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Centre for Social Impact

Research seeks solution to long-term viability of not-for-profits.

Despite employing over one million people, accounting for four per cent of Australia’s GDP and an approximate value of $58 billion, Australia’s not-for-profit (NFP) sector is not having as great an impact as it could, due to the lack of investment in employee development.

With funding from the Origin Foundation, The University of Western Australia Business School’s Centre for Social Impact (UWA CSI) is investigating the role of training and development in enhancing the capacity of NFP organisations to create social change.

The Australian-first study supports the recent Productivity Commission report which identified a lack of key competencies as a major limitation for the sector’s long-term viability.

With 4.6 million volunteers contributing $15 billion worth of wage equivalent value, Australian NFPs are constrained by limited resources and often put the immediate needs of those they serve first. This means investment in professional development and training is seen as an overhead not an investment.

The research is finding that targeted training of those working in the NFP sector results in organisations becoming more effective and therefore better equipped to serve their clients.

Other early findings suggest that NFPs can adapt to significant challenges through more engagement with both formal and informal work learning.

"Ultimately, we seek to improve the means through which individuals and organisations gain and sustain the key competencies they need." Ramon Wenzel

“Over the next several years our research will continue to investigate and value how training and development can improve the sector’s ability to enable social change. Ultimately, we seek to improve the means through which individuals and organisations gain and sustain the key competencies they need,” said senior researcher Ramon Wenzel.

Sean Barrett, Head of the Origin Foundation said “this research has the potential to be a game changer by encouraging not-for-profits to increase their investment in training and development. But, perhaps more importantly, it will challenge funders who are traditionally reluctant to support so-called capacity building.”

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