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COVID-19: Seven tips to help community organisations pivot

23 June 2020 at 7:00 am
Lali Wiratunga
Pivoting can help your community organisation navigate these disruptive times with confidence. Lali Wiratunga, national manager of Westpac’s Davidson Institute, shares seven reasons why.

Lali Wiratunga | 23 June 2020 at 7:00 am


COVID-19: Seven tips to help community organisations pivot
23 June 2020 at 7:00 am

Pivoting can help your community organisation navigate these disruptive times with confidence. Lali Wiratunga, national manager of Westpac’s Davidson Institute, shares seven reasons why.

The history of Australia’s community organisations is one of resilience and shows that opportunities are present no matter how challenging the times. Here are some tips to help your organisation sustain and have an impact into the future.

1. Let strategy be your guide before you pivot

A strategic pivot is all about turning toward opportunities that your organisation can be positioned to address. Moreover, for a community organisation, a strategic pivot must also help to achieve its desired impact, so it can succeed over the long term.

Pivots whether large or small, should emerge from a clear understanding of what is working and what is not. Using data and insights as a guide to help decide on whether it’s right to pivot will ensure that you pivot in the right direction. The data may come from your existing customer relationship management, donor management systems or be derived from stakeholder surveys or feedback from focus groups. To make informed and effective decisions, the right insights then need to be readily accessible, interpretable, and actionable at the point of need – a situation enabled by technology and a culture of making data easily available.

Finding ways to test reactions to a pivot concept will ensure you can better manage stakeholders including customers, beneficiaries, staff and donors. 

2. Be beneficiary centric

Think broadly about the current and potential value you can bring to those your community organisation services. Consider product, technology, process, and service as currently offered and adjacencies that beneficiary groups may need. What problems or pain points are they facing that you or others aren’t yet addressing? How best with the resources available might your community organisation reimagine current services and/or add to them to bring greater value to your beneficiary?  

To help, Westpac’s financial education experts, The Davidson Institute have created an Innovation Toolkit which includes guidance on gathering customer insights using customer profiles, stories and journey mapping.

3. Consider if you have the right cultural fit for a lean approach

Having the right strategy in place to test a pivot is a box you may have ticked. The foundation that needs to be in place to succeed with a strategic pivot is the cultural attitude of the organisation and of course its people. This is a vital delineation, without this foundation it is possible for leaders or early adopters to have a plan to pivot, but impossible for the organisation to implement it.

Testing and learning before a full-scale change often translates into a sharper service offering and clearer path to near term success. A great example of this is STREAT, a social enterprise that has been supported by the Westpac Foundation since 2010. STREAT’s pivot to respond to the current times was the launch of Moving Feast, a new urban agriculture initiative to help keep young people safe and active – all while remaining at a safe social distance from one another. Bringing this idea to the market, involved a test and learn approach and people from across the organisation. 

“Our strategy has been to be clever in the way we’re using resources – not being reckless – but trying a heap of things very rapidly to help create the future, rather than being a victim of the future,” Bec Scott, co-founder of STREAT explains. They involved all employees in their research and development process, sourcing hundreds of ideas from various teams. Then they prioritised and tested them for viability by creating new teams, rapidly prototyping and, finally, getting products to market. Visit Westpac to learn more about STREAT’s pivot and Bec Scott’s thoughts on the Future of Work.

4. Engage and seek endorsement to pivot

Where your funding is tied, discussions should be considered with funders to seek flexibility to allow these funds to be repurposed to facilitate a “pivot” of the organisation in light of current circumstances which may impact the ability to deliver programs.

5. Ensure you are operationally ready to pivot, and you have prioritised

Pivoting to deliver a new service may mean you need to source additional resources – be they materials or labour – often quickly in a competitive environment. Securing your supply chain is essential if you want to ensure your new venture is ready to succeed.

Try being specific about your plan, success requirements, and expectations.  Then prioritise what work needs to be done.  Consider what will be different: broadly across your organisation’s operations and specifically for each person.  

Beyond prioritisation you’ll need to align resources behind your new plan. An important check to consider: if your new plan involves a shift in direction but no change in work – in other words, “we’re going to retain everything we were doing before plus do this new thing” – then chances are you’re probably not really prioritising.  

6. Secure working capital and cash flow

Taking advantage of a new opportunity can mean spending money upfront. Having good cash flow and access to working capital can make it possible for you to do so. Consider talking to your bank about the options available to you. Westpac customers, including community organisations, can seek help during this challenging time.

Westpac’s Davidson Institute has created a handy checklist of cash flow and cost management strategies that could help manage the strain on your organisation. Also the Davidson Institute has a suite of money management resources to help community organisations.

7. Scenario planning

Your organisation should plan for multiple scenarios and time horizons, as you adapt and pivot. Scenario planning helps to identify what might happen in the future of your business, such as predicting cash flow in the short, medium, or long term. By modelling each scenario, you can create contingency plans to better prepare you for any situation. This helps to:

  • protect against revenue declines
  • create stability in your operations
  • take actions to maintain cashflow
  • plan for the actions that can be taken to recover and grow.

To help you with your planning, the Davidson Institute has included a template that you can complete with the actions you’ll take against particular scenarios in this guide to helping your organisation to respond and adapt.

Your organisation is here to serve the community. To continue to be able to help, there’s a time for staying the course and a time to pivot. The above tips can help ensure you continue to sustain your organisation and have an impact. 


Things you should know: 

This article “COVID-19: Seven tips to help your community organisation pivot” is produced by the Davidson Institute. The Davidson Institute offers a range of money management topics for individuals, businesses, and community organisations to help them build their financial confidence. For more information visit 

This information is general in nature and has been prepared without taking your objectives, needs and overall financial situation into account. For this reason, you should consider the appropriateness for the information to your own circumstances and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.


© Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 AFSL and Australian credit licence 233714.

Lali Wiratunga  |  @ProBonoNews

Lali Wiratunga is the national manager of Westpac’s Davidson Institute.

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