Pulse of the For-Purpose Sector

Authored by:

Gemma Carey, Kristy Muir, Megan Weier

Status: In Progress

> Download our latest Pulse (Wave 2) findings

Australia has never kept track of its for-purpose sector on a national level, over time, and we want to understand the stressors, the impacts of policy changes, and the challenges for Australia's charities, not-for-profits, community groups, social enterprises, and for-purpose organisations.

The Centre for Social Impact has identified the need to take the ‘pulse’ of the sector to uncover how it is faring in a range of areas such as financial, technological, human capital, adaptation, and of course, meeting its purpose.

Launched in mid-2020, the Pulse of the For-Purpose Sector research program has multiple aims in the context of COVID-19:

  • It is rapid-response research to understand and support the short-term needs of the for-purpose sector, including charities, not-for-profit organisations, philanthropy, social enterprises and businesses.
  • It will provide the evidence needed for the longer term, to help the sector re-tool for a more inclusive and sustainable future.
  • It will provide the longitudinal data and research infrastructure for an ongoing Pulse of the For-Purpose sector analysis. This is data that the sector has never had before.

This research program is the first time organisations (of all sizes), such as charities, philanthropic organisations, and for-profit industry with a social purpose, will be tracked over time in regards to changes in operating conditions, demand for services, and funding or grant making strategies.

The research team will be undertaking twice-yearly surveys with dynamic reporting and dissemination, and tailored deep dives on particular sub-sectors and issues where CSI has strong capability, such as homelessness, aged care, disadvantage and the disability sector, as well as organisational responses from sub-sectors, such as philanthropy and social enterprise.

The first major report was released in December 2020 as a result of more than 500 organisations responding to our Wave One Survey. From the survey results we discovered that 8 in 10 respondents reported an increase in demand for services and supports, and 77% of organisations indicated that the pandemic had put considerable strain on their financial operations.

Wave 2, released on 18 November 2021, found that operating conditions continue to be a significant source of strain across the sector this year as nearly 80% of service providers report struggling to meet requests for support.

Pulse of the For-Purpose Sector is supported by the Paul Ramsay Foundation, Allan & Gill Gray Philanthropies, Zurich Financial Services Australia and the Z Zurich Foundation.


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