It’s time to shine. Time to take stock. Time to shape our future.

May 28, 2020


By Sue McCabe

Chief Executive, Philanthopy New Zealand

It’s time to shine, time to take stock, time to shape our future. That’s the tagline of the just released survey of the community and voluntary sector to assess the impacts of COVID-19.

It’s the perfect time to acknowledge the incredible contribution of the community and voluntary sector, alongside business and government, in the response and recovery effort.

We need data to quantify the impact of COVID-19 on this critical sector, and to amplify its voice in decision making. The community and voluntary sector currently lacks influence and its vital work is taken for granted. This sector is key to the discussions and resulting action about how we come out of this a better Aotearoa than before. The voice of community needs to sit alongside government and business in shaping our future.

The first step is getting community organisations to fill out the survey. New Zealand has around 115,000 community organisations – many small and 100 per cent volunteer driven. We have a subset of 27,000 registered charities, the ones generally with a higher profile and whom Charities Services has assessed to have a charitable purpose.

We want to hear from all of these community organisations – from the small groups through to the multi-million dollar charities. Please share the survey link as it’s likely many people in your network will be involved in a community organisations and we’d love to hear from them.

It’s time to shine. The community sector has been the backbone of the response and recovery to date and it will continue as long as there’s need. For example, not for profits fed the community for days into lockdown until the government‘s official emergency response swung into action.

Imagine your own life without the input of volunteers and community groups. For some, they’re a lifeline. For others, they add value to the world you take for granted: the cleaner beaches, the social media information about a cause you care about, the sports clubs your children enjoy, the counselling phone lines you ring.

Time to take stock. Many parts of the sector are struggling. A report last year found that government only paid two thirds the cost of the social services it contracted not for profits to provide. Many not for profits have little cash reserves to see them through lean times.

There’s a belief that New Zealand has too many charities for its population and for the relatively scarce government and philanthropic dollar. This will be true in patches, but the reality of the current environment is it may be the charities that we most need that will fold.

Having worked in the sector, I know all too well how charities, always in scarcity mode, can survive pretty much anything. This is not healthy and can be off the backs of passionate workers and the sometimes strained goodwill of volunteers.

This survey gets specific about what help community groups may need. It also looks at any wins or progress not for profits have made due to the COVID-19 environment so we can lock in the gains and highlight what works. .

Time to shape the future. The data this survey provides will give voice to this sector, which is better at doing stuff than promoting itself. Data is needed to ensure debate, discussion and community voice into decision making.

If we just have business or government voices in the recovery, we’re more likely to go back to the society we had pre-COVID-19. It wasn’t good enough for large groups of people in our population, and it wasn’t good enough for the planet. Without involving the community and voluntary sector, decision making is only partially informed so will only be partially successful.

The survey is a partnership between Hui E! Community Aotearoa, Volunteering NZ, Philanthropy New Zealand and the Centre for Social Impact.

If you want to be part of helping the sector to shine, take stock, and shape the future, this survey is an easy step. Fill it out if you’re part of a community group (one response per organisation). You can also share this survey to increase its reach into our amazing community and voluntary sector.

Thank you.