From narrow funding sources to shrinking volunteer numbers to lack of diversity, six grassroots NFPs tell us what will impact their fundraising in the next year.

It’s clear that the pandemic has dramatically changed the playing field for charities. The need for support is acute, yet small nonprofits, particularly those solving complex problems, are operating tirelessly to meet demand, and with less support.

We can assume that fundraising in 2022 is going to remain uncertain. Many NFPs fear causes that are out of plain sight and that focus on solving deeper, long-term issues could be left behind, and that more needs to be done to provide a platform for causes supporting CALD and First Nations communities.

We spoke to leaders from six small grassroots NFPs to understand their concerns for fundraising in 2022 and how these issues can be overcome.

Amy Nguyen, co-founder of Zen Tea Lounge Foundation

“Our biggest concern for fundraising in 2022 is a continued sense of uncertainty and the impact this has on volunteer numbers. A mix of financial concerns, restrictions on movement and increased stress in our lives due to COVID means we’ve lost most of our volunteers and we’re having to re-build from scratch. In addition to volunteers delivering support on the ground, Zen look for professionals and students willing to donate their time and specific skills to support our operations. Without specialised skills, like copywriting and grant writing, we are going to continue to face major roadblocks in our fundraising efforts going into 2022.

“After such an extended time of simply trying to stay afloat, we are operating on little reserves and a very small margin. Many small grassroots NFPs, including ourselves, are now stuck in a cycle where we need funding, but can’t afford – and don’t have enough people with the skills – to successfully launch and maintain fundraising campaigns. We are turning to digital fundraising solutions, but there are limitations on our ability to access digital fundraising tools and resources, and we suspect this will remain a reality in 2022.

“COVID has led to a depletion of resources for social services whilst also increasing demand for support, particularly amongst some of our most vulnerable communities. Going into 2022, we expect it’s going to be a tough first half of the year for many charities and we will need volunteers and philanthropists who are willing to invest their time, skills and money in local grassroots programs that are on the front lines supporting those in need.”

Roxan Fabiano, Executive Officer of HerSpace

“HerSpace is one of the many charities and organisations working to address the mental health needs of women during the pandemic. Sadly, we have not had the resources to help every woman who has reached out for help. There is a real concern that this will continue into 2022 due to the gap in available specialist mental health services that can meet the complex needs of survivors of exploitation.

“HerSpace is the first organisation dedicated to filling this gap in Australia, but organisations like ours need government support. Funds are often directed at large mental health services, but smaller specialist services meeting complex needs struggle to attract funding. This has resulted in women survivors of exploitation falling through the cracks of mental healthcare. These women require longer-term specialised support that is not realistically provided through larger generalist mental health care providers. It’s critical at this stage for all Australians, businesses, and levels of government to recognise issues that are happening but may be out of plain sight, especially during lockdowns and travel restrictions, such as exploitation and modern slavery.”

Finn O’Branagáin, CEO and Artistic Director of Outloud

“In the next 12 months and beyond, we’re going to be needing philanthropists who are able to think laterally about problems. During COVID, we’ve all had to come up with different solutions in order to make things work. Philanthropic engagement will need to be forward-thinking with an understanding that soft entry and soft skills are going to be really important to reach people who need support. A lot of social problems caused by COVID are going to appear as ripples under the surface, so we’re going to need investment in more solutions that are focused on healing and connecting, rather than only focusing on crisis care.

“We’re seeing many more young people struggling with anxiety, isolation or communication issues and they’re losing confidence in their future. While we should absolutely focus on acute needs that have arisen from COVID-19, like homeless shelters and DV crisis care, we also need funding for projects that are about wellbeing and healing and we ask philanthropists and funding bodies to recognise this. We’ve been through a collective trauma and people from all walks of life are going to need help to heal. This requires an understanding that we need more than surface solutions that achieve quick wins, we require deep, long-term community support.”

Brenda Gaddi, Managing Director and Founder of Women of Colour Australia

“Many not-for-profit organisations come to a point where they face financial challenges because they only rely on one or two sources of funding. The key is to fundraise on a multi-year basis instead of relying on one-off grants, so it’s more sustainable for NFPs. It’s important to consider all avenues including government grants, crowdfunding, donations, memberships, events, sales or sponsorships.

“When launching fundraising campaigns or initiatives, it’s important to adopt a liberatory design process that centres on equity and justice. We must invest in fundraisers that come from the communities that we serve. There’s a huge disconnect between the makeup of Executive Team who are predominantly from Anglo backgrounds and the communities that they’re supposedly supporting.”

Ashlee Donohue, CEO of Mudgin-Gal

“Fundraising is an important yet difficult part for any not-for-profit organisation. Most grassroots NFPs have a very small team and limited funds, so generally it’s up to the CEO or staff member to lead the fundraising, whereas in other organisations they have a dedicated team focusing purely on fundraising events or campaigns.

“It’s almost impossible for grassroots NFPs to get noticed when they are up against larger organisations who are well funded and resourced.”

“When it comes to Indigenous organisations like Mudgin-Gal, the challenge is tenfold and that’s because culturally, Aboriginal people find it hard to ask for money from strangers. We generally fundraise within community. Moreover, it’s particularly hard for Aboriginal organisations to develop a viable fundraising space due to the lack of resources and platforms to support us.

“The issue can be addressed by community organisations and NFPs being given the opportunity to tender for bigger grants and for allies with big platforms to leverage those platforms to help grassroots organisations to fundraise.”

Gabrielle Humphreys, Operations and Volunteer Manager at Dandelion Support Network

“The increased competition and sense of urgency for financial support due to COVID-19 need to be managed carefully by NFPs with an awareness shown for others’ circumstances and understanding that community contributions may look different than financial support alone in the coming months. NFPs will need to be responsive and agile in their fundraising approach and look for alternatives ways to engage whilst looking for signs of donor fatigue.

“Continued financial support is vital. We receive no ongoing government support and depend on the generosity of our community and have previously relied heavily on in-person fundraising events. This year has demonstrated the power of online tools and connections.  In November 2021, we launched our first hybrid campaign Dandelion Day where supporters can organise peer to peer fundraising events in person or online. This will become a landmark annual campaign that will complement and bolster our annual in-person events.

“2021 has been hard on everyone. Reduced financial capacity for corporates and individuals doesn’t mean there is a reduced willingness to positively impact their community. Next year Dandelion will heavily promote ways that our community can support us in non-financial ways, namely through both corporate and individual volunteering, skills-based volunteering and donating preloved nursery items.”


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