Donor newsletter Insights: 4 March 2021
Over the last few months, our team has continued to connect with communities around the country. It’s still primarily virtual, but that still gives us a strong understanding of what’s happening in these communities. Below are some insights and observations our team thought you might find valuable.
NSW & ACT
Many NSW communities have felt the compound impacts of bushfires, floods, drought and COVID-19, which has challenged the availability of volunteers and, in many places, harshly impacted localised philanthropy. Groups that are approaching FRRR are focusing on what’s possible, and many applications are for projects that were designed prior to bushfires and COVID-19. The importance of community meeting infrastructure is more important than ever before, evidenced by this quote from a recent application:
“From previous experience we know that enjoyable engagement activities and working together for a common purpose and goal improves individual resilience, unites people and strengthens community.”
Conversations in NSW South Coast communities, which were severely impacted by the Black Summer bushfires, revealed challenges in managing the significant, and potentially once-in-a-generation, funding opportunities arising from the fires. In response, we convened a Roundtable bringing together nine funders seeking to support the area, including state and federal government. Some of the key themes from that discussion were:
- Recognition that longer terms for funding to communities after crisis are needed, with most currently set to two years.
- The need to recognise fatigue and burnout within communities when granting. Currently they are coming from a place of extreme depletion.
- The opportunity for funders to involve the community in decision making about funding programs, their design, and timing.
- Philanthropy is emerging as a more visible shared resource and network that can add value and help where others cannot.
QLD, NT, WA
While the drought is easing in parts of Queensland, many rural communities continue to reference ongoing hardships as a result of the drought. Of note, is the reference to drought and its impacts starting to become prevalent in grant applications from Western Australia.
In the context of COVID-19, communities are uncertain about the future including their ability to meet the financial and volunteer costs of adapting programs and events to be COVID safe. Applicants talk of volunteer fatigue both as a result of rural challenges but also the added burden of adapting and responding to the pandemic.
“It is common knowledge that small rural communities are getting smaller – we are stretched more than ever, trying to run our businesses and farms, whilst also volunteering on committees that the townships rely on such as schools, sporting clubs, local ambulance, bush fire brigades, community centres. The majority of our community are either farmers, or work on farms, where more often than not the work is solo and can be isolating.”
We are seeing increased requests from the Northern Territory, particularly from remote communities. Now, more than ever, these groups struggle to raise funds locally, and need larger grants because of the additional costs associated with their remoteness, as well as the complexity of the issues they support in their communities.
VIC, TAS, SA
With Victorian communities enduring the longest period of COVID-19 restrictions nationally, applications sought to build social capital and more resilient communities across the state. Consistent with last quarter, community groups continue to highlight the issue of volunteer fatigue and the challenges of fundraising locally, resulting in difficulties responding to community need.
Tasmanian applications and enquiries continue to focus on creating equitable access to services in low socioeconomic communities, particularly by investing in infrastructure and equipment to improve participation and engagement. With communities grappling with the lack of tourism due to COVID-19 border restrictions, people are exploring opportunities to deliver projects that build both community connection and sustain economic viability of small towns.
South Australian communities have continued to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as dealing with the aftermath of a devastating bushfire season and ongoing drought conditions across much of the state.
Insights backed by research
There is growing evidence of the pressure being experienced by not-for-profit organisations and volunteer-run community groups, both through FRRR’s granting activity and external research such as The Xfactor Collective RESET 2020 research and the Centre for Social Impact Pulse of the For-Purpose Sector study. Both studies identified similar issues such as:
- COVID-19 pandemic affecting service delivery.
- An increase in demand for services has staff working longer hours.
- The continuing uncertainty of the pandemic is impacting the mental health and wellbeing of staff and volunteers with worrying signs of burnout and fatigue.
- Organisations need help to diversify revenue streams and to support staff and volunteer wellbeing.