Shortly after my wedding, my lovely mother-in-law gave me a novel piece of advice. “Avoid the burnt chop” she said. I was baffled, thinking she was giving me well-meaning cooking advice, but it turned out to be a common Australian syndrome. It’s a reference to mothers commonly allowing everyone else to have what they want and making do with what’s left.
We all try our best to make our loved ones happy. Anyone who has cut the crusts off sandwiches to prevent a toddler tantrum will know what I mean. Unfortunately, the ‘burnt chop’ syndrome has permeated the non-profit sector too, creating a culture that meets the needs of partners and donors whilst sacrificing the investment needed to sustain NFP organisations.
The rise of ESG and social purpose presents huge opportunities for corporate-community partnerships. But there’s also a big risk lurking for NFPs.
You can’t Do Good without Being Good. On International Women’s Day an ingenious little bot called out the corporates using Twitter to spruik their gender equality credentials. For every corporate tweet, the bot responded with their gender pay gap. The results were brutal. The external messages were at odds with what the company was doing inside the organisation.
ESG (environment, social, governance) is the hot topic keeping corporate CEOs awake at night. Corporates are under increased scrutiny from staff, customers and stakeholders to demonstrate their authentic commitment to big societal issues. Your NFP could be a vital part of the solution helping them bring their ESG aspirations to life.
But what if your NFP is not walking the talk on those vital ESG measures? Has your leadership even thought they might be Important? When your corporate prospect asks about how your NFP is performing in key ESG areas, how will you respond? It’s tough to convince a corporate that you’re the perfect partner for their social impact goals if you don’t have the evidence to back up your internal credentials.
Consider some of the key priorities of corporate partners and how they’re trying to shift their ESG scores. What are the responses in your NFP?
Staff engagement and wellbeing
With the Great Resignation and 40% of the workforce thinking about changing jobs, how is your NFP responding? NFP sector research from Reset 2020 showed clear evidence of burnout and stress, with 34% of respondents struggling to manage staff/ volunteer wellbeing and mental health.
Environmental impact and sustainability
There are some wonderful environmental charities doing amazing work. But what is your NFP doing beyond some recycled paper and keep cups? How can you describe the commitment that your NFP is making to carbon neutrality or sustainable sourcing?
Gender equity and diversity
If a clever little bot could do so much brand damage to the UK corporates, how does your NFP fare? AICD research shows that only 40% of NFP board members are female. A better result than most corporates ones, but still not ideal, given that 20% of NFPs are yet to reach even the 40% mark. Just because NFPs are not subject to the same investor scrutiny as corporates doesn’t give the sector a leave pass.
Reconciliation Action Plan
The same AICD research shows that only 15% of NFP boards had at least one Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander member. Only 1,100 organisations in Australia have a Reconciliation Action Plan, of which approx 250 are NFPs. Plenty of room for improvement considering the 58,000 registered non-profits in Australia.
It’s not just corporates that need to imbed ESG as part of good organisational practice. Take stock of what’s happening in your non-profit and make sure you’ve got a credible story to tell. To encourage others to Do Good, you’ve got to get your house in order by Being Good and leading by example. Otherwise your corporates and donors will be looking for someone else who has really made the ESG principles part of their culture and mission.