Change on the Horizon is Looming Large

  • 6 April 2018

Change is constant. Embracing change is vital for charities and social purposed organisations to be effective and relevant.  The rate of change in our sector is rapid and increasing. Responding  proactively, embracing innovation and developing creative strategies to deal with those changes is simply necessary. If we don’t respond to change, we are likely to fail and not be able to meet the needs of those we serve, which is the responsibility of any social purpose leader.

Because our sector is complex, dynamic and often financially constrained, it is a challenge to stay on top of everything that is important, new and innovative. There are new problems that must be solved, new technologies we need to adapt to, societal issues to respond to and innovative ideas gaining traction each year.  Having the opportunity to engage directly with peers and experts as often as possible is an important part of working through that process. The FINZ Conference Masterclass is designed to meet that need and afforded the opportunity to assemble legendary talent in one room for a day. But more on that later.

Our view is that overall, philanthropy is flat.  Some parts of our sector and particular organisations are doing well, some are not, but overall it is flat. That said, there is always room for improvement in any fundraising programme. Trust in social purpose organisations is one of the most important factors that charity leaders need to focus on.  Given the intensive media interest in market failures, as has been the case in the United Kingdom recently, even if only by a few organisations and individuals, we’re only ever one headline away from another chink in the armour of trust in charities. We should all be aware of the potential impact bad publicity can have on fundraising revenue. Committing to relationship-based fundraising, to the fullest extent, and embracing digital technology (these are not mutually exclusive) are also two key areas that are changing and require the focus of charity leaders and fundraisers alike.  

We live in a world of fast paced change and we can’t always appreciate everything that is going on around us.  Because of that it is important to step out of our own environments from time to time and take a helicopter view to consider the changing landscape.  We can’t ignore that society is changing, the expectations of people who deliver social and environmental outcomes is changing, the needs are becoming more complex and the way people want to be involved is changing.

There were two interesting reports that came out of Australia last year which highlighted to us some of these changes and showed the importance for leaders in our sector keeping abreast of these changes and responding by improving organisational strategy.  The first was the Giving Australia 2016 report, which demonstrated and reported that there had been a 6.5% ($750m) decrease in donations to charities compared to 2015.  That is substantial, and yet that report also showed that overall revenue to the sector had increased, a little.  There is a lot of information to unpack to show a clearer picture around these numbers, but such a dramatic drop in donations was noteworthy. 

The second report was the NFP Innovation Index Report 2017, published by GiveEasy, which uses a variety of measures to ascertain the NFP sector’s innovation performance.  It recorded a 9% growth in innovation across 8 areas, or vectors as described in the report, which the authors viewed as a strong and positive indicator. The author notes, “The results of this year’s survey show that the sector’s understanding of innovation has matured and the ability to work in innovative ways has developed in both scope and intensity”. It would be interesting to know if our historical ‘number eight wire’ culture has seen similar innovation here in New Zealand. It will also be interesting to see the rate of growth that is observed from the survey for the next report from a survey that is currently being promoted.

There are fundamental global fundraising truths that have not changed in generations, and human nature has not fundamentally changed.  Some aspects of best practice fundraising do not require innovation.  Ken Burnett, Jim Greenfield, Kay Sprinklegrace and many of our industry’s most seasoned fundraising veterans could stand in front of any conference or boardroom tomorrow and draw on the truths of years passed that would undoubtedly improve our fundraising programmes and strategies.

The last major report on our sector was the JBWere Cause report in March 2017.  It showed that 5.4% growth in our sector was due to 7.4% growth in Government grants and contracts.  Perhaps that was the same reason for the overall growth in revenue that was identified in the Giving Australia report. Author John McLeod noted “Overall, for the NFP sector to remain as effective as possible and to maximise impact, it needs to continue to evolve and faster than in the past. Something has to change to enable continued sustainability and that involves a combination of where funding comes from and how it is used.”

It is our firm view that one of the best opportunities for the social purpose sector to consider how it deals with change and sustainability, as well as how it intersects with Government and business, is to consider the United Nation’s Sustainability Development Goals.  With its 17 significant goals, underpinned by key metrics and a commitment from Governments around the world to achieve these goals by 2030, it is an incredible common language to learn and report impact against.  It provides social purpose leaders with an opportunity to understand where their contribution and impact intersects with major global issues that are garnering increasing attention, from conscious consumers from small communities to the leaders of the largest investment funds in the world.

Coming back to our local fundraising perspective, we know that there are many internal and external factors which contribute to the changes we encounter and must respond to.  For some it is a matter of hoping that those who are ultimately responsible will know what to do and make great decisions.  At other times we are required to take responsibility and make a significant contribution to embrace and respond to change. Change is important. It allows our teams to learn new skills, explore new opportunities, be creative and encourage new ideas which ultimately sets us apart and lets us foster innovation. Carrying on with business as usual is not an option.  FINZ is a key organisation in our sector that facilitates contributions of knowledge and insights you can access to help you through that process.

When Giving Architects began working with FINZ to develop a Masterclass that would provide insights from key leaders in our sector to address the need, identify gaps and opportunities to innovate, we looked at different parts of the spectrum that affect fundraising.  We focussed on funding, social enterprise, government, impact investment, new ways of delivering impact and leaders dealing with challenge. It was wonderful to find people who are experts in each of these areas, each with a rich additional background, who were willing to give their time and energy to the event.  It’s a significant and truly unique gathering for FINZ members to access.  As you might have seen in conference communication, they are:

  • John McCarthy, Manager, Tindall Foundation
  • Louise Aitken, CEO, Akina Foundation
  • Ed Montague, GM - Commissioning, Social Investment Agency, Ministry of Social Development
  • David Woods, Founding Trustee, New Zealand Advisory Board on Impact Investment
  • Bill Kermode, CEO, NEXT Foundation
  • Andrew Young, CEO, Well Foundation

It promises to be an excellent day for leaders in our sector to come together and recognise that change is inevitable and innovation is a necessity. You cannot resist change. However, if you can be strategic and initiate change, adapting to change is a very much easier for the sustainability of your organisations.   This Masterclass provides many opportunities to understand, share, network and learn from sector leaders on dealing with change for success.

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