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Workshop highlights importance of stewardship and accountability

Tips for Methodist Welfare Services senior staff and management volunteers

WHAT are the important questions that a non-profit Christian com-munity service organisation should be asking with regard to stewardship and accountability? Are there similarities and differences between the private and public sectors that we can begin to articulate?

A workshop specially tailored to help find answers for managers of the Method-ist Welfare Services (MWS) and heads of its centres was held at Sophia Blackmore Hall, Methodist Centre on April 6, 2004.

The workshop leader was Ms Fung Mei Lin, a native of Singapore who has lived in the Silicon Valley (California) for the past 21 years, and has worked in three of the world’s most successful companies — Oracle, Intel and Shell. The workshop was customised from a Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) workshop which she presented in Shanghai on March 29, 2004.

She is currently working with the Ministry of Community Development and Sports, the National Council of Social Service and the National Library Board, representatives of which were also present at the workshop.

The workshop spelt out four strategies: Differentiating MWS “customers” (clients, donors, partners, funding authorities), to understand them; choosing performance measures to get to the desired goals; understanding the MWS’ choices and their financial consequences; and finding a balance so that the MWS can keep growing.

The terms used sounded “alien” to most participants in the first instance, e.g., “customers”, “lifetime value”, “risk man-agement” and “profitability”. The fact is that all organisations, regardless of whether for profit or non-profit, face similar needs, that is, the need to remain viable, to be guided by organisational vision and mission that facilitate defining measures of effectiveness, and to make decisions on how to invest its resources to further benefit its stakeholders.

A public sector organisation works to-wards increasing the value of citizens through its various projects and activities. The MWS is a public sector organisation with a social mission. As a faith-based initiative, it is also interested in furthering the spiritual dimension of community life. “Profit” for MWS would mean stewardship, improving quality of life and resilience of citizens, and nurturing relationships for all its “customers”.

The concepts, technology and lessons learned in the private/profit-seeking sector do not dictate the mission and values of an organisation. It is the people who manage and govern these organisations who define how efforts and resources – human capital, financial capital and strategies – are to be used.