Community benefits from not-for-profit sector

A world without not-for-profit organisations would be a very different place.  And if the last eight months has shown us anything, it is how much we rely on the support of the multiple layers of small, medium and large not-for-profits to keep the doors open on a range of important community services.

It’s fair to say that governments and taxpayers would carry an enormous extra burden in providing critical services were it not for the ethos that drives this important part of our community.

The proposition behind a not-for-profit is simple: instead of earning a profit to distribute to the owners – shareholders, for example – those dollars go back into value adding and expanding on the essential services Tasmanians need.  These are services and support that are often not funded by governments.

While we have seen a lot in recent weeks about the vested interests in large corporates and profit, bonuses and other decisions made to benefit a few, the vested interests in not-for-profits are motivated by something different.  There are thousands of people with a vested interest in not-for-profit organisations – but as members, not dividend-seeking shareholders. For not-for-profits, the dividend is the services and the wider community benefit that flows from that. 

It is this part of the way of life in Tasmania that we have seen shine brightly through the challenging COVID-19 months – Tasmanians looking after each other, our friends, neighbours, families and communities through tough times.

The investment those members make – be it time they devote as volunteers, or the money they contribute into an organisation -- delivers an extraordinary range of community benefit.

Of course, government funding, both state and federal, contributes to some parts of this vital sector and, ultimately to the health and wellbeing of the community. But, many organisations raise significant funds themselves and their volunteers dedicate thousands of hours of time to serve the needs of our communities.

Just like individuals and businesses, many Tasmanian not-for-profits are doing it tough.  They have lost volunteers and important fundraising income while at the same time demand for their services have increased.

That’s why Tasmania’s not-for-profit organisations need to work together and with for-profit businesses to help rebuild the social and economic fabric of our community.

For example, St.LukesHealth, Tasmania’s largest not-for-profit has partnered with Tasmanian organisations TasPlan and Bank of Us to support Tasmanians get back on their feet after the impact of COVID-19 through The Pulse of Tasmania.

Through this partnership, we have distributed grants that directly and indirectly benefit hundreds of Tasmanians who rely on the critical role the Neighbourhood Houses play or on the Tasmanian charity Dress for Success, which supports women to gain economic independence through tackling the barriers of getting a job.  

As a not-for-profit we invest in many ways.  We invest in health research; in providing services where the market or government doesn’t consider it viable because we know it will be life-changing for those missing out. 

We partner with other leaders on important Tasmanian issues and health challenges such as oral health, mental health and well-being.  We advocate for public and private partnerships to deliver better health services in a small state like Tasmania where resources are strained, and challenges mean our regional communities often miss out.

Our unique “Tasmanianess” has been well captured by Brand Tasmania by recognising “the quiet pursuit of the extraordinary”.  This Tasmanian brand is an accurate description for our hundreds of not-for-profits that are the backbone of our communities. 

Working quietly, pursuing excellence and creating extraordinary value and benefit to Tasmanians in every corner of our island. 

Paul Lupo is CEO of St.LukesHealth

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