Non-profits are essential in delivering key services to the community. Nevertheless, tight budgets, limited resources and lack of measurable targets can make it difficult for them to deliver their services effectively.
Furthermore, social impact is something that takes a long time to be seen. It may be a challenge for some organisations to retain consistency over a period of time, while not losing sight of their long-term goals.
Funders and foundations like Yayasan Hasanah can play a role in providing non-profits with resources that will enable them to operate and deliver their programmes.
All parties can work together to uplift the volunteerism and charity ecosystem.
While this used to be the common approach, looking at non-profit organisations just as implementers of social activities, based on funders’ strict mandate and requirements, is no longer feasible.
Instead, we should realise that non-profits are professional organisations that need the same kind of financial resources and support as every other organisation.
We believe that if non-profits do not have to worry about covering basic costs and salaries regularly, they can place more focus and resources on driving real change and delivering a social impact.
It is important for funders to not solely focus on the dollar value of each programme or activity that they invest in. Instead, funders, the government and stakeholders should invest in these organisations in a more holistic manner, empowering and enabling them to build long-term capacity, knowledge and organisational efficiency.
By changing the relationship dynamics between funders and non-profits, from funder-executor to strategic collaborators that seek to learn from and add value to one another, we believe that non-profits in Malaysia can achieve their true potential, deliver a strong impact and elevate the status of the social sector to be on a par with the public and private sectors.
We also need to evolve from looking at the non-profit sector as a career break, or a volunteering opportunity to embracing the fact that people can and have enjoyed fulfilling and sustainable career paths through social work.
A key consideration to enable this successful paradigm shift is to invest in not just attracting the right talent but also incentivising them to stay and grow their careers.
This will require the collective effort of bodies like Yayasan Hasanah, non-profit organisations, corporations, the government and institutions of higher learning to drive transformative change to the entire talent development ecosystem. We can adopt learnings from various countries that have enjoyed this successful transition.
For example, in developed Western economies, young people are keener on obtaining qualifications tailored specifically for the non-profit sector.
The number of courses in non-profit management and philanthropic studies at American
universities rose from 284 in 1986 to 651 in 2016.
More MBA holders are going into charity management and the demand for trained fundraisers has risen significantly over the past decade.
Furthermore, non-profit professionals in the West are taking to the digital sphere, giving rise to the need for digital and social media experts in the field. Classy.org, the fundraising platform for social impact organisations, for example, is utilising popular all-in-one marketing platform Hubspot to run their marketing efforts and donor database in a more seamless and systematic manner.
Closer to home, higher learning institutions have begun offering qualifications in social work, grants management and other disciplines specific to the non-profit sector. These are positive developments that we are excited about. However, Malaysia still has a long way to go before reaching the levels of the industry’s higher qualifications uptake of Western countries.
Nevertheless, we can start putting the building blocks in place to attract and nurture the best talent to join our non-profit sector in the future.
Beyond organising volunteering campaigns and programmes, local universities can offer courses or embed relevant curriculum in existing courses to produce qualified non-profit professionals, who can add greater value to the sector.
Likewise, non-profits should start investing in continuous training and talent development programmes to upskill existing employees.
Corporate players, too, can expand their corporate social responsibility mandate by creating education programmes on best practices in financial and operational management specifically catered to non-profit talent.
SHAHIRA AHMED BAZARI
Managing director, Yayasan Hasanah