Building True Value with Malaysian Non-profits

Over 70 participants comprising representatives from social organisations, foundations, corporates, funding platforms, and accelerators at an ILMU Hasanah knowledge-sharing session.

A closer look at how to enhance long-term impact delivery in the social sector

Non-profits are essential in delivering key services to the community. Nevertheless, tight budgets, limited resources and a lack of measurable targets can make it difficult for organisations to deliver their services effectively. Furthermore, social impact is something that takes a long time to be seen. It may be a challenge for some organisations to retain the same levels of consistency in their approach over a long period of time, while not losing sight of their ultimate long-term goal. Funders and foundations like Yayasan Hasanah can play significant roles in providing non-profits with the resources that enable them to operate and deliver their programmes effectively. Beyond funding, all parties can work together to enhance and uplift the volunteering and charity ecosystem as a whole. By doing so, non-profits will be empowered to become efficient, effective and self-sufficient in the long term.Stanley Siva, Hasanah’s Senior Vice President, giving a welcome address to non-profit partner organisations.

Inspiring Capacity Building through Strategic Collaboration

While this used to be the common approach, looking at non-profit organisations as just the implementers of various social activities based on a funder’s strict mandate and requirements, is no longer feasible. Instead, we should realise that non-profits are professional organisations that need the same kind of financial resources and support as every other organisations. We believe that if non-profits do not have to worry about covering basic costs and salaries regularly, they can place more focus and resources in driving real change and delivering social impact. It is important for funders to not focus solely on the dollar value of each programme or activity that they invest in. Instead, funders, the government and all stakeholders should invest in these organisations in a more holistic manner; empowering and enabling them to build capacity, knowledge, and organisational efficiency, in the long term. This includes investment into organisational OPEX and ensuring equal pay for equal work for non-profit employees. By changing the relationship dynamics between funders and non-profits, from funder-executor to strategic collaborators that seek to learn from and add value to one another, we believe that non-profits in Malaysia can achieve their true potential, deliver strong impact and elevate the status of the social sector to be on par with the public and private sectors.Allie Subramanian, Stakeholder Engagement Manager of Tropical Rainforest Conservation and Research Centre shared, “One of my key takeaways from the ILMU Hasanah session is that it is important for non-profit organisations to find the right funding model that suits their organisation’s trajectory and strengths.”

Building a Strong Talent Development Ecosystem

We also need to evolve from looking at the non-profit sector as a career break, or a volunteering opportunity to embracing the fact that people can and have enjoyed fulfilling and sustainable career paths through social work. A key consideration to enable this successful paradigm shift is to invest in not just attracting the right talents but also incentivising them to stay and grow their careers for the long term. This will require the collective effort of bodies like Yayasan Hasanah, non-profit organisations, corporations, the government and higher learning institutions to drive transformative change to the entire talent development ecosystem. We can also adopt learnings from various countries that have enjoyed this successful transition. For example, in developed western economies, young people are keener on obtaining qualifications tailored specifically for the non-profit sector. The number of courses in non-profit management and philanthropic studies at American universities rose from 284 in 1986 to 651 in 2016. More MBA holders are going into charity management and the demand for trained fundraisers have also risen significantly over the past decade. Furthermore, non-profit professionals in the West are also taking to the digital sphere, giving rise to the need for digital and social media experts in the field., the fundraising platform for social impact organisations for example is utilising popular all-in-one marketing platform Hubspot to run their marketing efforts and donor database in a more seamless and systematic manner. Closer to home, higher learning institutions have begun offering qualifications in social work, grants management and other disciplines specific to the non-profit sector. These are positive developments that we are excited about. However, Malaysia still has a long way to go before reaching the levels of the industry’s higher qualifications uptake of western countries. Nevertheless, we can start putting the building blocks in place to attract and nurture the best talents to join our non-profit sector in the future. Beyond organising volunteering campaigns and programmes, local universities can offer courses or embed relevant curriculum in existing courses to create a pipeline of qualified non-profit professionals who can add greater value to the sector. Likewise, non-profits should start investing in continuous training and talent development programmes to upskill existing employees. Corporate players too can expand their corporate social responsibility mandate by creating education programmes on best practices in financial and operational management specifically catered to non-profit talents. At Yayasan Hasanah, we appreciate and value the crucial role that non-profits play in providing the most important services and opportunities to the most underserved sectors of our community. Therefore, we are committed to working even closer with players in the sector as well as our civil society partner organisations to enable them to thrive in today’s dynamic, fast-moving and highly competitive landscape. We believe that the non-profit sector in Malaysia has delivered solid programmes that elevate the quality of life of their target communities for the past few decades. We are now reaching an inflection point where non-profits can take their efforts to the next level to deliver significant sustainable impact that uplift every party across the value chain, in the long term. Yayasan Hasanah welcomes these new developments. I personally, cannot wait for this to happen.