Community Development, Non profits and Voluntary Sector organisations are beset with that obvious challenge to their sustainability, “Where’s the money coming from?” Providing the much needed services that these organisations are set up to deliver are always dependent on the individuals involved and the connections and track record they have. Many are often beguiled into thinking these types of organisations are not businesses, when they are. They are incorporated as businesses, operate as legal entities, are subject to insolvency the same way as all businesses and individuals are. So income generation means the same to their organisation as it would a private enterprise.
So why is there the sense that with organisations from this sector that the thinking around financial matters and income generation doesn’t really matter. Well tell that to many employee’s and managers in this sector they are acutely aware that they operate in world that it subject to access to resources, especially long term funding. No funding, no job, no project, no services.
In the voluntary sector well all know that there is an unspoken competitiveness that often is manifested when there is a new government initiative promising a new injection of funding to meet a need that groups and organisations can position themselves to access. And in many cases it is the usual suspects who are the well connected that have the first and only dibs. With the odd exception of the newly established partnership who make a good case for entering the fold.
So whats the solution for those on the fringes. Smaller voluntary sector organisations are often made up committed individuals, community heroes and heroines who are prepared to turn up when others don’t. And with a whole tier of support services to community groups and organisations, such as voluntary services councils, local authority community engagement and grant officers, many smaller groups become subject to an version of patronised information dissemination that is the role of paid members of staff from this default infrastructure.
The only way forward for passionate community individuals and their organisations is to think business. Whilst there are still many philanthropic funding agencies with funds to give. Non profits have to recognise themselves as business and have clarity about what they are offering. Fundraising from funding agencies is now a very competitive and sophisticated business. The ability of an organisation to make a clear coherent case for the need that they are aiming to meet and a rationale for why they should be funded has always been at the core of a funding application. But now funding applications now have to show that research into to the need has been done, and demonstrate an awareness of the gaps in provision both locally and further afield.
This comes back to having a business outlook and being clear about the business model as an organisation you are trying to develop. Which in turn comes back to the individuals involved, the skills and experience they have and the support they themselves can acquire to move their organisation forward.