The popular vision for Australia’s philanthropic sector was a landscape characterised by collaboration and consolidation, along with increased capacity and impact.
The coming together of reductions in public funding and increasing community need is leading to ever greater competition for philanthropic dollars. Many participants in focus groups and interviews believed 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.
Greater focus by philanthropy on capacity building in the nonprofit sector was also 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. Participants highlighted the tension between donors wanting charity dollars to go directly to the charitable work being undertaken, versus resourcing the organisation to build their capacity to deliver programs and services more efficiently or effectively. A related barrier noted by philanthropists was not seeing a significant impact from giving, or feeling that not enough effort was being made to maximise the value of the gift in generating sustainable positive outcomes. Participants recounted quite different experiences of funding the same types of organisations, reiterating the point that quality of reporting and communication matters in perceptions of impact.
Increased transparency of both philanthropic and NPOs was repeatedly called for and viewed positively by the qualitative research participants. However, specific examples of how this might be achieved were notably lacking in the data. Tension existed between the need for effective giving to be demonstrated through reporting and evaluation and supporting innovative or unproven projects that meet emerging needs.
To read the full reports and factsheets, go to https://www.communitybusinesspartnership.gov.au/about/research-projects/giving-australia-2016/