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Respondents to a recent survey of the Not for Profit (NFP) sector believe that although the sector is currently performing well or at an average level, overall there has been a decline in performance which is expected to continue over the next 12 months. It found that small organisations are particularly pessimistic.

The survey is the result of Pro Bono Australia teaming up with Community Council for Australia and Net Balance to ask the broader NFP sector (ie includes community services, arts, sport and recreation, religion, foundations, etc) how they perceive its current performance, performance over the past 12 months and the outlook for the next 12 months. It also identified factors the NFP sector believe will strengthen or undermine its performance.

Where possible and useful, the data has been analysed in terms of organisational size, the position the respondent holds within an organisation, state by state basis and by industry group.

The survey found when respondents were asked to consider the performance of their own organisation that, as with the sector’s overall performance, there is a perceived decline in performance. However this decline is not as significant as the overall sector performance. The executive summary suggests this may be due to senior staff recognising the challenges their own organisations face and while confident in their response, are unsure how others will react.

The NFP sector’s staff and volunteers are viewed as a significant and positive driving force that has strengthened the sector over the past 12 months and will continue to do so. Likewise funding from non-government sources was also believed to be having a very positive impact.

On the other hand, the Federal Government’s policy, regulation and funding were all seen as having a negative influence. High levels of uncertainty around these three areas were thought to be undermining organisation management and strategic decision-making.

The survey found the sector continues to see the ACNC as the preferred regulator and if it is to be removed, the key elements of it regulatory framework should be retained.

The survey also identified a number of priorities for the Federal Government. These included support for the sector to continue to develop their relationship with the corporate sector, strategies to increase capital available from non-government sources and support for services looking at alternative funding streams. They also sought assistance in accessing education and training opportunities for leaders and managers and support for volunteerism.

In many respects the results reflect the 2013 survey, particularly in relation to the ACNC and sector-business collaboration. The perception of a declining sector, whether based on fact or not, however is of considerable concern because of its capacity to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.