Sacred Heart Mission (SHM) is a mid-sized not-for-profit organisation that provides a wide range of services to disadvantaged populations in Australia, including the homeless, the poor, women, the elderly, as well as mentally ill and substance dependent people. This paper provides a comprehensive discussion and analysis of this organisation. Whereas the organisation is a mid-sized human service organisation, it is involved in a broad array of noble social causes, making it an interesting case study for this paper. The paper is organised as follows. First, a background of the organisation and its scope of services are provided. Next, attention is paid to the structure of the organisation as well as staff issues, including qualifications and experiences of staff, recruitment and retention, and volunteers. Finally, the paper highlights the financial aspects of the organisation, specifically its budget and the impact of the government’s budget on its budget.
SHM was established in 1982 by the Catholic parish of the Sacred Heart Church in St Kilda West. In the late 1970s, the St Kilda community was facing widespread homelessness and unemployment, with single men being the most affected (“The History of Sacred Heart Mission,” 2019). The prevailing community services did not have the capacity to fully meet these needs and priests of the local Catholic parish started a program to fill the gap. In the beginning of 1982, the priests under the leadership of Father Ernie Smith opened the church to people in need of food and shelter. What started as a small parish-led program to feed and house the homeless soon became a full-fledged program. Demand grew so quickly that the church was compelled to hire a team of staffers and volunteers to help with service delivery. The organisation would soon be legally registered and has since expanded its scope of services from providing food and shelter to homeless people to several other services, including general and specialised healthcare, counselling, and socioeconomic support (Sacred Heart Mission, 2018).
Located in St Kilda, Melbourne, SHM primarily seeks to serve the vulnerable. The organisation currently runs over 20 programs and services in collaboration with several specialists and service partners. Some of the organisation’s top programs are Meals Program, Resource Room, and Women’s House (Sacred Heart Mission, 2018). Meals Program is an initiative that provides meals to the homeless and the poor. The program, which is majorly supported by local businesses and food rescue organisations, serves more than 300 people daily. Resource Room is an initiative that seeks to provide a safe space for people in need of support and advice during times of crisis. On its part, Women’s House provides support to women in relation to various issues, such as parenting, drug and alcohol use, domestic violence, and housing. Besides these services, SHM provides assistance with crisis accommodation, mental and general health issues, legal issues, and social and life skills. Other services provided by the organisation include aged care, pastoral care, as well as sports and recreation activities (Sacred Heart Mission, 2018).
SHM’s broad scope of service is something that should be commended. In spite of its medium size, the organisation provides numerous services that benefit many disadvantaged groups. In the 2018 fiscal year, for example, 43% of its clients were women, 57% were disabled, 16%, were indigenous Australians, and 27% were from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (Sacred Heart Mission, 2018). The organisation’s scope of services and target clientele reflect its vision (to be “an inclusive, fair and compassionate community, which enables people to overcome disadvantage and realise their full potential”) and mission (“to build people’s capacity to participate more fully in community life, by addressing the underlying causes of deep, persistent disadvantage and social exclusion”) (Sacred Heart Mission, 2018). The organisation is truly a human service organisation. Fundamentally, human service organisations seek to enhance community wellbeing by responding to various social, economic, and political issues (Gardner, 2016). The outcomes that SHM seeks to achieve – sustained housing, health and wellbeing, independence, social participation and economic participation (Sacred Heart Mission, 2018) – exemplifies its commitment to community wellbeing.
Organisational Structure and Staff
The affairs of SHM are governed by a 12-member board of governance currently headed by Christopher Stoltz (Sacred Heart Mission, 2018). Christopher has served as the chairman of the organisation since August 2018. He has an engineering background and brings with him several years of management experience in both for-profit and not-for-profit organisations. Other notable members of the board are David O’Brien (treasurer) and Carolyn Clark (Company Secretary).
The board supervises a five-member executive team. Collectively, the executive team boasts over eight decades of experience in not-for-profit organisations, especially in the areas of health and welfare, community housing and homelessness, community services, disability, and charity. The executive team is headed by Cathy Humphrey who has worked with the organisation for more than 15 years (Sacred Heart Mission, 2018). With a background in social work, Cathy has worked in the not-for-profit sector for over two decades. During her time at SHM, she has been in charge of several programs, including Women’s House, Sacred Heart Central, Aged Care, and Rooming House Plus. She became the CEO of the organisation in 2011. Besides her executive role at SHM, Cathy holds a board position at the Board of Council to Homeless Persons, an umbrella organisation that brings together not-for-organisations involved in assisting the homeless in Victoria. The wide-ranging experience and expertise of the board and the executive team can be said to be the drivers of the impressive performance of the organisation. Just like in the profit sector, effective leadership in the not-for-profit sector is a key a key ingredient of organisational performance (Brody, 2005). SHM understands this as exemplified by the competence of its leadership and management team.
The executive team leads a workforce of 326 staffers as of 2018. Out of these, 92 are full time employees, 98 are part time employees, and 136 are casual employees (Sacred Heart Mission, 2018). Information about the qualifications and experiences of the organisation’s workforce as well as their demographics, especially in terms of gender and ethnicity, is not readily available. However, the organisation’s profile and 2018 annual report provide some clues. For example, the report highlights that during the 2018 fiscal year, one employee was recognised for 15 years of service to the organisation, 8 employees for 10 years of service, and 22 employees for 5 years of service (Sacred Heart Mission, 2018). This suggests that a considerable proportion of the workforce has more than 5 years experience in social work. Among the 40 employees recognised that year, both genders were fairly represented, suggesting that the organisation has a diversified workforce in terms of gender. Gender diversity at SHM is reflected not only at lower organisational levels, but also at the top: 30% of the board members are women and 60% of the executive team comprises women (Sacred Heart Mission, 2018). This is laudable given the growing emphasis on gender diversity at the workplace (Australian Council of Social Service, 2012; Weisinger, Borges-Mendez & Milofsky, 2016). Nonetheless, in spite of its seemingly impressive gender diversity, the organisation appears not to be meeting expectations with regard to ethnic diversity. This is especially true at the apex, where all directors and executives are of a Caucasian background.
SHM’s activities are grouped into five functions, with the CEO at the top. As seen in Figure 1, the five functions are client services, data and compliance, business development, business services, and people and strategy (Sacred Heart Mission, 2018). Each function head reports to the CEO and is in charge of specific activities. For example, the client services function is responsible for all the programs of the organisation, while the people and strategy function is responsible for strategic planning and workforce development. SHM’s organisational structure is characteristic of human service organisations. Most human service organisations have bureaucratic structures – organisational structures that emphasise hierarchy, clear reporting lines, and clear division of labour (Gardner, 2016). Whereas such as centralised structure may enhance decision making efficiency and governance, the associated bureaucracy and rigidity may be detrimental to employee autonomy and creativity (Gardner, 2016). In a bureaucratic organisation, even a simple process such as relocating a piece of furniture in the office from one place to another may often require documented approval from the top. When it comes to the not-for-profit sector, employees may not have much opinion over the programs they are involved in administering. Whether or not SHM’s organisational structure has had negative outcomes cannot be immediately established, but the organisation should take caution to ensure its structure does not undermine productivity.
Figure 1: SHM’s organisational structure (Sacred Heart Mission, 2018)
Staff Recruitment, Retention and Turnover
SHM recruits its staff mostly through its website (sacredheartmission.applynow.net.au/). The website lists the vacancies available at any given point in time, clearly highlighting the nature of the job, roles and responsibilities, and the qualifications and experience required. Interested candidates apply for a given vacancy by filling a questionnaire on the website. The questionnaire captures several details, including the applicant’s name and contact information, educational background, and work experience. In addition to its website, SHM recruits employees through online job search engines such as Indeed.com and Seek.com. Evidently, SHM acknowledges the benefits of online employee recruitment – lower recruitment costs, access to a larger audience, and so forth (Furtmueller, 2013).
Information about staff retention and turnover at SHM is not readily available, but as per its 2018 annual report, the organisation has an admirable staff rewards and recognition program that possibly contributes to staff retention and minimises staff turnover. The program encompasses, among other aspects, recognising exemplary employees and teams every year as well as providing staff scholarships and training and development opportunities (Sacred Heart Mission, 2018). In addition to recognising and rewarding employees, SHM offers fairly attractive salaries. According to the compensation website Payscale.com, employees at SHM earn between $42,000-83,000 per year depending on position (“Average Sacred Heart Mission Salary,” 2019). This range is fairly within or close to the country’s median income for full time employees – $65,577 (Chang, 2018). The range is also within the salary range of the non-for-profit sector in Australia. Strategies such as employee recognition and attractive remuneration have been shown to be positively associated with staff retention (Das & Baruah, 2013; Kossivi, Xu & Kalgora, 2016; Mathimaran & Kumar, 2017). It is likely that SHM has fairly impressive levels of staff retention. This is especially attested to by the positive reviews it has on Payscale.com. This website allows employees to anonymously review their employers on the basis of aspects such as remuneration, learning and development, and appreciation. SHM currently scores 3.5 out of 5 stars (“Average Sacred Heart Mission Salary,” 2019), which is arguably a fair rating. In another employer rating site (Indeed.com), SHM scores 4.6 out of 5 stars (“Sacred Heart Mission,” 2019). These positive ratings could be indicative of high staff retention and low staff turnover at the organisation.
To implement its programs, SHM relies on not only full- and part-time employees, but also volunteers. The organisation engages volunteers in all its programs and services as well as some administrative roles such as reception. In 2018 alone, the organisation employed a total of 1,013 individual volunteers and 138 volunteer groups, who collectively provided more than 70,959 hours of labour (Sacred Heart Mission, 2018). The volunteers come from all walks of life and include individuals and organisations such as schools and private companies. In its 2018 annual report, SHM notes that corporate volunteering has especially been on the rise in recent years, a trend that has boosted its capacity for community service (Sacred Heart Mission, 2018).
SHM recruits both skilled and unskilled volunteers (“Our Volunteers,” 2019). The majority of skilled volunteers come from corporate partners and provide assistance in areas that require a considerable level of expertise such as strategic planning, program analysis, business development, administration, as well as health and wellness. Individual volunteers are involved both in areas that require expertise as well as those that require little or no expertise, such as serving the homeless. For all volunteers, the organisation runs a training and development program aimed at enhancing their skills and knowledge. Information about the costs and problems associated with recruiting and maintaining volunteers at SHM is not readily available.
Reliance on volunteers is a widespread practice in the not-for-profit sector. Indeed, many not-for-profit organisations operate without any paid employees, depending instead on volunteers. Alfes, Antunes and Shantz (2017) term volunteers as the “backbone of non-profit organisations” (p. 62). Non-profit organisations rely on volunteers mostly due to fiscal reasons (Shields, 2009). Since they do not operate as profit-making entities, non-profit organisations lack the financial resources to recruit and maintain a sizeable paid workforce. This perhaps explains why SHM’s number of volunteers is more than three times larger than that of its paid workforce. Whereas overreliance on volunteers remains pervasive in the not-for-profit sector, Alfes et al. (2017) warn that non-profit organisations must employ effective human resource management strategies to ensure volunteer retention. Such strategies include rewards and recognition as well as training and development opportunities. SHM has made tremendous progress in this regard.
Being a mid-sized not-for-profit organisation, SHM operates with a moderate budget. According to its 2018 annual report, the organisation’s annual budget is about $24 million, with staff costs accounting for approximately 75% of the total budget (Sacred Heart Mission, 2018). Figure 2 shows the organisation’s expenditure. To fund its budget, SHM relies on various sources, including government grants, retail sales, fundraising, and service fees (Sacred Heart Mission, 2018). Figure 3 illustrates SHM’s sources of revenue.
Figure 2: SHM’s annual expenditure by source (Sacred Heart Mission, 2018)
Figure 3: SHM’s revenue by source (Sacred Heart Mission, 2018)
As seen in Figure 3, SHM gets more than half of its revenue from the government, meaning that the organisation is substantially dependent on public funding. The implication is that unfavourable changes in the government’s fiscal policy can have devastating impacts on the organisation’s budget and, consequently, its ability to deliver services. Globally, non-profit organisations face mounting pressure as many governments are increasingly reducing public spending or cutting funding on certain sectors (Alfes et al., 2017). In Australia, there has generally been growing pressure on public budgets at both the federal and state levels, placing the not-for-profit sector at risk (Deloitte, 2017). Even so, the sector still receives significant funding from the government. In 2017, for example, government grants to the sector grew by $7 billion compared to 2016 (Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, 2017). Whereas this is good news for the sector, the situation could change in the foreseeable future as pressure on public budgets in Australia continues increasing. Reduced government spending on the not-for-profit sector could see SHM lose a significant chunk of its revenue, making it difficult to accomplish its mission.
SHM, a human services organisation on a mission to enhance community wellbeing, appears to be a well managed organisation. This is especially evident from the organisation’s structure, leadership and management, personnel and volunteer management, and finances. In spite of its medium size, the organisation has achieved probably what many large not-for-profit organisations have not. Other organisations of this nature could draw valuable lessons from SHM.
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