LISTENING AND LEARNING
Over a 6-month period starting from June to De-cember 2009 last year, the Co-Founders of Faith in Families – Messrs. Fred Astle and Karl Quirino, un-dertook an informal survey. It explored New Zea-land’s Nonprofit (or Third) Sector’s persistent and emerging priorities in terms of operational and strategic challenges to inform possible responses, programs and services that address issues that have emerged.
When they took a closer look at the Third Sector, their real task was to listen and learn rather than make assumptions because the sector involved a small sample reflecting off a diverse cross-section estimated at over 100,000 organ-isations across the country.
Talking to survey participants about their daily operational challenges exposed some unique issues. But they also discovered there existed strong themes and commonalities across the sub-sectors and the sector as a whole.
These were, in order of stated priorities:
- Capacity development
- Structure and resourcing
- Access to Government and other funding
- Human resources: volunteers, staff, board
- Alternative income development or social enterprise
- Upholding an ethic of commitment to the development of their commun-ity.
The findings led the Co-Founders to the following conclusions:
- Support should be concentrated first in capacity development services;
- Capacity development for the Third Sector is a sound economic strategy;
- Support will assist organisations to be more successful and more self-reliant; and,
- Enable them to become better at planning and management of their so-cial enterprises.
SILOS AS UNSUSTAINABLE PROPOSITIONS
In the broader sense and in light of assessing how a growing number of nonprofits compete for the same but finite pool of funds, the Co-Founders also discovered that most survey participants prevalently hoard their knowledge and are as such inclined to protect their own patches. That practice may buy per-ceived short-term security, but in the long term, holding on to that belief actually makes their propositions unsustainable. Why?
Nonprofit organisations in New Zealand actually compete rather than collab-orate with each other. It is easier for larger more financially-established or funded organisations to gain a large contract which becomes its core and then attach other tenders for smaller, outreach and regional services and programs. This competitive tendering model enlarges the risk of having a few big groups receiving all the funding and smaller specialist groups being extinguished.
STRATEGICALLY MORE PRODUCTIVE
It would be strategically more productive for smaller and medium-sized nonprofit organisations to forge partnerships and collaborations that enable them to share knowledge and expertise, grow their collective buying power and get bet-ter deals. Sharing lessons they each have learned, sharing expertise, sharing models, sharing policies developed and so on not only helps reduce costs by eliminating duplication or replication, but more importantly, displays their com-mitment to confront and work through issues.
Collaboration also leads to innovation and service excellence that ultimately strengthens them and the Third Sector as a whole – a special dynamic quality often embedded in small groups that start out from a passionate few who’ve recognised a need in a community no one else has but are still struggling to secure funding to develop services to address that need. But, collaboration and partnering in such scale can only be achieved through judicious use of 21st Century technologies and systems.
This is one of the major reasons why the Co-Founders of Faith in Families will establish and register itself as a charitable organisation with the Charities Com-mission this year and thereafter proceed to develop its plans and initiatives with this priority in mind.