Our Community hosts talks for new charities blueprint

By Matthew Schulz, journalist, Our Community

Community Directors Council chair Susan Pascoe, the former chief of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, has joined more than 30 other for-purpose leaders to help set the agenda with a new “charities blueprint”.

The group’s meeting at Our Community House late last month, organised by the Community Council for Australia (CCA), was chaired by former World Vision chief Tim Costello and built on the CCA’s landmark report The Australia We Want.

The CEOs, chairs and senior figures at the Melbourne event represented the Centre for Social Impact, the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia, InfoXchange, the Australian Scholarships Foundation, Justice Connect, Life Without Barriers, Mission Australia, Prolegis, the Paul Ramsay Foundation, Philanthropy Australia, Pro Bono Australia, Progress Australia, the RSPCA, Save the Children, Social Ventures Australia, the Starlight Foundation, the University of Western Australia and Volunteering Australia.

The event followed a CCA members’ forum in Sydney attended by the federal minister in charge of charities, Senator Zed Seselja, in which the CCA flagged the blueprint discussion.

Ms Pascoe’s role with the Community Directors Council is to steer the group that provides strategic advice to the Institute of Community Directors Australia.

Asked about the significance of the event, Ms Pascoe said, “The intent is to work in a coordinated fashion toward a vision and plan that distils the goals and purpose of NFPs in Australia. We add much to the vibrancy of community life and contribute significantly to supporting those experience disadvantage or vulnerability.”

She said the meetings brought together many influential not-for-profit sector and opinion leaders to reach agreement on crucial goals.

“There was a feeling of optimism that the time is right to build on the Australia We Want initiative into a blueprint for the sector.

“The NFP sector is a major contributor to the economy, environment and to social good in Australia. A blueprint will provide a collective voice for our endeavours.”

The Community Council for Australia (CCA) wants to use the blueprint to push for long-awaited reforms in the sector, and to press the government to place the sector at the centre of its agenda, with the help of organisations in the sector.

CCA CEO David Crosbie said there is currently a deficit in planning for the future of the sector. In a message to members, he said the CCA had challenged the government and leaders to answer some questions: “Where do we want the sector to be by 2030? What are the challenges? How will we face them? CCA believes we cannot afford to wait any longer and with the help of Susan Pascoe and CCA Chair Tim Costello we are starting work on a process to develop a blueprint for the sector, with the sector.”

He said the CCA and sector leaders had identified “four clear opportunities” for the Federal Government:

  • Reducing red tape, including through responses to an ACNC review, and reforms to tax and fundraising laws
  • Boosting trust in the sector and championing its achievements, partly through countering negative media reports
  • Valuing and investing in sector capability, enabling it to develop more high- performing organisations
  • Changing the language in policy discussions to reflect the value of individuals and their potential, and to ensure that people are not regarded as a “burden” or “problem”.

Speaking after the Melbourne meeting, Mr Crosbie said that the place of charities in Australia’s economy was not as secure as it should be, despite their huge impact, and there was a need for sector-wide advocacy, possibly with a national peak body.

“At the moment we're employing about 1.3 million people turning over about $146 billion, but our income is stalling – and in real terms it's going backwards.

“The future employment of those 1.3 million people seems to never have been as uncertain, yet we really don't have a plan for the future of the sector.

“We wanted to bring together some leaders in the sector and talk about how we can have a better future for the sector, and make sure that not only can we make a difference in the communities we serve but that our organisations can survive and grow in effectiveness."

He said the blueprint aimed to boost the sector’s legitimacy, influence and capacity, and to bring a united voice to that effort, partly to counter the fact that many organisations were poor at self-promotion.

Charities blueprint meetingSusan Pascoe, front left, with not-for-profit and charity leaders from across the country
at their recent meeting at Our Community House.

 Tim Costello talks about what every not-for-profit and charity can do to advance the sector

 

 David Crosbie says he wants charities to have "a seat at the table", here's why. 

Sydney CCA meeting

The Assistant Minister for Finance, Charities and Electoral Matters, Senator Zed Seselja, attended a CCA members’ forum in Sydney ahead of the blueprint discussions in Melbourne.

“The charity sector doesn't talk about itself and its needs, it talks about the communities it's serving,” Mr Crosbie said.

“We often pursue our purpose rather than trying to make our organisation stronger. And that's where I think there's a legitimate role for a kind of peak body.”

Mr Crosbie stressed that he didn’t want the blueprint to end up “on the shelf like so many other ‘beautiful’ documents”, citing Productivity Commission reports from 1995 and 2010, which he said had prompted little action.

“We want to make sure that whatever we do has impact. And that means it has to be living, it has to be something we return to, to adapt and adopt. And that means having measures and reporting against those measures, as well as better messaging the role of charities and why this is important.”

He said leaders across the sector would need to contribute to the blueprint, and to act on it, for it to be effective.

MORE INFORMATION

To get involved in the blueprint’s development: info@communitycouncil.com.au