Charities concerned as funding pools dry up

With donations trending down and tougher times ahead, those running Dunedin’s charities — such as...
With donations trending down and tougher times ahead, those running Dunedin’s charities — such as Red Cross Otago area manager Karen Clements (pictured) — need the support of Otago’s people more than ever. Photo by Bruce Munro.
As Dunedin's community and charity sector braces for hard times ahead, the generosity of Otago people is providing a buffer - so far, at least.
The Star canvassed a crosssection of Dunedin organisations to gauge the impact of the global economic recession and found that most were ‘‘steady''.

But, with gaming and community trusts earning lower income on investments, and a corresponding reduction in funds available for distribution, many charities have a nervous eye on the future.

With current donations either remaining fairly steady or down by as much as 10 per cent, all of the charities contacted were expecting greater funding pressures ahead.

Dunedin Council of Social Services (DCOSS) executive officer Sue Russell said community sector groups needed to tighten belts and be innovative in the face of uncertain times.

Many organisations were examining the effectiveness of their services and looking for ways to share resources, she said.

"At the same time, we are finding that demand for services is increasing and people needing help are having to go on to waiting lists,'' Ms Russell said.

The inevitable upshot of this was the need for organisations to put more and more resources into crisis care, she said.

Red Cross in Otago had noticed a reduction in donations from the general public through its recent annual appeal and was working hard to raise its profile in the community, area manager Karen Clements said.

"We are definitely experiencing a higher demand for second-hand clothing at our Red Cross shops and an increase in welfare beddingpack referrals from other social agencies is also likely,'' she said.

"The significant downturn in the global economy has put more pressure on us to change, and quickly,'' Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind communications co-ordinator Caitlin Sinclair told The Star.

She added that the organisation projected a probable 27 per cent reduction in income over the next 12 months, while demand was "always increasing''.

The organisation was reviewing its marketing and fundraising practices to ensure they were sustainable.

"Now, as always, we will be relying on the generosity of our donors and the enthusiasm of our wonderful volunteers.''

St John Southern Region communications and promotions co-ordinator Alena Lynch said donations were steady, but that the reduction in interest rates was expected to put more pressure on the need to fundraise to meet the service's $1 million annual government funding shortfall.

"St John provides emergency medical care 24/7 and will continue to do this, despite economic difficulties,'' Ms Lynch said.

"We are confident we will continue to receive generous public support.''

Otago Community Hospice fundraising and marketing co-ordinator Lyn Chapman said Otago people were ‘‘extraordinarily giving'', which had been of huge help to charities.

However, there was concern for the future, as the recession impacted on the big trusts.

While Dunedin charities were supportive of each other, working together would become even more important, Mrs Chapman said.

Otago SPCA executive officer Phil Soper said, while community donations were "holding their own'', it was definitely more difficult to access funds from trusts and the organisation received no government funding.

At the same time, the Opoho animal shelter was seeing a greater demand from people wishing to sign over animals they could no longer afford.
"If things become too tight, we may have to look at reducing our services,'' Mr Soper said.

With overall income down by about 10 per cent, and the expectation that things would get tighter, there was concern that demand from the more than 20,000 people with arthritis in Otago could outstrip services, Arthritis New Zealand Southern regional manager Jan Harrison said.

However, New Zealanders were known for their commitment to keep things going in hard times, she said.

"As an organisation with a 40-year history we plan to be here for the long-term and, with the support of the people of Otago, will do so.''

Age Concern Otago chief executive Susan Davidson said that the recent collection was good, but that expectations were that grants from trusts would be "a lot lower'' this year.

Another area of uncertainty was governmentfunding of social services and organisations would be watching the next budget anxiously.

"We just don't know what will happen,'' Mrs Davidson said.

Alzheimers Otago manager Julie Butler said charities had to find a balance by being aware of the economic situation and managing themselves accordingly.

The organisation would not be embarking on its big annual fundraising drive until late July, so would gauge the level of donations then, she said.

"It is clear that we can't rely so heavily on the big funders, so will have to think outside the square,'' Mrs Butler said.

With regard to street collections, Mrs Butler said members of the public should not be embarrassed if they could only give a little.

"People should not think of their 50 cents in isolation - every little bit really helps,'' she said.

"And it is surprising what it can add up to.''

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