Not-for-prof­its find re­sources stretched

The Tribune (NZ) - - NEWS - RICHARD MAYS

‘‘The ex­pec­ta­tion is that not-for-prof­its will fill the gaps’’

Norelle Ward

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.

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