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NFPs Urged to Operate More Like Social Businesses


30 October 2017 at 5:39 pm
Luke Michael
A leading not-for-profit CEO has urged other NFPs to operate more like social businesses, after she was nominated as a finalist for the Telstra Business Women’s Awards.


Luke Michael | 30 October 2017 at 5:39 pm


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NFPs Urged to Operate More Like Social Businesses
30 October 2017 at 5:39 pm

A leading not-for-profit CEO has urged other NFPs to operate more like social businesses, after she was nominated as a finalist for the Telstra Business Women’s Awards.

Violet Roumeliotis is the CEO of Settlement Services International (SSI), which provides a range of services in areas such as refugee settlement, housing, disability support, employment services and youth support.

Last Friday, at the NSW Telstra Business Women’s Awards, Roumeliotis was selected as a state finalist in the For Purpose and Social Enterprise category, to compete for the national awards held in Melbourne this November.

Roumeliotis has credited her success as a business woman to a values-driven, entrepreneurial mindset, and said SSI was breaking the traditional NFP mould and operating more like a social business.

She told Pro Bono News that more NFPs should consider this business approach to running their organisation.

“Like many NFPs, SSI is designed to deliver a number of different programs and of course we focus on delivering them efficiently and effectively, so that we can achieve a surplus,” Roumeliotis said

“And running like a social business is a great motivation to stick to our budget and to be really focused and targeting on what we do.

“It has allowed us to reinvest into projects that bring a social impact, which is something more NFPs should consider. Because if you get your board behind it, you can reinvest any surpluses that you have back into your community which adds great value.”

She talked about her “honey bee” approach to business, which she said leads to better outcomes for NFPs.

“I’ve found over the years that businesses that operate like honey bees are collaborative and can generate value for themselves and their community,” she said.

“Whereas others just serve their own interests – even in the not-for-profit sector. They consume whatever comes in their path, like locusts in a way.

“They have no sense of sustainability or succession planning which is very important.”

Roumeliotis said it was important for NFPs to expand their organisations without “ruthlessly competing” with other NFPs, which was possible through innovation and collaboration.        

She said she was proud of SSI because they had grown exponentially, “without being predatory”.

“Innovation is very important as well as not being risk averse. But the key message is that there is more than enough work for all of us. We should be collaborators and innovators together,” she said.

“We have 45 partnerships where we collaborate with different organisations of all sizes to meet the needs of our communities.

“We don’t have to do everything our own and run everything, but we can be part of that. Once you have developed strong relationships within the NFP sector, we can be competitive while working together and grow in leaps and bounds.”


Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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One comment

  • Avatar Di Ebsary says:

    Another thought provoking article from Probono, as a regular reader I continue to appreciate your journalistic attention in this way. Congratulations to Violet Roumeliotis on becoming State Finalist for the Awards. So many positive and true words shared; and the truth that NFPs have not focused on behaving in this way historically is a hard one to take. Again, a Third Party Organisation that holds NFPs ethically and competently accountable is integral to re-aligning future directions & re-engaging the confidence of clients, volunteers & workers. Collaboration, respect & empowering through diversity IS the way to work with people.

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