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Tuesday 09 November 2010

Key groups perching on the financial brink

Posted in: New Zealand Daily News
By Daily News staff - 13th September 2010

The financial state of affairs of a number important Auckland-based GLBT community groups is increasingly dire, with two in particular staring down the barrel of imminent fiscal crisis. Daily News caught up with Body Positive, Charlotte Museum, Rainbow Youth and OUTLine on the size of their coffers.

Body Positive

HIV/AIDS support group Body Positive only has enough cash in the bank to survive for another two months.

CEO Bruce Kilmister says it's the charity's annual financial crisis. "And whilst I'm a bit blunted by it, because it is every year, the reality is that it's always quite serious at this time of year. We get down to less than two months operating cash and we wonder where the money's going to come from."

Kilmister says two of Body Positive's major funders have refocused on where they want to make grants. The JR McKenzie Trust, which gave the group $15,000 last year, is now focusing on Maori. The Perry Foundation gave Body Positive money towards salary payments in the past, but has now amalgamated with The Lion Foundation, which has not granted any funds for salary payments.

"Another is the ASB Bank, where they are making a strong focus on Maori issues. And this year they gave us $50,000 at the beginning. And they've indicated that will be a lot less next year, if any."

Auckland City Council has reduced its grants for rent and overheads, dropping from $25,000 last year to $16,100 this year. There is also the uncertainty of whether there will be any funding from the incoming Super City council.

"We are facing a very bleak future," Kilmister says. "With funding either directed away or not available. And we were hoping we might get some Ministry of Health funding, but I can't see that happening within the next six to 12 months, because the (HIV Services) Review is just so long in coming out.

"We need cash, simple as that. We need cash to pay rent, pay wages, to keep operating."

Kilmister says a number of very generous people have put their hands in their pockets and handed over $100 or $200. "But sadly that just doesn't go far."

Charlotte Museum

The Charlotte Museum, which opened in 2008 with a mission to preserve the nation's lesbian history, had to let talented and hard-working coordinator Jenny Rankine go because it could only afford to keep her until this month. She was the only paid employee, aside from researchers who are hired as they can be afforded.

The museum already had to shift from its initial Grey Lynn premises to a cheaper location in Western Springs this year because it couldn't pay its rent. It spent three months with its collection in storage before it was even able to reopen. The move was a rather expensive operation, with the trust having to spend $2,000 to get electricity and lighting set up.

Founder Dr Miriam Saphira says the rent for September is covered and the trust should be able to cover October, "but only just".

Saphira has applications in for a COGS grant, but points out it's never a sure thing and if it's delayed the museum will not be able to pay its November rent. She does not want to have to keep moving the museum.

Lotteries Community, which has paid for the coordinator position, has indicated it will not make a decision on that funding until December.

"We're just too dependent on granting organisations at this point. And it's because we had such a big setback. If it wasn't for a couple of people who've backed the museum for two years running – together they put in $7,000 or $8,000 each year, that's a lot of money for an individual to put in.

"We haven't had enough, probably, support from the community. Because we have a lot of free events, sometimes three a month, we don't get a lot of revenue from those events."

Saphira says people can become a friend of the museum and pay $50 a year to help out. "That's not even a latte a month," she says. "It's peanuts really. But we do need a lot of friends."

Rainbow Youth

GLBT peer support service Rainbow Youth experienced a 30 percent drop in funding for the year 2009/10.

Executive Director Tom Hamilton says so far in 2010/11 funding has been difficult to secure.

"We have sought MSD (Ministry of Social Development) emergency response funding once already and will again to maintain the increased demand on our service and are awaiting confirmation from MSD currently.

"It's been difficult to cover the costs of operating ie; salaries, rental, building costs and general office costs. These costs are increasing due to the demand on our service and we are one example of many queer youth organisations around the country, some of whom will have to cover wide areas of the country with even less resources available to them."


Phone support and welfare group OUTLine is in a relatively healthy financial situation. It has moved to new premises in Ponsonby after matters beyond its control meant it had to quickly vacate its longtime downtown Auckland site.

OUTLine has also been able to secure funding to employ a General Manager, that person being Vaughan Meneses.

Last year the community-driven initiative OUTLine October raised more than $30,000 for the LGBT phone support network, bringing it back from the brink.

Meneses would love to see another initiative like last year's OUTLine October, saying it not only raised crucial cash, but also did wonders for the service's profile, which meant other funders who had been on the backburner sat up and took notice.

"From a financial point of view, it's put us not in a rich position but it's certainly enough to get our Strategic Plan back on track and start expanding it to the kind of services that we've been wanting to provide for a long time to the community."

Meneses says there are major issues in the community OUTLine wants to tackle head-on in the coming year.

"As an independent organisation from Government and with the ability to go national, the areas that we are really concerned about at the moment are looking at our aging population in terms of rainbow communities – how we're going to resource it, what are we going to do, what structures and support systems we have in place."

Meneses says there are a lot of people out there who don't know there is an 0800 number they can call. He says if it receives funding to do so, OUTLine will work on increasing its ability to reach out beyond the main areas of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

"Most of us, even though we end up in places like this, it's not where we started. And it's not where we initially need that support. So from our perspective we're really looking forward to trying to get some money together so we can actually broaden our services and make sure that people from Kaitaia to Bluff and Invercargill can get on the phone – and they know that there's a person there to listen." Daily News has spoken to the organisers of OUTLine October - and given the state of play for the above crucial community groups, they say they are planning to make an announcement within the next few days on a similar initiative.

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