We’ve made it to the end of the month and the end of our 50 key messages.
Many participants anticipated a greater culture of philanthropy. Findings from the qualitative research were generally optimistic about the future and a number of areas were earmarked for growth. Participants identified several areas of untapped potential with regards to giving and volunteering, particularly bequests and workplace giving. Accordingly, they foresaw a lot of potential for growth in these areas. Bequests were seen as currently underutilised and ripe to experience the anticipated intergenerational transfer of wealth in the coming decade as baby boomers pass on.
Workplace giving was seen by respondents as an important, yet underdeveloped, funding stream for the nonprofit sector that offers real but as yet unrealised opportunities for growth. Participants emphasised that workplace giving offers benefits to all involved; generating greater workplace satisfaction and through automated payroll deductions offering ease and convenience to donors. For NPOs it was seen to be particularly important because it provides a predictable income stream.
While there was largely consensus around the likelihood for increased giving in the future, there were mixed perceptions on trends in volunteering, with some suggesting it may decrease with the next generation or increase as baby boomers move into retirement. However, particular types of volunteering, notably virtual, flexible and skilled volunteering were predicted to rise.
There was strong speculation about the increased penetration of technology and social media, continually transforming the way in which people communicate, contribute and coalesce around issues. Society is witnessing the emergence of new forms of giving: virtual communities and volunteering, digital and text based, which were largely unpredicted. Next generation givers are expected to be engaged and shape the formation of many new and innovative means of fundraising. They will do it under their own terms, and organisations will need to be forward-looking, genuinely engaging with this cohort to learn their preferences to leverage opportunities in this new space.
Along these lines, participants anticipated greater democratisation of giving as participation increases through peer-to-peer fundraising and crowdfunding, but potentially smaller gift sizes. This may be a double-edged sword for NPOs as technology enables economic mobilisation of resources, but reliance on smaller gift sizes is not helpful for large projects, which have traditionally been financed through major gifts.
NPO participants anticipated more partnerships and amalgamations between NPOs as people seek to pool funds for greater impact, mutual benefit and cost savings. Philanthropists too saw the future characterised by collaboration and consolidation. Many participants in focus groups and interviews espoused the view that mergers and/or strategic partnerships between existing NPOs would be highly desirable, especially with a view to reducing fixed costs (e.g. administrative expenses). The current trend of multiple charities addressing similar if not the same causes was widely perceived by philanthropists as resulting in ‘wasted resources’. Such duplication was described as counterproductive and effectively diluting the impact of finite resources.
Nonprofit organisations felt that in order to secure funding in the emerging environment, good intentions were no longer enough; they need to be able to demonstrate effectiveness and value for money. However, many felt inadequate to provide such metrics. Greater focus by philanthropy on capacity building in the nonprofit sector was seen as an important path to increasing the impact of philanthropic giving. Many focus group and interview participants noted the lack of professional development training currently available for staff of NPOs. This issue was exacerbated by the desire to fund only direct delivery of charitable work, resulting in scarce investment in capacity building for staff.
Education was considered a key enabler of growth for Australia’s philanthropic sector; normalising giving amongst the public, and enhancing the professionalism of those who work in the sector. There was a widely shared belief in the broadened definition of giving beyond just monetary contributions. There was also an identified need to normalise giving behaviours by shifting perceptions of giving from an act of wealthy citizens, to one that is routinely engaged in by ‘average Australians’.
There were mixed feelings about the balance between government maintaining responsibility for addressing public needs, and shifting this responsibility further towards the philanthropic sector. Concerns were raised in focus groups and interviews about government withdrawal from funding of key social services and support and about the perceived lack of long-term government vision for the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors and the social value they deliver. There were also views expressed that there are very real limits to the extent to which philanthropy can shoulder the burden of ongoing shifts in social responsibility and that to the extent that any such shifts occur they must be backed by adequate government support for the philanthropic sector.
Overall, unlike earlier times characterised by loyal and longer-term giving practices, NPOs are now confronted by growing individual demands for demonstrations of transparency, closer scrutiny of operations and expectations for evidence of effectiveness, and expectations of involvement in decision-making and targeted and immediate forms of acknowledgment. If these demands are not met, there is increasing willingness to transfer allegiance to other more accommodating or aligned organisations.
To remain relevant and sustainable in these changing conditions and practices, NPOs will need to be more innovative; transparent; deliberate in engagement approaches; and sensitive to individual needs (that is, person-centred rather than organisation oriented). They will also need to take stock of and consider the rise of online giving platforms and communities and their self-organising capacities, as there is a real risk of formal organisations becoming redundant, or at least, less central to future generations of givers.
We hope you have enjoyed the 50 key messages from Giving Australia.
To read the full reports and factsheets, go to https://www.communitybusinesspartnership.gov.au/about/research-projects/giving-australia-2016/
If you have any questions about the project or are interested in hearing more about the Centre, please contact ACPNS at firstname.lastname@example.org