5256.0.55.001 - Information Paper: Non-Profit Institutions - A Draft Information Development Plan, Jul 2010  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/08/2010  First Issue
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There are two streams of data needs:

  • Macro–level data – Sector peak bodies, executive arms of governments, policy departments and academic researchers require a birds–eye view of the contribution of the sector and volunteering, its composition, its funding, how it is changing over time and factors that affect its efficiency and financial sustainability. There is interest in exploring links with governments and the economy at large, and with social and human capital and volunteering.
  • Micro–level data – Sector peak bodies, NPIs, government departments and researchers require information derived from individual organisations and programs to monitor and help improve performance and outcomes, to identify needs and to support and encourage a viable NPI and volunteer sector. Interest is often at the local level.

Taking into account the Productivity Commission Study (and its wide ranging stakeholder consultation), ABS research and a limited consultation with governments, sector peak bodies and research establishments, a number of preliminary conclusions around ongoing statistical information needs is presented below.

  • A good quality ongoing satellite account is a high priority. The ABS Non–Profit Institutions satellite account is regarded as an essential high level measure of the contribution of the sector, its structure, and change over time. There has been major change in the sector in recent years as governments form new partnerships with NPIs to provide social services, and implement action plans to support and strengthen NPIs and volunteering. All governments have sharpened their policy focus on the sector.
  • To be more useful, the satellite account needs to produce estimates for more detailed activity classes (ICNPO) and include data for states and territories. The level of detail is never going to satisfy all potential stakeholders, but it needs to be fit for purpose as a set of macro–economic statistics.
  • There is an ongoing need for ABS industry surveys relevant to the sector, such as the community services survey and the various culture and recreation related surveys. They provide a more detailed industry focus, and enable analysis of the cost and revenue structures of NPIs relative to for–profit businesses.
  • There is a need for ongoing information on the magnitude and trends in volunteering and its characteristics. The vast majority of smaller organisations rely completely or significantly on volunteers for the services they provide to the community. All levels of government have or are developing policies to encourage volunteering and to promote the benefits and value of volunteering for the community and for volunteers themselves.
  • NPI peak bodies are vitally interested in the source and magnitude of funding available to NPIs – from government, private philanthropy, fundraising, membership fees, etc. – and factors that are likely to affect resources going forward. Included in this is a need to understand factors that motivate people and organisations to donate financial resources and their time as volunteers, and the impacts of changing circumstances through time.
  • There is a need for timely statistical data on current and emerging issues facing the NPI sector and volunteers. This might include the impacts of an economic downturn on funding and on demand for their services, insurance and workplace issues for volunteers, etc.
  • There is interest in high level outcome indicators for NPI activity, even though the degree of attribution to the NPI sector might not always be clear. Stakeholders are also interested in measures of social conditions and wellbeing to help identify areas of greatest need.

  • There is a high priority need by all levels of governments to have a better understanding of the number and characteristics of small community organisations, which contribute much of the social capital governments are trying to support through various policies. While they do not have the same economic impact as the large employing organisations, they are likely to have important social impacts (as demonstrated by their contribution to communities during and after natural disasters). Knowledge of the numbers and activities of organisations, their location, their membership, and whether they are able to raise adequate income to meet demands for services from the community, is required to help plan and cost government support programs.
  • There is an expressed need from governments and NPIs to improve and streamline administrative processes around financial reporting, and outputs and outcomes measurement at the service agreement level. There is a need for agreed standards for financial reporting and program evaluation tools where appropriate. The design of process improvements should also consider the research and statistical opportunities.
  • Micro data sets including longitudinal data derived from administrative processes and statistical collections are needed for research on the effectiveness of programs delivered by the sector, and for other analyses of volunteering, philanthropy and social capital. The statistical potential of these data sets should be considered.
  • There is a need for standardised classifications and definitions to be used across service delivery programs wherever possible. ABS standard social, economic and geography classifications, concepts and definitions should be incorporated where possible. Statistical standards help facilitate the integration of data including the matching of program level information with higher level statistics. Data dictionaries have already been built for some fields, and others could be considered.
More generally, there is a need to make statistical information more accessible, and to promote its availability to the sector and other stakeholders. As there are a number of government and non–government providers (or potential providers) of statistical information, a one stop shop or knowledge hub could be considered to help improve accessibility and promote the data.