How to fight back against L&D funding constraints

by John Hilton27 Nov 2015
Drastic consequences can await Not-for-Profit organisations that don’t have proper funding for L&D, said Sean Barrett, Head of the Origin Foundation.

Research this year by the University of Western Australia Centre for Social Impact and their partners the Origin Foundation and Australian Scholarships Foundation, found that 33% of NFP executives have no access to training and development budgets, and those that do often find that they are very meagre.

This is a sector which employs about one million people (about 9% of the overall workforce) and contributes $55 billion towards Australia’s GDP, according to the research.

Why is L&D so important for the NFP sector? Barrett explained that the benefits are threefold.
  • The individual gains greater role clarity, competence, knowledge and self-confidence. This leads to better decisions and behaviours at work.
  • At an organisational level, better leadership by individuals leads to saved funds, superior performance and greater well-being.
  • The systemic payoff is enhanced organisational viability, and better delivery of services which adds up to social impact.
Barrett said the sector is facing the perfect storm of reduced funding from governments at all levels, increased demands on the sector, and the fact that many social problems remain stubbornly entrenched.

“So while there is an increase in demand of time and services, the sector is faced with stagnant or reduced budgets. The only alternative for the sector is to work smarter and not harder because they are already stretched.”

Barrett added that currently the public seems to value the emotional over the rational. In other words, there is a perception that every dollar must be spent on frontline delivery and not on training and development, he said.

“I find this one really fascinating because we would be horrified if pilots, the teachers of our children and doctors, did no more training and development after graduating and didn’t keep up with new developments and best practice,” he said.

Barrett makes the point that if a leader in the NFP sector spends funds on training and development they can be subject to public criticism for wasting money.

Four ways NFP's can make the most of their budget

He said that there are four key things NFPs can do to make the most of their budget.

He added that it would be a good idea for NFP’s to push back against funders who don’t allow their money to be used on capacity building.

“They insist that it all goes on frontline service delivery and that’s just illogical. Successful businesses and government organisations invest in themselves and in their people. They invest in productivity gains and future sustainability. Yet the same principals are not accepted for charities.”

Secondly, Barrett said the sector can use scholarships. Indeed, the Australian Scholarships Foundation specialises in helping the sector find scholarships for training development.

The Origin Foundation and other funders put money into such scholarships so the sector can hunt out these opportunities at the Australian Scholarships Foundation.

Thirdly, Barrett argued that NFP’s can pool small training budgets with like-minded organisations and seek to get the benefits of scale.

Fourthly, he would recommend considering peer to peer learning.

“The sector has many specialised functions that are not catered for in the general business training and development curriculum,” he said.

“It only appears in some specialised areas that will probably help each other.”