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Wednesday 08 April 2009

Our community's cash crisis

Posted in: Community
By Matt Akersten - 6th February 2009

The 'Recession'. The 'Credit Crunch'. The 'Global Economic Meltdown'… With all the scary stories going on at the moment, it's tempting to put on your bravest face and try to ignore it all as 'media scaremongering'.

How many times have you heard "I don't know about those others, but our business is ticking along better than ever" in the last few weeks?

But have a chat to anybody at one of our key LGBT charititable organisations, and you'll be left in no doubt that times are seriously tough.


HIV support network Body Positive Auckland broke the ice with their announcement late last year. Due to a large reduction in regular funding coming in from the ASB Charitable Trust, their plans and services for 2009 will be cut, along with staff. Auckland City Council's Community Support Fund has also been reduced by $1 million, which will impact on rent payment money for Body Positive's newly-expanded premises.

Meanwhile, regular LGBT community events and organisations like the popular Heroic Gardens had decided to donate their money elsewhere. As the New Year dawned, money worries were building up. Management made a difficult decision – make an experienced part-time media liaison redundant. He finished in late January, after three years in the job.

Now there's more bad news. The ASB Trust has not just reduced its available funds – it has frozen all funds until this September, "as a result of the global economic meltdown."

ASB gives out millions of dollars to a wide range of community groups each year – including providing cash for rescue helicopters, beds at Auckland City Mission, sporting groups, and health networks. Now that money's drying up.


LGBT phone counseling service OUTLine NZ has also heard to expect their major funders to be less generous than they were last financial year.

"While we hope to maintain all current services, there will be some cuts," admits General Manager Lesley Belcham. The organisation's cashflow projections now bleed red as the recession bites, making it difficult for OUTLine NZ to implement its programmes.

"Traditionally we have raised funds from a variety of different sources – dinner nights, movie nights and tennis have always helped us raise money to help smooth out the cyclical dips in the funding calendar," she explains.

"But one of the first signs that the economy is affecting fundraising is the decreasing amounts of donations that OUTLine NZ receives."

Meanwhile, efforts to find new sponsors – even when they are asked for modest gifts – becomes much harder in a flailing economy, with many charities experiencing the same plight, Belcham adds.

Unfortunately social services and volunteer organisations are often hardest hit: "This is a strange phenomenon when you consider that this is the time when people are most in need of support and counseling services like those provided by us."


Long-running and well-respected LGBT youth organisation Rainbow Youth seeks funding from large trusts like ASB each year. You guessed it – they've also been warned that getting cash will be more difficult this time around.

Rainbow Youth Centre coordinator Daniel Chorley explains: "In the wake of the financial crisis, trusts and businesses are tightening their belts. The first thing to go seems to be funding for the Non-For-Profit sector. In addition, with less money to go around, organisations are looking for money from funds they would have not previously applied for, meaning greater competition for existing funding and grants.

"We don't receive any funding from the Government, so currently this sort of trust grant funding is vital to our organisation's operation."

Luckily Rainbow Youth is currently financially stable, so no staff or activity cuts are planned for now. "In fact, we are currently going through an expansion phase, so the demand for resources will be greater than it has ever been," Chorley explains. "Saying that, as the organisation is maturing we are using those resources more efficiently. The economic slowdown will not impinge on our long term goals and strategies to help Rainbow Youth grow. If anything, the current climate will hopefully give us an appreciation for obtaining funding, and drive us to look at more sustainable options in the near future."

While currently only 5% of Rainbow Youth's funds are from the gay community, this will be one avenue that the organisation hopes to develop in the future. "We think the community's generosity and spirit of helping out the non-profit sector is still there," Chorley concludes.


Riding out the hard times will be New Zealand's largest gay community-based organistion. The NZ AIDS Foundation has a three-year fixed contract, signed last August with the Ministry of Health, keeping it financially secure until late 2011.

NZAF Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier says the contract "gives us good financial security. It means we're less likely to be at the whims of things like the global credit crisis."

The organisation gave Body Positive a one-off $80,000 grant last year to help it grow into its larger premises, and to assist with their K' Road HIV testing clinic.


We've highlighted three organisations with credit crunch concerns, but there's sure to be several more stories of struggles out there. is committed to keeping you up-to-date with recession-related developments in what looks to be a grim 2009.

This month is busy in Auckland with its Pride '09 Festival, and next month there's Wellington's Proud Week. So many events, so many opportunities to give generously with money or time to worthy LGBT charities. They need you now more then ever.

Matt Akersten - 6th February 2009