Charities face increased demand, financial hurdles

The COVID-19 pandemic is posing a challenge for the community sector organisations with many rescheduling or changing the delivery of events, including the RSCPA Million Paws Walk. File image.

Restrictions on mass gatherings and calls for social isolation have caused the cancellation of many critical fundraising events for charities, prompting a call for financial assistance.

Locally, Menslink has cancelled their annual Big Night Out and associated fundraising events until the end of the financial year, which will see the organisation lose around $250,000 or 20% of their total income.

“This loss is just the tip of the iceberg, and the social impacts of what’s about to come will be far-reaching across the community and charity sectors,” said Menslink’s Chief Executive, Martin Fisk.

There is concern the lack of donations and corporate sponsorship – compounded by the bushfires earlier this year – will significantly affect the ability of charities to deliver their services.

According to the 2019 Australian Community Sector Survey, even before the bushfires and COVID-19 crisis, the ACT not-for-profit community service sector was struggling to meet demand.

While 84% of ACT community service organisations experienced increasing demand in 2019, less than 4% reported that they were completely able to meet demand.

The Domestic Violence Crisis Service (DVCS) said they are expecting an increase in client demand from the current situation. This is already being demonstrated in other countries such as China.

“We would like to remind people that isolation and the exceptional circumstances our community is facing right now can increase the frequency and/or severity of domestic and family violence,” DVCS CEO Sonia Di Mezza said.

“With this in mind, we encourage people who are being subjected to domestic and family violence or not sure what they are experiencing to make contact with us. We ask people to look out for and reach out to family, friends, colleagues and neighbours.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic is posing a challenge for the community sector organisations with many rescheduling events, others are taking the opportunity to adapt, including:

  • The RSPCA will no longer hold the Million Paws Walk on Sunday 17 May. Instead the event has evolved into Million Paws Walk: Walk This May;
  • DVCS has postponed their annual Gala Ball from Saturday 16 May to 5 September;
  • The Ronald McDonald House Charities ACT Gala Ball scheduled for Saturday 4 April has been postponed. Organisers are working to secure a future date.
  • The Mother’s Day Classic Foundation (which raises funds for breast cancer research) has made the decision that all MDC events in 2020 will be held virtually rather than physically;

Organisations are also adapting to working conditions. The St Vincent de Paul Society National Council have ceased all home-based visitations until further notice. Visitation will now occur at the discretion of the conference presidents and must take place by telephone or web-based care and support, or at a Vinnies shop or other facility.

As part of the ACT Government’s economic survival package, additional funding of $7 million will be provided for non-government organisation partners to meet increased service demand for emergency relief. Lifeline ACT will also receive an additional $100,000 to bolster services following a recent spike in calls.

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