And like that battered boxer, willpower only gets you so far. The sector needs to be better supported.
Our Not for Profit research report, Here for Good? paints a picture of a sector that’s "an agile industry bending with the winds of change, but the results also indicate a breaking point is on the horizon for many organisations." And now, the downstream negative effects of the current economic and weather events show no sign of slowing down. This means that the Government needs to invest more in the sector to enable NFPs to do what they do best.
This year’s Budget is a prime opportunity for the Government to make a big difference to the effectiveness and sustainability of the sector – they include funding or exploration of multi-year funding, high trust around reporting, streamlining the application process, enhancing the ability to plan and scale up education and capital expenditure (CAPEX), providing certainty for long-term projects, and supporting local delivery.
Long-term projects require significant planning and commitment. Multi-year funding is an investment in programmes or organisations for three to four years instead of the more typical single year funding cycle.
The 2023 Budget should provide certainty for NFPs embarking on these initiatives by ensuring multi-year funding is in place. This will allow organisations to develop comprehensive strategies, secure necessary resources, and achieve sustainable, long-lasting outcomes.
Multi-year funding enables NFPs to focus on strategic planning and long-term goals rather than scrambling to secure annual funding. This approach fosters innovation and encourages collaboration among organisations.
High trust reporting
The pandemic underscored the importance of providing flexible high trust financial support to the NFP sector, and this needs to continue as disruption remains a permanent fixture in our economy and communities.
It involves a much-reduced level of detail when reporting on outputs and outcomes for funded programmes. Low detail reporting is not no reporting, but it recognises the nature of NFP work means the output is a mix of concrete results, failures (learnings), and impacts based on anecdotal evidence.
Additionally, high trust reporting frameworks should be implemented to reduce the administrative burden on non-profits. By simplifying the reporting process and focusing on outcomes, NFPs can allocate more resources to their core mission, ultimately benefiting the communities they serve.
Reducing time and costs for applications: A panel approach
Navigating the complex and time-consuming funding application process has long been a challenge for non-profit organisations. The 2023 Budget should address this issue by funding the adoption of a panel approach, which involves pre-approval areas for funding applications. This would streamline the process, reducing the time and costs associated with grant applications.
A panel approach would establish designated funding areas aligned with government priorities and allow NFPs to apply within these pre-approved categories. This method would create a more efficient and targeted funding distribution process, reducing the administrative burden on both NFPs and the government.
Scaling up training and back office
Capital expenditure (CAPEX) plays a critical role in the NFP sector's ability to deliver essential services and grow its impact. NFPs do not provide their activity in a vacuum – for every front line service, there needs to be back office support with technology, training and administrative functions.
The Government should ensure that the Budget includes provisions for capital investments, enabling non-profits to acquire, maintain, and upgrade their infrastructure, technology, and equipment.
While we believe focusing on these areas will help the NFP sector do what it does best – even more important is a change of mindset.
It is ok if some of the programmes fail or the results are hard to measure. The problems we are trying to solve or minimise are complex and bloody hard, so why do we insist on giving no ability to fail, learn and improve?
And if society is doing better, then we are all doing better.