A large majority of Aotearoa’s 115,000 tangata whenua, community and voluntary groups are used to operating on the smell of an oily rag, delivering important services into the community despite a lack of funding and not enough bodies on the ground.
But two years of dealing with the fallout from Covid 19, followed by a cost-of-living crisis and, more recently, a series of weather-related disasters, means these groups are under even more pressure.
“The needs of the community have increased since Covid arrived, and they haven’t gone back down, so essentially they’re having to deliver more with less,” says Rochelle Stewart-Allen, Kaiwhakahaere Matua (Chief Executive) of Hui E! Community Aotearoa, a Todd Foundation capability partner. Hui E! is a peak body for the community and voluntary sector.
That increased pressure means there’s not much time for what Rochelle calls “charity SMEs” to apply for grants, let alone make submissions to the government on matters that affect their sector. Nor do they have time for strategic planning and as for taking time out to attend to their well-being, there’s never time to make that happen.
“There are a lot of really tired leaders of community groups and charities and a lot of really tired volunteers,” says Rochelle.
Luckily Hui E! has their back. It works behind the scenes to make sure this vital sector gets the recognition and support it needs.
“We talk about ourselves as helping the helpers. We work to support community groups who are delivering at the grassroots level.”
Research carried out during 2020 and 2022 identified a number of pressing issues facing the sector, including the need to free up funding so that community organisations can get equitable access to the financial support they need.
During 2022 Hui E! continued to lobby funders – including government funders – to make the grant application and reporting process easier and less time consuming. The organisation also continued their Hoa Pūtea service, matching small community organisations with skilled volunteers to coach them through their first grant application; 32 organisations used the service in the year ended June 2022. For some, access to skilled advice has been a game-changer.
The organisation also started a popular podcast series, Tātou tātou, featuring community leaders talking about their personal wellbeing. “It’s a way of providing peer-to-peer learning, where people share what they have learned about how to manage in these challenging roles.”
Rochelle says a three-city tour by US not-for-profit advocate Vu Le in October 2022 had a big impact in raising the profile of the sector.
“Vu Le is very funny and entertaining, but he has a very serious message. It meant we got in front of philanthropic funders, we got in front of government, and we were really able to highlight some of the real challenges our community members face.”