1000 groups to be surveyed

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The increasing stresses on the community sector highlighted in the recent ComVoices 2016 State of the Sector survey are also being experienced in Dunedin. The national survey of more than 280 community organisations revealed increasing demand for services, mounting financial pressures, and less government funding. Survey Working Group convener Tess Casey said the issues of cost, complexity and compliance were repeatedly highlighted in the survey. ‘‘The survey shows that the financial pressures on our organisations are huge.’’ Of the 280 organisations surveyed, six were facing closure, 42% were worried about their financial viability and almost half were using their reserves to help fund service delivery. Connect South — Supporting Nonprofits (formerly Dunedin Council of Social Services) executive officer Alan Shanks, whose organisation works closely with many Dunedin not for-profit and social sector groups, says anecdotal evidence shows a similar picture for Dunedin. ‘‘The reports I am hearing are that organisations in Dunedin are facing some of the same issues — particularly around finances, government contracts and long-term viability,’’ he said.  To gain an accurate picture of the local situation, Connect South plans to survey the city’s 1000 charities and social sector organisations. The 480-plus groups on the Connect South database will be sent surveys directly, and any other organisations are welcome to take part.
‘‘We believe it is important to accurately understand the situation of this very important sector in our city,’’ Mr Shanks said. Otago Brain Injury Association coordinator Cathy Matthews said there was more and more demand on services, adding to the pressure on already highly pressured organisations.  ‘‘Things have been this way for years, and it is hard to see things changing at this stage. There are more and more expectations without the funding to support it.’’ Anglican Family Care (AFC) director Nicola Taylor said her organisation relied heavily on government funding, and that funding levels had not been CPI adjusted since 2008. ‘‘So, for the main body of our work, the funding has effectively been frozen,’’ she said. The recent withdrawal of funding from the Ministry of Social Development meant organisations were increasingly turning to community sources for funding, she said. ‘‘And that becomes harder and harder to find.’’ Many organisations, including AFC, were using their reserves to help cover the cost of services, but this was not sustainable long-term.  ‘‘It is a pretty gloomy picture at the moment,’’ Mrs Taylor said. The Connect South survey will begin next week and run until the end of the month. A group survey, such as the ComVoices 2016 State of the Sector survey, allowed organisations to contribute to the conversation when many were nervous about making public statements for fear of affecting contracts, Mr Shanks said.