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Many of us working in the not-for-profit sector have become used to accepting and at times promoting, ‘join us for meaningful work’ (not the salary), as an acceptable pitch to new talent.
Yet it seems somewhat ironic that while we have one of the toughest and most important jobs in society, we do not pay and reward our people as the private and government sectors do.
Of the 700,000 non-profit organisations in Australia, only about 41,000 employ people, yet we struggle to attract, retain and develop talent for the future.
Humanitarian activist and author Dan Pallotta suggests ‘the way we have been taught about non-profits undermines how we think about the non-profit sector’. He advocates that we need to re-educate ourselves, our supporters and to ‘right’ the double standard that exists between the for-profit and non-profit sectors.
Part of this transformation means we desperately need to invest in our organisations by attracting and retaining our key resources – people.
As leaders our challenge is to:
1. Attract, retain, develop and pay the best
We need the very best people. The best educated, the best performers, the most passionate, the best innovators – and we need to pay them well. Our job is to compete for their skills with business and government so we are on a level playing field.
2. Promote the not-for-profit sector
Actively take every opportunity to promote our sector – to your friends, family, business colleagues, networks, clients – everyone. Present at conferences, write an article, respond to a blog – promote, promote, promote. Make sure you know your organisation’s story – tell the story but show the evidence of change.
3. Explode some myths
There is a lot of misinformation about the third sector. We are not skilled at boasting and telling people what a good job we are doing or in educating the private and government sectors of our contribution to Australian economy and society:
Myth 1: Non-profits don’t make money (They do!)
All generate income ($76.6 billion in 2006-07) and most organisations aim to make a minor surplus (profit) and/or retain earnings for future investment into program activities or to build internal capability.
Myth 2: All non-profits are the same (False!)
The third Sector is broad and diverse – ranging anywhere from community services organisations, sports and recreations associations, arts and culture entities, philanthropic foundations, interest and advocacy groups, education and research organisations and cooperatives and religious organisations. As such there are many different legal structured entities that support these non-profits.
Myth 3: It’s a cushy job (Where?)
Some see that jobs in the not-for-profit sector are less demanding. Perhaps this is assumed as employees are not remunerated as well as our private and government counterparts. While we do value and support a healthy work/ life balance, this doesn’t necessarily result in having less committed employees with high standards and exemplary work ethics.
Myth 4: Non-profits don’t contribute to the economy (You bet they do!)
According to the ABS 2006-07, the non-profit sector contributed 7.7% in GDP, employed over 890,000 people and engaged over 300,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) volunteers who contributed more than $14 billion dollars to Australia’s economic and social wellbeing.
4. Measure our success
Perhaps what is not commonly understood is how NFPs are measured compared to private sector organisations. In for-profits, success is measured by market share or return on equity. However if we were to measure success for a not-for-profit, we would see all surplus’ (profits) spent on social and environmental initiatives, and if we were truly successful we would have no unemployment, no homeless, no poverty and so on – hence no ‘market share’.
These differences make it vital for third sector organisations to have effective performance practices and measures that link organisation, team and individual performance to the organisational strategy.
As leaders we have the opportunity and the responsibility to advocate, educate and promote the third sector to anyone who will listen. We need to employ the best people, promote the sector, dispel the myths and prove that we are successful.
NGO Recruitment is a third sector specialist recruitment company, with over two decades of experience in recruiting executive staff for local and international clients, and is the Recruitment Partner for the upcoming Not-For-Profit People Conference, 27-28 August 2013.
By Jennine Blundell – Jennine consults to leaders in the non-profit sector on strategic planning, organisation and social change and is an advocate for the third sector.