is a 34 point drop in the Not for Profit Sector Perceived Performance Index,” Hems said.
“Half (49 per cent) of all respondents also predicted that sector performance will get worse over the next year with only a quarter (24 per cent) stating that sector performance will improve. This pessimism was shared by leaders and managers as well as those performing other roles,” Hems said.
“Smaller Not for Profits saw things getting far worse than the larger Not for Profits.”
“The commentary provided by many respondents focuses on the impact of changes to and the levels of uncertainty over Federal Government policy, regulation and funding. Similar concerns have been expressed for some State Governments with Queensland, South Australia, ACT and Victoria prompting the most concern,” Les Hems said.
“What this new survey tells us is that the collective voice of the charities and Not for Profit sector is becoming a choir of discontent,” Community Council for Australia CEO, David Crosbie said.
“The sector is very clearly calling for more consistent and sustainable support, and a stable regulatory environment that allows the sector to get on with doing what it does best – serving our communities. It is also seeking to be more transparent, to build trust and confidence with the community and the government.
“Governments who continue to dismiss the needs of the sector are risking a very real backlash. Ignoring these survey results would place government at odds with a very substantial part of the Australian community,” he said.
On the positive side, survey respondents identified profits from commercial activities and social enterprises, donations from the public and grants from Foundations as positive influences on organisational performance for the next year.
Respondents were asked to consider a range of influences relating to Government regulation and policy that may have a positive or negative impact on the performance of Not for Profit organisations.
Respondents supported specific components of the regulatory and policy framework as having a positive impact over the next year including:
- A report once and use many times reporting framework
- A one stop online information source for NFP organisation
- Charitable status and eligibility through the ACNC
- The Australian and Charities Not for Profit Commission (ACNC)
- A national register for charities community organisations and NFP organisations
- The Social Enterprise and Development Investment Funds (SEDIF)
A dedicated office for the Not for Profit sector and the proposed National Centre for Excellence for Civil Society received lower levels of support.
Respondents associated with foundations / intermediaries (62 per cent ) and religious organisations (59 per cent) were most positive about future sector performance but several sectors had more than half of respondents reporting that their performance will get worse over the next year.
- Culture and the arts
- Business and professional associations
- Advocacy and human rights
Respondents associated with education, international development, social services, and economic/community development and housing were evenly split over future sector performance
The report found that the sector is most positive about human capital – the different contributions people make to Not for Profit organisations. The highest ranked positive contribution for the next year is skilled volunteers closely followed by paid staff and volunteers.
The contribution of board members and external advisors and consultants was also reported as positive.
“Pro Bono Australia’s State of the Not for Profit Sector Survey 2014 set out to provide a voice for those with an interest in the Not For Profit sector and other stakeholders that contribute to the performance of the sector,” Les Hems said.
“Respondents had more positive perceptions of their own organisation’s current, past and future performance than the sector performance as a whole. Positive perceptions of current organisational performance are supported by positive perceptions of performance over the last year and looking forward to the next year.
“There is only a five point drop in the individual Not for Profit Organisation Perceived Performance Index compared to a 34 point drop for the overall sector index. This probably reflects respondents’ awareness of the significant challenges facing the sector and confidence in how their organisations are responding to these challenges.
“In the area of cross sectoral collaboration the highest priority identified by respondents was the establishment of a mechanism to expand and strengthen partnerships between business and Not for Profit organisations,” Hems said.
“This reflects not only the concerns over relationships with government and the limits of philanthropic resources but also businesses continuing support for Not for Profit organisations and growing interest and engagement in social impact.
“Over recent years there has been increasing partnership activities relating to corporate community investment, workplace giving, creating shared value, social finance and impact investing, and collective impact.
“The Government’s proposed Community Business Partnerships may provide a focus for these alternative approaches to cross-sectoral collaboration,” Hems said.
“There was strong support for the establishment of a social finance task force to develop a strategy to increase the capital available to the Not for Profit sector.
“This reinforces respondents support for the Social Enterprise and Development Investment Funds (SEDIF) which were seen as having a positive impact over the next year. The available evidence suggests that social enterprises, co-operatives and mutuals and Not for Profit organisations generally may not be ready for social finance, respondents identified a program to support the development of social enterprises and cooperatives / mutuals delivering public services as a priority.”
Pro Bono Australia Founder and CEO Karen Mahlab said: “I am proud of the ability of Pro Bono Australia to facilitate this far reaching national survey and give a broad, evidence based voice to the issues and concerns of the sector.”
"The 44,000 subscribers to our free news and information services online give us enormous reach into the the fast growing social economy”, Mahlab said.
The survey results will inform a National Press Club Event to be held in Canberra on Monday 8th September.
The discussion will be lead by Tim Costello, the Chief Executive at World Vision and Chair of Community Council for Australia (CCA), Jan Owen the Chief Executive Officer and Foundation for Young Australians and Toby Hall, the Chief Executive Officer for St Vincent’s Health Australia (SVHA).
The full Survey Results can be downloaded HERE