Charities step up while facing unprecedented hard times

The Hibiscus Coast has dozens of community organisations that are struggling while facing unprecedented demand for their services.

Chief executive of Auckland North Community and Development, Yvonne Powley, works with many local organisations, helping them to build resilience.

“Never before in our lifetime have community organisations been needed as much as right now,” she says. “At the same time, many are struggling to survive – uncertain whether they will have enough funding, or volunteers, to continue.”

She says many traditional funding channels are not available, and competition is strong for what remains. The lockdown has had an impact on normal fundraising activities such as Daffodil Day and the funds that flow from charity shops for organisations such as hospice, Red Cross and church groups.

“The Government has released pools of dedicated funding that is definitely worth applying for. And a great service is offered by HuiE Community Aotearoa, which is offering to connect community organisations to grant application writers – this is a wonderful service for the sector right now.”

Research undertaken in July shows that around 60 percent of charities nationally reduced their services during lockdown and 75 percent said they have already experienced reduced funding, or expect less funding in the coming year. Many charities report that funding constraints may only allow them to maintain staff and activity for a few short months.

“Community organisations should plan to have a surplus of 3-6 months in case of a ‘rainy day’ or wind up. Now is that rainy day – don’t be afraid to use this surplus. If you have no surplus and are really struggling with potential or actual debt, start scanning for organisations to collaborate or merge with.”

Charities that rely on volunteers note that many are older and cannot assist at this time because of lockdown rules and health concerns.

Despite this, Ms Powley says local groups have risen to the challenge, working at the grassroots with new levels of collaboration to reach out to households impacted by Covid-19 restrictions, including supporting those faced with loss of income.

“The rapid response of community services such as Citizens Advice, counselling, mental health and addiction support, aged care, pregnancy and maternal support, youth services and food rescue included many going online and connecting via phone. Others set up operations that enabled their services to continue contactless or from a safe distance.”

“The first lockdown meant new relationships and networks developed between community groups and with local and central Government agencies – these have continued and Auckland’s move to Level 3 meant they could ramp up those systems.”

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