Why Leaders are Being Drawn to the Community Services Sector
Driven by changing funding models and an increasingly competitive landscape, executives are turning their heads to senior roles in the community services sector offering new opportunities to utilise corporate skills while feeding the desire to make a difference.
With new social change start-ups launching every day, and schemes such as the NDIS allowing customers to “choose” where government funding is spent, the industry is in the midst of an unprecedented shakeup that has very real consequences for organisations that struggle to adapt.
Add to that increasing regulation and a healthy dose of digital disruption, and you have an industry ripe for change-makers, challenge-lovers and strategic-savants.
A decade ago, established community services could plan their yearly budgets based on the expectation that a consistent level of funding was headed their way each year.
Focussed entirely on delivering services for the community, strategy centred on how best to allocate these funds to meet the needs of customers.
In more recent years, however, the sector is now contending with:
- Federal budget deficits leading to limited government funding
- Increasing demand with a growing and ageing population
- New policies and stricter regulations
- Stronger competition from new commercial service providers
- Greater emphasis to demonstrate impact and relevance
An ever increasing rate of technological change is also forcing established organisations to reconsider legacy systems, processes, roles, marketing plans, and more. The demand for innovation and evolution is more important than ever, especially considering the growing requirement to compete for funding.
Penny Daikin, member of the Board of Belconnen Community Services (BCS), says it’s a challenging yet exciting time for the NFP sector as they respond to rapid and significant shifts in government policy and service delivery.
“New initiatives such as the NDIS have required a substantial evolution of our systems and processes to manage client centred, fee-for-service arrangements. These models have brought us into competition with large commercial organisations, and this presents its own unique set of challenges in how we adapt our organisation to be competitive, while still focussing first and foremost on our clients’ needs.
“Essentially, we need to analyse and understand our business in greater detail than ever before, and be able to employ that data to finesse our operations and maximise our impact and outputs.”
New landscape, new opportunities
The shifting landscape of the industry means the challenges faced by its leaders bear an uncanny resemblance to those in the private sector: innovation, transformation, strategy, marketing, and competition.
The need for skills in these areas is stronger than ever, but the fundamentals of being a not-for-profit remain at the core – serving the community and helping those in it enjoy a better quality of life.
Whether it be through aged care, childcare, disability care, youth, minority groups, and more, delivering practical and valuable services to the greater part of our communities helps our entire society grow and thrive.
And for new executives moving into the sector, this means that their strategic leadership and innovation provides very real results that offer much more than financial rewards.
“Over and above providing services to the community, BCS has always been an organisation that truly gives back,” says Penny. “For example, we are very proud of our 10/10 program. All of our people – from the Board to the front line service staff – come together to help disadvantaged families with a house or yard makeover, and generally provide volunteer support to those who need it most.
“While we recognise as an organisation that we have to take on a stronger commercial mindset to protect our relevance, we have always been known as a ‘nice’ organisation to both our internal and external stakeholders, and we will work hard to maintain this as we continue the journey.”