State of the Sector: a Question of Trust - Mar 24 2015

David Crosbie, CEO of the Community Council for Australia, will provide a keynote opening presentation on the ‘State of the sector’ at Third Sector Expo 2015. Below is an extract of the paper David will talk from in this address.

Across the charities and not-for-profit (NFP) sector, it seems that business as usual is no longer business as usual.

While the sector has a strong record of growth over the past decade, many organisations, especially those heavily reliant on government funding, are now uncertain about their future.

Funding and regulatory uncertainty continues, philanthropy is yet to fully recover from the global financial crisis and competition for fundraising income is tougher.

The evidence suggests the amount of money available for community services is not growing as quickly as demand is.

Concerns about viability are overriding longer term planning. Proposed investments in improving quality or establishing income producing options are often being put on hold.

Meanwhile, governments and other funders are placing a growing emphasis on accountability (how is the money being used) and outcomes (what is the money achieving). An emphasis on transparency and performance is welcome, but it is difficult to focus on improving performance in a competitive and uncertain market.

Unfortunately, the uncertainty in the NFP sector reflects a high-level of political uncertainty.

The new national political pitch is being constructed around another set of three focus grouped words: ‘safety, jobs and families’, all areas where the NFP sector plays an essential role. The sub-text in the current national discourse is about salesmanship, messaging and political brands.


Within this context, it has never been more important for the sector to hold on to its values and focus on its purpose. Perhaps even more importantly, the sector needs to be a more active player in shaping the future it wants rather than becoming reactive to agendas it has had little input into.

It’s important we occupy our role as trusted community organisations and raise the bigger questions: what kind of Australia do we want to live in and what is our role in achieving this kind of community? If we are all more than individual economic units, and our country is more than an economy, how do we realise our potential?

The answers to these questions will shape the policy and advocacy of the Community Council for Australia in a much more significant way as our attention shifts to setting an agenda for the next federal government.

As NFP organisations we need to focus more on owning our future, or we risk being undervalued, overlooked and undercut.

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