We have recently helped several not-for-profits with their transition to the NDIS. Since the rollout of the NDIS, not-for-profits have had to change the way they do business. They’ve gone from receiving government grants and spending those funds on helping people, to now clients paying directly for their services and being reimbursed by the NDIS. Not-for-profits are now in the uncharted position of having to invoice clients, organise cashflow and chase unpaid invoices.
Client 1 – What did we find out?
We went into their business and spoke to the staff to understand the impact of the NDIS on the organisation. Then we found solutions to their problems.
Invariably, we have found the top complaint to be that the NDIS has caused a “systems problem”. The staff told me that they can’t deal with the NDIS, they don’t know what’s going on, the board can’t get any clear information and their cash is drying up.
From my experience working in the corporate arena, I can tell you the main problem these companies are facing is not a systems problem. Yes, there might be some tweaks we can do to their systems, but the systems are the not the problem.
Staff told us that it was taking an inordinate amount of time to invoice the NDIS clients, and even longer to get paid. The operations team were giving client details to the accounting team to do the invoices (or not!). Some clients weren’t getting an invoice until four to six weeks after they’d received the service. There were probably clients who never received invoices at all!
The interesting thing we found was that they were all trying to do the invoicing out of their accounting system. This makes some sense because pre-NDIS they would have done any invoicing this way. Let’s take a look at a profit-driven business like a coffee shop. When they send you an invoice, they don’t do it out of their accounting system four weeks after you’ve had the coffee. They do it out of the point-of-sale system right then and there. The barista gives you a receipt and that’s your invoice. Not-for-profits have never had to conduct business this way, but they do now.
How did we help?
We looked at their operations system, which they were not using to its fullest. We found out that it had an invoicing function. So, without changing anything in their business, when a staff member had an appointment, they could use the system that was managing the booking to go in, click a few buttons and produce an invoice. Rather than invoicing taking weeks, it could be done almost instantaneously at the end of the appointment. This saved the organisation four to six weeks in terms of the time to get paid. All with a system that was already there. It wasn’t a systems issue – we just looked at things in a different way. We need to approach this from a commercial point of view. Not-for-profits often recoil at this term, but it needs to be spoken about. In every commercial organisation, they raise the invoice as close to providing the service as possible. They do this because it cuts down on the time to get paid. The team that provides the service (operations), needs to create the invoice because they are at the coalface.
Client 2 – How did we help?
Another example was the organisation that was capturing so much data, but across many different systems. They had one system for prospective clients/onboarding, one for current clients receiving therapy, and a third to keep the data for follow-up. We talked to them about how this should all be part of ‘the client journey’ and they should all be in one system. We helped them get all their data into one system, which was easier for all staff to manage and created more transparency and clearer data for the board.
What we find when working with businesses under the NDIS framework is they need someone to help look at their business differently, because the NDIS is requiring not-for-profits to work in a new way. They’re still getting funding from the government, it’s just via the client now. Not-for-profits are still there to serve a social purpose. They just need to operate in a different way.
That’s the value we bring into the equation. We present a different way of looking at things, opening the door to other options. This allows the not-for-profit to very quickly adapt to the NDIS without having to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on new systems, because it’s not a systems problem.
These two clients I have helped are both now on the path of rapidly becoming comfortable and starting to flourish under the NDIS, whereas before we spoke to them, they were slowly dying and they didn’t know how to stop it. This has been consistent with all the clients we’ve dealt with and the people we’ve spoken to.
We have helped them evolve to become flourishing businesses under the NDIS. The NDIS is ultimately there to give clients more choice and help the industry be more accountable to the clients – we can help organisations do better, so we can all do better. Together we rise.