Darren Smith, Breaking New Ground

A new chapter in the story of the not-for-profit sector is being drafted. How do small to medium organisations ensure they're written into the script?

The not-for-profit sector has already experienced significant change and uncertainty over the last few years:

  • funding shifts from ‘giving for good’ to highly competitive tendering processes;
  • from reasonably straightforward reporting of service delivery activity to demonstrating outcomes; and
  • increased compliance and quality requirements.

Major shifts in government priorities have also seen the amount, type and direction of funding impact our sector, particularly the small and medium sized organisations.

We know that uncertainty and volatility for the sector is not going to stop any time soon. What can organisations do to strengthen and survive? Breaking New Ground (BNG) has identified five key actions organisations must do to be better prepared. You can also watch short videos on each of the must-dos on the BNG website.

Be Funding Ready

Don’t wait for funding opportunities to come knocking. They won’t. Organisations need to invest in resources to stay connected with potential sources of funding. Roles of funding ‘scouts’ to senior staff and governing body members need to be supported by short and long term income development plans.

Last minute scrambles to respond to funding tenders and invitations can be avoided. There is usually a fairly standard set of criteria and information requirements, so maintaining up-to-date details of the organisation, its capabilities and recent achievements will reduce some of the stress and allow more time to be creative with submissions.

Free download: Business Development Good Practice Guide

Take an organisation health check

Fit organisations know why they exist and what they have achieved, demonstrate strong leadership, manage resources well, attract and keep staff, have effective information and reporting systems, and have strong relationships with clients, community and stakeholders.

Keeping on top of strengths and vulnerabilities in these areas should inform quality improvement actions so the organisation can perform at its best.

Free download: Organisation Fitness Analysis Tool

Community Door also hosts an Organisational Development Toolkit, designed to support organisational efficiency, viability and sustainability into the future.

Partner, collaborate or merge?

Organisations cannot operate in isolation. A range of collaborations and partnerships are needed for effective service delivery. It is worth organisations regularly:

  • Asking themselves who they need to develop relationships with.
  • Assessing the benefits and risks.
  • Reviewing relationship processes.
  • Monitoring success or otherwise.

Be strategic in relationship development. Also, be prepared to adapt relationships as clients, services and the operating environment changes over the next few years. Mergers are significant and final undertakings, so they should only be explored once the organisation has considered and attempted to achieve what is needed through other partnerships and collaborations.

Free download: Interagency Partnership Considerations Information Sheet

Conquer risk and compliance

Exposure to risk is inevitable. Managing risk is essential.

Each organisation’s generic and unique risks will change in response to the external environment — particularly changes in government policy, funding and legislation, new clients, new service providers.

Free download: Risk Management Checklist

Promote, promote, promote!

Not the gimmicky product sell, but organisations do need to be able to ‘market’ who they are, tell the story of their achievements and their uniqueness. The work organisations do may be great, but the right people know about it and they need to hear it regularly. It’s time to get creative with the messages and the target audience of NFP sector organisations.

Organisations should ask themselves: how can we stand out from the rest of the pack?

Breaking New Ground (BNG) provides online services that help organisations in their day-to-day operations and management of standards, as well as consulting on issues affecting service providers in the community services and health sectors. Management Support Online (MSO) is an online service from BNG that provides you with the resources you need to run your organisation. MSO provides access to hundreds of resources on all aspects of running an NGO: policy and procedure templates, information sheets, good practice guides and diagnostics. It includes diagnostics to help assess your organisation’s strengths and weaknesses, Good Practice Guides and a complementary advice service to help you problem-solve difficult situations.

QCOSS Members get a 15% discount for a one year subscription.

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