Estimated read time: 10 minutes
As a board member, it is important for you to keep up-to-date with trends in your industry or sector, government and the marketplace that might be relevant to your non-profit organisation.
The manner in which you understand and address these new strategic challenges and the extent to which you are able to generate opportunities from them, can be a defining element of leadership within the organisation.
The non-profit world is rapidly changing and non-profit organisations are increasingly subject to the influence of State and/or Federal Government departments via the legislation and industry standards or contracts they produce. In the last decade there have been a number of reports, such as the 2010 Productivity Commission report into the contribution of the non-profit sector, that have proposed new ways for governments to administer to and regulate non-profit entities.
Most chief executive officers keep boards up-to-date with changes to the industries or sectors in which their organisation operates and in some cases board members are kept abreast through other occupations, but if this is not the case or you wish to expand on the knowledge you have been supplied with, you might choose to source information and news independently.
Below are some of the easiest ways and best places for you to find out what you need to know about the forthcoming reforms to non-profit organisations.
General Resources for Non-Profit Organisations
The impending reforms relating to the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) will have a significant impact on the non-profit sector. Even non-charitable non-profit organisations should stay informed about the progress of the Commission because these entities are expected to come under the ACNC’s administration in the future.
There are a number of bodies that provide regular updates concerning forthcoming reforms.
The ACNC Taskforce website frequently updates its FAQ page and provides comprehensive responses to both the most basic and more challenging questions concerning the impending reforms. Commissioner Designate Susan Pascoe produces a brief weekly Commissioner’s Column about the progress of the reforms which can be accessed through the site or via a free email subscription that also provides notifications on major changes or newly added elements to the website.
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) offers a free subscription called the Non-profit News Service, which provides current information on tax issues affecting the sector and changes to tax law.
Treasury compiles a Not-for-Profit Newsletter every couple of months that contains an extensive amount of information on changes in the sector relating to the Government and Treasury’s plans. This newsletter is accessible on the Treasury website or through a free subscription. Factsheets are also available on pertinent elements of the planned reforms.
The CommLaw website compiles all recent Australian Government legislation and details of its development. It updates multiple times a day and is a useful resource for those wishing to access comprehensive information and explanatory statements about developments in legislation.
Many of the subscription services listed above will allow you to choose the frequency with which you receive updates by conflating daily news into weekly or monthly instalments and will prevent your inbox from becoming overloaded and important information being missed. Alternatively, you might prefer to set a regular date to manually access the information yourself and review all updates in one sitting.
A range of magazines and books is available on both the non-profit sphere in general as well as the particular industries or sectors in which organisations operate.
Magazines provide commentary on changes and reforms within the non-profit sphere and are a useful indication of how these developments are being perceived by other organisations or stakeholders.
Most of these magazines operate on a paid subscription basis in a hardcopy format, but many also offer a brief news subscription via email. Third Sector, Company Director and Fundraising and Philanthropy Australasia Magazine are popular examples of generalist magazines and Aged Care Insite is an example of an industry specific magazine. Other useful publications include Tonic magazine, produced by Exult in New Zealand and Moores Legal’s Not for Profit Briefing.
Various books also offer insights into the process of adapingt to changes in the sector and provide useful advice on ensuring that your organisation remains compliant within a fluctuating environment. David Fishel’s The Book of the Board and David Hey-Cunningham’s Financial Statements Demystified are popular examples of these types of texts. A wide selection of relevant books is available at Better Boards Resources.
Conferring with your fellow board members or contacts in the sector will in most cases unearth further publications with particular relevance to your organisation.
Industry Specific Resources
As well as keeping up-to-date with general developments in the non-profit sphere it is important to also stay on top of changes within the specific industry or sector in which your organisation operates. There are various standards with which your organisation may be expected to comply and these are also subject to adjustments or developments. The particular source of relevant information you choose to utilise is dependent on the area in which your organisation operates.
The relevant government departments in both Federal and State and Territory jurisdictions provide details of recent changes within particular industries. The appropriate department can easily be sought within the Federal or your state government’s website. For example, organisations operating in Victoria under the umbrella of Aged Care Services could seek news from both the Victorian and Federal resources.
Peak bodies and industry associations are also a valuable source of news and commentary surrounding changes within your industry or sector. Most peak bodies require paid membership to receive some services but many will also provide free or discounted news to non-members or will have complimentary resources or updates available on their websites. You are probably already aware of your relevant peak body, but in this period of rapid change within the non-profit sphere, now is the ideal time to utilise their services, both paid and free.
Some examples of peak bodies are:
- Aged and Community Services Australia
- Association of Independent Schools South Australia and similar bodies in other states
- Australian Council of Social Service and its State subsidiaries, such as the Victorian Council of Social Service
- Carers Australia
- Disability Employment Australia
- Jobs Australia
- New Zealand Aged Care Association
- Palliative Care Australia
- Philanthropy Australia
- Volunteering Australia
- Volunteering New Zealand
Using Personal Connections as a Resource
Making personal connections and building networks within the industry remains an important method of keeping up-to-date with developments relevant to you and your organisation and is a valuable tool for refining your leadership and governance skills.
Clarification and advice concerning issues surrounding reforms and how they relate specifically to your organisation can also be sought from consultants and at workshops and conferences. There is an increasingly large range of these types of resources available in Australia, particularly since the ACNC and related reforms were announced.
Better Boards Australasia holds a conference with a particular focus on governance and leadership for board members and chief executive officers and many of this year’s presenters are speaking on the organisational implications of imminent reforms for non-profit organisations and their boards.
Many peak bodies also hold relevant conferences with all of those listed above regularly facilitating events. Workshops and seminars are further services that several peak bodies offer.
Keeping up-to-date with changes in the sector is a duty of all responsible board members as forward thinking is essential to successful leadership. In addition, it is vital to ensure that your organisation is equipped with the resources and comprehensive governance and strategic techniques that will assist it in responding and adapting to changes in the sector in which it operates
The way in which you keep updated may take one of a number of different forms, or incorporate many, but it is important that you know how to access the information you need and appreciate the implications that it might have on the organisation over which you govern.