19/12/2006 - 22:00

Not for profit: Seamless strategy at Ngala

19/12/2006 - 22:00

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Ngala is a name that resonates with parents around Western Australia, having a brand recognition quality that many corporate organisations can only aspire to.

Not for profit: Seamless strategy at Ngala

Ngala is a name that resonates with parents around Western Australia, having a brand recognition quality that many corporate organisations can only aspire to.

The early parenting centre assists thousands of families each year, with 19,449 telephone calls processed by its helpline last financial year, and more than 3,000 people benefiting from its parent and community education programs.

However, the organisation is in some ways a victim of its own success, with waiting lists of about four months for overnight stays to help children overcome poor sleeping habits.

More recently, other resource and workforce issues have prompted Ngala to draft a strategic business plan to govern its growth over the next three to five years.

Ngala executive director Rae Walter said the organisation faced some major challenges in the current labour market, particularly in workforce planning, staff retention and staff development.

“Workforce to me is one of the biggest [challenges] and underlying that, I really have to say the combination of access to our services [and] the funding,” she said.

“Our staff turnover on the whole isn’t too bad, however we have an ageing workplace.”

Ngala has 129 staff on its payroll, comprising part-time and full-time workers including child health nurses, a paediatrician, a general practitioner, social workers and health promotion workers.

“I don’t think we’re different from a lot of other businesses, but it’s [a question of] how we provide an environment that may encourage people who otherwise want to look at retirement to stay within the workplace a little longer and be available to mentor younger people,” she said.

Like many other not-for-profits, lack of funding is a major issue for Ngala.

The organisation’s income last financial year was just over $4.6 million, with 57 per cent of this coming from funding agreements and grants, and more than a third generated by fees.

Yet the organisation is battling to secure the funds needed to meet demand for its services.

“In other businesses, the busier you get, the more customers you get, the more money you make,” Ms Walter said.

“That’s not the same in a not-for-profit, because the busier you get, literally all the money, predominantly, is for staffing.

"So it’s not the same formula as you would have if you were running a different sort of business.

“Our demand far outstrips the supply, so it also makes it more difficult to tell people we have done all we are able to.”

Ngala chairman Russell Hawkins echoed these sentiments in the organisation’s annual review 2006, stating that the year had been “challenging from a financial point of view” and that the board remained concerned about a financial inability to meet community demand.

However, the organisation is implementing strategies to improve its business opportunities, having recently secured a partnership with Woodside under which Ngala’s research into the effect of fly-in, fly-out working arrangements on families will be further developed.

Ms Walter said Ngala was also seeking to improve its collaboration with other organisations, such as the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, Princess Margaret Hospital for Children and King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women.

She said the organisation was fostering a ‘one Ngala’ approach, striving for seamless interaction with external agencies and using networking opportunities as a strategy to improve access to resources and overcome other issues.

“Not all of it necessarily requires money. Some of it is saying, ‘look, guys, we’ve got a common issue here – how can we work on this together? How do we ensure there is a better process of referrals?’,” she said.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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