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Role of Advocacy a Priority for NFPs – State of the Sector Survey

24 November 2015 at 9:45 am
Xavier Smerdon
The role of advocacy, sector collaboration and improving the method of government funding agreements are the top priorities for Australia’s Not for Profit sector, according to the 2015 national survey by Pro Bono Australia.

Xavier Smerdon | 24 November 2015 at 9:45 am


Role of Advocacy a Priority for NFPs – State of the Sector Survey
24 November 2015 at 9:45 am

The role of advocacy, sector collaboration and improving the method of government funding agreements are the top priorities for Australia’s Not for Profit sector, according to the 2015 national survey by Pro Bono Australia.

The sector also pointed to capacity building, human capital, red tape reduction, the continuation of the charity regulator and measuring social impact as further priorities.

The national online State of the Not for Profit Sector survey of 1100 leaders, volunteers and sector managers reveals that the recognition of the role of advocacy by Not for Profit organisations is key to creating a thriving future for the sector.

Survey collaborator, Les Hems, a Director within the Transaction Advisory Team of Ernst & Young (EY), said almost nine out of 10 respondents (or 89 per cent) thought the recognition of the sector’s advocacy role was important and another two thirds (63 per cent) described it as extremely important.

The survey results coincide with the second anniversary of the Coalition Government, the removal of Tony Abbott as Prime Minister in favour of Malcolm Turnbull and a period in which the Government has been accused of attacking advocacy, including a Parliamentary Inquiry into the Register of Environmental Organisations around their advocacy rights and tax deductibility status.

Hems said the sector identified collaboration with other organisations, including collective impact, as having a positive impact on the performance of their organisation over the past year and that this impact would continue in 2016.

The high priority given to both advocacy and collaboration comes as Australia’s sector leaders joined forces recently to advocate for change urging hundreds of charities to merge or shut down as the best way to use dwindling government funding and increase their outcomes.

“We have seen in this, our third Sector Survey, that the concern around advocacy outshone even the sector’s strongest wishes for the continuation of organisations like the ACNC and the reduction in red tape,” Pro Bono Australia founder, Karen Mahlab AM, said.

“It speaks to the sectors role as advocates for the many and varied causes they represent.”

An overwhelming majority of respondents, 99 per cent, said that the priority of Governments should be to commit to improving funding agreements.

Federal Government funding procedures received an almost universal response as having a negative impact on the sector (93 per cent).

A commitment to a minimum of three year contracts was rated highest (94 per cent), followed by a commitment to a six month “end of notice” period (92 per cent).

The survey again confirmed the sector’s support for the Australian and Charities Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), with 80 per cent confirmed the ACNC was needed to create a thriving sector and with almost 6 out 10 (58 per cent) respondents preferring the regulator, followed by three out of 10 (30 per cent) preferring a co-regulation regulatory system.

Capacity building was another priority issue for the sector with half of the survey respondents revealing that their organisations spent less than 2 per cent of their budgets on capacity building including education and training, with four out of five organisations spending less than 5 per cent.

As many as 75 per cent of those surveyed said they would like to spend more on capacity building, particularly in the areas of leadership and management, strategy and governance.

Respondents identified donations from the public (80 per cent), grants from Foundations (78 per cent) and profits from commercial activities and social enterprises (71 per cent) as positive influences on organisational performance for the next year.

Respondents were also most positive about human capital – the different contributions people make to Not for Profit organisations. The highest ranked positive contribution for the next year was identified as paid staff (92.3 per cent) volunteers (86.1 per cent) and skilled volunteers (82.5 per cent).

The survey participants said that subsidies for training and scholarships were ways for government to improve human capital within the sector. 93 per cent of respondents rated board members as having an increasing impact over the next year – a three year high on previous surveys.

But on the issue of measuring financial and social performance the results were mixed.

Most respondents said their organisation was measuring financial performance well, but they were not doing such a good job on measuring social outcomes and performance measurement for the specific populations they serve, such as children and young people.

Larger organisations were most positive (71 per cent) about measuring their financial performance but there was little difference amongst different sizes of organisations in relation to measuring social outcomes – except that those respondents relating to organisations with between six and 10 employees who were most positive about social outcomes (50 per cent compared to an average of 44 per cent).

Respondents also identified a number of sector development initiatives as being of the highest priorities including a mechanism to expand  and strengthen partnerships between business and NFPs, a Social Finance Taskforce, a national public campaign to promote philanthropy and workplace giving and a program to support the development of social enterprises, co-operatives and mutuals delivering public services.

Over four in 10 (44 per cent) respondents said that the sector was currently performing well with a similar proportion (41 per cent) stating that performance was average.

However, 15 per cent stated that the sector was underperforming. Sector leaders and managers were more positive about performance (46 per cent) than respondents fulfilling other roles (41 per cent) but there was no difference in the proportion stating that the sector was underperforming.

The survey found that respondents were also split on their perceptions of the performance of the sector over the next year.

Over a third (36 per cent) said that the sector will improve over the next year and less than a third (32 per cent) said that it will get worse. These perceptions are substantially more positive than 2014 (24 per cent improve and 49 per cent worse).

Download the full report HERE.

Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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