“Without these services, their cities would wither and die. “
Although community organizations in rural and regional areas are the lifeblood of their communities, many find themselves without sufficient funding and resources and struggling to stay afloat after two years of near constant disruption, according to a news report. study.
Research from the Foundation for Rural Regional Renewal (FRRR) explores how NFPs and community groups in remote, rural and regional areas of Australia are coping amid the pandemic and an ongoing series of natural disasters.
In the past two years, almost half of the responding organizations have faced drought; 37% have been confronted with bush fires; 26% have experienced flooding; and nearly 20 percent dealt with mouse plague.
And while many large metropolitan organizations were able to pivot and deliver services online, the lack of digital connectivity in more remote areas meant people facing these immense issues felt isolated and stressed.
“Access to digital technology in rural Australia has not really improved in decades. Even where there is connectivity, it’s expensive, ”said FRRR CEO Natalie Egleton.
“While external funding often covers hardware, revenues are insufficient to cover ongoing operational costs such as WiFi access, cybersecurity management, and volunteer training. “
Funding constraints remain a problem
Access to sufficient funding has proven to be by far the biggest constraint facing community groups. Very few receive ongoing government or philanthropic funding and rely heavily on donations raised through events that during COVID came to a screeching halt.
Egleton also told Pro Bono News that it was important to recognize that these groups were often excluded from fundraising opportunities because they were not registered charities or did not have the resources to apply for a grant. .
“These are small NPOs and charities that work in so many different types of business… the role they play is really dynamic and complex, which means some of these traditional fundraising structures don’t work,” he said. she declared.
“So the first thing I think about is just to appreciate that and understand that it’s harder to reach them. ”
These concerns were echoed in the report, with only half of those interviewed agreeing that they were able to influence decisions made about their region or that donors listen to them and consult them on issues affecting their communities.
Respondents also called for more flexibility in how and when funding is used, a simpler application process, with less paperwork, and long-term or ongoing funding to allow them to plan more effectively and efficiently. ” use resources more efficiently.
More than just social cohesion
Of all the organizations surveyed, 87% contributed to the local economy and all offered some form of cultural and social support.
Egleton said if these organizations were to collapse, the consequences would be immense.
“These types of organizations are often seen as positive for social cohesion and community bonds, which they absolutely are, but what the survey also found is that without these organizations many basic services within rural communities would cease to exist, ”Egleton mentioned.
She said this was due to the fact that in many regional and rural areas, services such as community transport, elderly care facilities, local emergency services or even local community events were all run by small NFPs and armies of volunteers, which were now in danger of collapsing.
“If people start to leave town to access these services, there is no more community,” she said.
“We have heard people say that without these services their cities would wither and die. “
Discover the full report here.