Bouncing back from disaster
In 2012 – 2013, the 47-year-old community development organisation, Greater Whitsunday Communities (known as the Regional Social Development Coalition or RSDC at the time) experienced exactly that. All of their funding dried up. The fact that they are still here a decade later, is a tremendous testament to their organisational resilience.
So what led to this situation and how did they recover?
Environmental factors leading to funding loss
The organisation had three primary funding sources – local government, state government and the mining industry. Unfortunately, between 2008-2016 each of these sources experienced substantial changes to their own operating environments:
- Local councils across Queensland amalgamated
- The political climate changed dramatically at the state government level
- The regional mining boom crashed
Subsequently, Greater Whitsunday Communities (GWC) lost all funding from the above mentioned sources.
Rebuilding for the future
This posed some major operational challenges for GWC who had not undertaken for-profit work before. Not only did they have to generate funding, they faced growing tension between financial security and organisational purpose. They also found they were losing their community presence and reputation as they focused on rebuilding.
Here’s what they did:
- Assessed their situation including their target market, options, internal skills, risks and budget
- Developed a business plan
- Delivered many small fee-for-service projects and workshops
- Hired people with the right skills and influence for the organisation
- Stayed true to their values, principles and purpose, while balancing financial security
“I think that in some ways, losing all that funding brought us back to the core principles of the organisation,” says Dorne Wallace, who has a long history with GWC.
To ensure their continued development they:
- Monitored the external operating environment
- Reviewed/assessed their business and operations then put mitigation measures in place
- Nurtured strategic connections
- Continued to adapt their business and operating models
- Rebuilt relationships and their reputation
Delivering various pieces of work that connected the community with councils and mining companies was a demonstration of value to all parties. It was a determined exercise in developing and showcasing strategic connections and there was integrity behind it.
“You can’t just go out there and put your flag out because it comes back to the integrity of the work and the credibility of the work because government is not going to look at you if you haven’t got a track record and the community isn’t going to work with you. It was a really deliberate and intensive process of building our profile through the work,” says Dorne.
Learnings to share
GWC is still here and is now thriving after having endured this lengthy experience.
They also have some advice for other organisation who may find themselves in similar situations:
- Make sure you have the right people working with you. You need to have people who align with your vision as an organisation and are committed
- The most critical role in your organisation is that financial one. Recruit well here
- Know your bottom line
- Develop a clear set of values, principles, and purpose
- Have a really strong framework for how you’ll deliver on those values, principles and purpose
- Be adaptable and think outside the box
- Make the most of opportunities
- Look to corporates for inspiration.
Do you know how your organisation would recover if faced with such a disaster?
You can read all about the work CSIA are doing in the disaster resilience space and find other great resources below.