No profit but increasingly powerful role, researcher says

28 May 2010
Not-for-profit organisations are set to play a major role in business, forging of closer ties with corporations and government, a leading expert from The University of Queensland says. UQ Business School Not for Profit Unit head Professor Ken Wiltshire says the ties are part of a "wave of corporate social responsibility" sweeping Australia. Employees, especially those from Generation Y, are driving a push for corporations to be socially responsible, helping bring about the closer ties, Professor Wiltshire says. "Young people do not want to work for a company unless it has a good social responsibility platform," he said. "Such a partnership gives a company a low-cost and highly effective point of entry to social and community fields where they can make a real street-level contribution and walk their talk. "Their image and brand is enhanced by a partnership with an ethical and respected not-for-profit organisation. The results to date show the motivation of their own staff increases exponentially. "In Australia, there is also a rise in volunteering. People want to volunteer and be involved. Young people are not going to church, or getting involved in clubs such as the scouts, or playing sports, but they do want to be involved and do want to make a difference. "Not-for-profit organisations are getting clever at marketing and appealing to people, with fun runs and dress-up days. They capture the imagination of people. It is all about engagement." The Productivity Commission Report in 2009 put the number of not-for-profit organisations at 600,000, employing 890,000 people and contributing $43 billion to the gross domestic product. Not-for-profit organisations needed to re-invent themselves so they were as professional as the corporations they partnered and were just as attractive to prospective staff, Professor Wiltshire said. "Not-for-profit organisations need to ensure they provided staff members with job satisfaction, recognition, and opportunities for career progression, he said. "The sector has struggled with staff retention. It is prone to under-payment and burn-out. Most staff members believe in the causes they advocate for, but the organisation does need to support them." Government agencies were also keen to have closer ties with not-for-profit organisations to help them provide services, especially in medical, social, and welfare fields, Professor Wiltshire said. "Not-for-profit organisations are on a tight-rope. Dangers lurk if the organisations are not careful. They could look like the private sector or look and talk like bureaucrats. They are different from those two sectors. They need to steer their own course and not lose their soul in the process of learning how to work effectively with corporates and government."