Not-for-profits find resources stretched
‘‘The expectation is that not-for-profits will fill the gaps’’
Local volunteer not-for-profit organisations are in good heart but are stressed by diminished funding - reflecting the findings of a national survey.
The survey of 280 community and volunteer groups, showed 42 per cent were worried about their financial viability, while almost 50 per cent were surviving on reserves. A small number faced closure.
Norelle Ward of Palmerston North’s Volunteer Resource Centre said a number of local organisations had closed this year or had reduced services - the Salvation Army men’s hostel and Mamaternty, while Community Birth Services now only operated in Feilding. Others have had to change the way they operate.
There were increasing expectations on not-for-profits from central government to do more with less, and to pick up more ‘‘done for free’’ work.
‘‘But it’s not free, even having volunteers do the work. There is a cost. You need to support them well, you need space, and there are overheads. The expectation is that not-for-profits will fill the gaps, but they’re working with ever-diminishing funding, with an ever-increasing expectation of delivery.’’
There was also a presumption of more outcomes, greater accountability, and for volunteer staff to deliver professional quality reporting standards. Ward said that put a huge strain on resources and on core work.
Then there was the ongoing loss of trained volunteers whose new skills get them jobs in the private and governmental sectors.
‘‘Part of the ethos is that volunteering is a stepping stone to gain experience to go on to employment. But some of our groups spend a lot of time training people in highly skilled roles only to lose them to the business world.‘‘
The upside was the support they received from Palmerston North City Council.
‘‘There are great communityminded councillors and council staff. There is a team there who are proactive and keen to help. They are very good at finding and sharing connections.’’
There’s now a greater collaboration between groups.
An initiative called the Manawatu Food Action Network involves 50 or so groups, from Community Fruit Harvest to Supergrans and Just Zilch.
‘‘We’re looking at ways we can get these groups working better together,’’ Ward said.
Volunteers help sort some 50,000 food items collected during the city’s annual food drive.