News & Commentary Straight from Think HQ

Commentary December 09, 2014

The results are in: Not for profit sector delivers mixed bag of survey results

Late last year, Think HQ undertook a research survey to gain an insight into the inner-workings of Australian not for profit (NFP) organisations, and the key opportunities and challenges they’re currently facing.

Over 85 NFPs were represented in the survey, with participants from organisations including the Salvation Army, Melbourne Recital Centre, Spark* International, Save The Children, The Heart Foundation, Plan International, and Opportunity International Australia.

Numerous sectors were also represented, including education, welfare/social services, community development, health and mental health, and disability and training.

Of the individuals who took part in the survey, 27% identified as CEO or top-level executives, 18% as communications staff, 10% as marketing staff, 9% as development staff, and 3% as fundraising staff.

Our findings revealed both good and bad news for the sector.


Budgets are tight…

As expected, survey results confirmed that inadequate resourcing remains a key challenge for NFP communicators – in particular, shortfalls in budget and staffing.

In contrast to the for profit space, where marketing budgets are significantly higher, 53% of organisations surveyed reported that their communications budget was less than 5% of their organisation’s total annual budget, while another 30% said they had no specific budget allocation for communications at all.

Just 17% of organisations surveyed – predominantly those that were large or very large – reported that communications expenditure was more than 5% of their organisation’s total annual budget.

…and communications teams are small.

Many participants – especially those from organisations with 10 staff or less – described themselves as having limited resources in communications and marketing. Just 62% of organisations surveyed said they had at least one staff member dedicated to communications, working either part time or full time, while the remaining 38% reported having no dedicated communications staff at all.

All in all, the average reported Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) for communications staff was just 2.4, with the highest reported FTE being nine, in an organisation with over 1000 staff.


NFPs recognise the value of strategic communications…

A clear majority of Australia’s NFPs are thinking strategically about communications, and either have, or are planning to, develop a communications strategy. Nine organisations reported having a communications strategy, despite having no dedicated staff resource for communications.

It’s also encouraging to see that the clear majority (90%) of organisations recognise the need to tailor communications activities for different audiences.

One area where strategy may come unstuck, however, is in evaluation. Few respondents reported conducting qualitative evaluation, such as surveying supporters and collecting feedback, while 20% of respondents said they didn’t undertake any formal evaluation at all.

…and are embracing the potential of digital.

As an agency that believes in the power of social media in NFP communications, we were excited to learn that 97% of surveyed organisations had established at least one social media profile for their organisation. By far, the most popular and effective tool was Facebook, followed by Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn, while 8% of organisations reported that Instagram was their most effective social media platform.

Importantly, this lean toward social media activity seems to be getting results, with 67% of respondents identifying it as an effective communication channel for their organisation, placing it just slightly behind the website in the success stakes.

On the other hand, advertising (both purchased and in kind), print newsletters, telemarketing and celebrity endorsements were rated among the most ineffective communications tactics for fundraising.

A big thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!

Want to know how to make the best of the staff, resources and budget you do have? Check out our Top Five Tips for not for profit communicators.

Did you participate in our research? Do these results surprise you? Tweet us @HThinkQ and let us know.