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Are Strong, Sustainable Not for Profits Just a Pipedream?

19 Apr 2018 3:34 PM | Deleted user

Innovation, collaboration and financial control are key to ensuring strong, sustainable not for profits in today’s world, writes Community Sector Banking CEO Andrew Cairns.

Australian not for profits never cease to amaze me. I hear countless stories of incredible programs and passionate people making a real impact. They are on the front-lines, empowering the most vulnerable people in our society, advocating for our rights, and protecting our environment. Not for profits are essential for strong, sustainable and happy communities.

Yet, today’s not for profits face a mountain of challenges. Some 3,000 new charities pop up each year, jostling for the same decreasing pool of funding and grants, according to The Australian. At the same time, the demand on not for profits is only mounting.

Australia is facing social crises that are complex and on a massive scale – from domestic violence to unaffordable housing pushing people into homelessness. Not for profits are increasingly being asked to step in for governments to address these problems.

How can we ensure strong, sustainable not for profits in today’s world? This is a question I genuinely work to answer every day. Community Sector Banking was formed 15 years ago, when a group of not for profits came together with a plan to take control of their financial destiny. It’s an ongoing project and much as it genuinely excites me, I won’t bang on about it – I know you’re waiting for the answer to that question.

How can we make not for profits strong and sustainable? There’s no one silver bullet. Innovation, collaboration and financial control are key.

These are all fairly lofty concepts, so I’ll give you some concrete examples of collaboration strengthening a not for profit.

Mission Australia Housing has teamed up with the private and government sectors to deliver what’s billed as Australia’s largest social housing project: the redevelopment of Sydney’s Ivanhoe Housing Estate. Mission Australia will have onsite offices to provide support programs for social housing tenants, creating a pathway to empower people into the private housing market.

Haven; Home, Safe in Bendigo is another great example. Their award-winning Sidney Myer Haven project pairs housing and education to build resilience and long-term capability in its residents. Collaboration between government, and the private and philanthropic sectors has made this program possible, enabling people to turn their lives around.

These projects show the power of collaboration to generate sustainable not-for-profit programs, and make a positive impact in our communities. In my position, I’m privileged with great insight into Australia’s not-for-profit sector. I know of countless projects and initiatives, which offer lessons that go towards answering that burning question.

There’s no one silver bullet to make each and every not for profit strong and sustainable. Every organisation is unique and as such, they require a unique solution. Yet, all must take the first step on the path to sustainability. And that step is questioning: what are your unique challenges, and goals? How can you innovate, collaborate and gain financial control, to ensure long-term sustainability and impact in our communities?

Originally published in Pro Bono News

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