May 21, 2020

Media Release: Charities must connect with their communities to survive

Sector leaders have stressed that charities and not-for-profits must engage with their local communities to improve viability and growth following the impacts from COVID-19 and the bushfires.

In today’s impact2020 webinar, Charities Crisis Cabinet Members – Centre for Social Impact CEO Professor Kristy Muir and CEO of the Community Council for Australia David Crosbie – spoke about how engagement has become easier and more acceptable between people and communities during these uncertain times, stressing that it is an opportunity charities must seize.

“Charities were already facing some big challenges prior to the bushfires. The sense in which we are part of a place geographically had diminished. We became disconnected locally, but the bushfires and COVID-19 have made us connect and recognise the value of community and local relationships. Charities must focus on engagement with their communities and need to recognise that engagement is protection against vulnerability,” Mr Crosbie said.

“People have a greater sense of place and hold trust within that place. This fosters a reciprocal nature where these people support local organisations,” Professor Muir said.

“Finding the balance between not just being in crisis mode but also recovery and what that might look like is essential for charities. Organisations which can hold that in parallel will do best in the long-term. Ask what's our purpose, what's the work we do, and does that still serve or do we need reimagining?”

Mr Crosbie stressed that charities have an opportunity to rethink how they deliver support and meaningful impact for their communities.

“We need to recognise that winning sometimes means giving away things. It’s not always about maintaining programs and services if what you’re working for is a better community outcome. You can close down for a period of time to help you think better, concentrate and bring in other people from within or outside of the community to improve service delivery. We almost have a license to rethink what we do and we don't often get that license so we should use it.

“We tend to become passengers in our own programs. Internationally, charities are much more focused on impact and outcomes. In Australia we focus much more on the programs, which is both a strength and a weakness. In terms of positioning our sector we need to be focused more on the outcome, the communities we serve and how we can do that better, which can free up resources.”

Professor Muir echoed the need for greater impact measurement, saying: “We need more focus on how we collect rigorous longitudinal evidence. A lot of charities don’t have the resources to do what they need to do the work around outcome measurement.

CSI is currently tracking the pulse of the sector, collecting and analysing longitudinal data for the not-for-profit and for-purpose sector now, to improve how we work going forward,” Professor Muir said.

The webinar was part of Centre for Social Impact’s impact2020 – providing free daily webinars to the for-purpose sector to bring people together and achieve brilliant things during these unprecedented times.

To register for an impact2020 webinar and for more information about the summit program and presenters visit

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