Securing funding has arguably never been more challenging for not-for-profits.
Sector-wide brand challenges and changing donor expectations are being driven by a combination of demographic trends, generational renewal and digital disruption. Today’s leaders in the for-purpose sector must work as hard as any other industry to ensure funding continues to flow for their mission.
Research insights can be a powerful tool in the hands of today’s not-for-profit leaders to highlight the need, demonstrate the impact and provide leadership in these uncertain times.
Highlight the need
With so many competing demands on people’s time, attention and finances, the organisations who succeed are those that clearly articulate the need they are meeting.
The government Minister or senior bureaucrat holding the purse strings needs to hear that you are meeting a critical social need. Supporting your case with data can bolster your credibility and give decision-makers greater confidence in your understanding of the operating environment.
You could create an annual insights report to put the need front-and-centre for policymakers and the media. A branded thought leadership report is a great way to make a relevant and insightful contribution to public debate and provides an avenue to champion your cause publicly.
Similarly, prospective donors or volunteers (both young and old) scrolling through social media are likely to be moved to donate or support if they resonate with the need you are highlighting. Our Australian Communities 2020 Report reveals nearly half of Australians who give to charities are most likely to give when they hear about a need or issue, and this figure is up from 30% just four years ago.
“People aren’t drawn so much to organisations or institutions anymore; they’re drawn more to a cause.” Tim Hanna – former CEO, Compassion Australia
Demonstrate the impact
Hand-in-hand with highlighting the need is demonstrating the impact your organisation is making. If data is being used to seek funding, those funds will come with an expectation that activities can be measured and impacts quantified. This is true of government, institutional and individual donors too.
Reporting activities may be as simple as pulling together activity reports from key stakeholders and partners. This is where a small amount of co-ordination and pre-thought can go a long way to ensure you have accurate and reliable insights at your disposal to share with stakeholders.
Measuring impact can require deeper thinking, which is where leveraging external assistance can be most valuable. Demonstrating your organisation’s impact is paramount to building and maintaining trust in today’s society.
Today’s stakeholders don’t just want to hear about the need. They want to see the impact their contribution can make.
Demonstrating impact doesn’t have to mean boring annual report spreadsheets. Visually-engaging written reports, infographics and video content are all powerful ways to show (not just tell) the impact that your stakeholders are making through their contributions.
The most effective not-for-profit organisations realise they are providing community leadership, not just community service. Our research shows that building lasting trust in the sector requires transparency (especially in relation to finances), a track record of delivering outcomes, regular and relevant communication, and effective leadership.
Staff working in not-for-profits are even more likely than donors to believe that effective leadership is essential for building trust. This is a great reminder that leadership for a not-for-profit must start internally.
Championing your cause and not just your organisation, building a people-first culture, and contributing to the broader public discussion through insightful thought leadership – these are just a few ways we see our clients providing leadership in these challenging and changing times.
Not-for-profits are a pillar of a successful modern society, but today’s competitive environment leaves no room for complacency. Leaders who leverage the power of research to highlight the need, demonstrate impact and provide valuable social leadership are best positioned to thrive in these changing times.