ComVoices third survey finds NGOs continue to experience high demand and financial pressures


Tue 21 Jan 2020

ComVoices published the results from their third State of the Sector survey in December 2019. The report highlights the continued pressure on community and voluntary organisations to meet increased demand, while coping with financial and organisational pressures.

ComVoices is a network of national community and voluntary sector organisations. The survey is run every two years. The ComVoices State of the Sector Survey report (2019) summarises findings from the most recent survey which was carried out in 2018.

The report highlights increasing pressures on organisations:

"Organisations are dealing with greater workloads, without a corresponding increase in funding. The individuals, families and whānau they are seeing have more complex needs, and some organisations are concerned that they do not have the expertise and funding to provide adequate support. Many organisations are struggling financially – and additional compliance costs from contracting changes add to the burden."

A new question in this survey asked organisations about the impact of changes in the sector in the last two years. The following top four issues were identified as having the most negative impacts:

  • increased competition from other providers
  • having nowhere to refer people with high needs
  • the increased complexity of client issues
  • tendering for contracts.

Some of the key findings are:

Increasing demand for services

  • 69% of organisations report more people are using their services than two years ago
  • 80% reported that demand for their services and activities has increased over the past two years
  • Client needs are more complex and there aren't adequate resources to meet those needs:

"Organisations are finding they lack the expertise and funding to provide adequate support. Nevertheless, many providers extend their services to these clients and do the best they can, worried clients will be unable to find support elsewhere."

Increasing financial pressures

  • 54.5% were either facing closure, possibly facing closure or struggling to make ends meet financially
  • 73.5% report they are doing more work than specified in their contracts (up from 68% in 2016)
  • Half the organisations reported that specifications in their government contracts have changed significantly over the past two years with 40% of organisations saying the changes did not benefit them

Ongoing challenges to sustain adequate staffing:

  • Only 31.5% report that they have more staff than two years ago despite the disproportionately greater demand for services
  • 34% of organisations were unable to offer staff a wage increase in the last two years
  • Organisations reported they do not have adequate funding to hire and train staff

ComVoices Chair Chris Glaudel said “We’re continually adapting to the requirements of the environment we’re in as we’re committed to providing valuable social services to our communities, while continuing to advocate for more resources with the people able to make these decisions.” 

Related resources

Social Service System: The Funding Gap and How to Bridge It (MartinJenkins, 2019) reports on a study commissioned by Social Service Providers Aotearoa (SSPA). The study found that the government funds social service providers for less than two thirds of the actual costs of delivering the services they are contracted to provide. As a result, the organisations often rely on philanthropic funding to cover basic running costs, pay the wages they need to attract and retain staff, and meet service demand.

What is the Future for NGO Governance? (2019) was produced by the Centre for Social Impact in partnership with the Superdiversity Institute for Law, Policy and Business. The report notes the important role of NGOs and recommends the development of a national strategy for community governance. It identified a number of barriers to good governance including the “low value and low profile of NGO governance, the behaviour of individual board members, the complexity of the NGO context and poor processes around decision-making.” It recommends "considerable investment" in developing NGO governance capabilities.

Update: SSPA and their members have written a joint letter to Ministers calling on the Government to address the NGO funding gaps in the 2020 Wellbeing budget.

Related news

Radio NZ recently reported on the experiences of non-government organisations (NGOs) struggling to recruit and retain social work staff due to the pay gap with Oranga Tamariki - Ministry for Children social workers. In 2018, the Government agreed to a pay equity settlement for Oranga Tamariki social workers resulting in a 30% pay rise over two years.

Related media

To keep NGO services open, close the pay gap, Press Release: Aotearoa NZ Association of Social Workers, Scoop, 21.01.2020

Image: Headway on Unsplash

More news articles about CommunityResearch