Targeted Capacity Building: The Key to Unlocking Maximum Social Impact
3 May 2018 at 8:22 am
Maximising social impact requires a shift towards long-term funding, and more focused capacity building, writes Gillian Turnbull from Social Ventures Australia.
Philanthropic funders are increasingly asking how they can optimise the impact they can have on the organisations they support.
It’s the right question to be asking; but the answer will differ depending on the organisation you are seeking to support. Every organisation will have different priority needs depending on where they are in their impact journey. There are no one-size fits all solutions.
Funders and supporters can provide real value by working closely with organisations and communities to understand what will help scale their impact, and providing tailored funding that meets these needs.
An approach that focuses on long-term, holistic capacity building – that equips organisations with the skills they themselves have identified as important – will be most likely to enable them to optimise their impact in a sustainable way.
This requires flexibility. You may have set aside budget to work with an organisation on a specific area but realise their needs lie elsewhere. It’s important to recognise where the biggest capacity gaps are and adapt accordingly.
One area where capacity building efforts are most often targeted is around outcomes. An outcomes mindset is important because it helps both funders and organisations understand how they are making a difference. However, for many of the organisations we work with at SVA, particularly smaller social purpose organisations, outcomes reporting can present some significant challenges that go beyond knowing “how” to report on outcomes.
During a recent panel discussion at an SVA Venture Philanthropy Impact Series event in Perth, Marnin Studio manager Caris Pepper highlighted that what is being measured is often very sensitive.
Marnin Studio is an arts and therapeutic studio operating out of the Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre in Fitzroy Crossing. It helps local women artisans turn the things they love into projects that provide a source of income and enable skills transfer and healing.
For Marnin Studio, measuring outcomes means understanding trauma. So, their challenge is not just what to measure, but also how to measure it in a way that does not intrude upon the lives of the women who attend the studio.
Funders need to be mindful of these complexities when they speak to organisations about the types of outcomes they are achieving and how to go about measuring them.
Another area that has become apparent to me through SVA’s experience working in partnership with social purpose organisations big and small, is that for organisations to have an impact that is sustainable and relevant requires strong leadership, collaboration and the involvement of the community.
While organisations will always have different priorities and needs – there is one that is common to them all. Time. Achieving social outcomes in a complex environment requires a long-term approach with flexibility around timelines to adapt to changes within the community.
A lot of pressure is being placed on organisations when they are unable to access long-term funding to help them take a long-term strategic approach to their work.
In order to maximise the social impact of these organisations and those who fund them, a shift towards long-term funding, and more focused capacity building is required.
About the author: Gillian Turnbull is a director on the consulting team at Social Ventures Australia (SVA).