Let’s help Homeless write to put life in context

After reading Homeless write to put life in context I got to thinking about an old homeless guy I knew when I was in Wellington – I’ll call him Big Al.

He had lived on the streets for about 15 years when I first met him, and I only lost contact with him because I moved to Auckland would have been good to have followed his ‘story’ through the years.

One day when Big Al came into where I was working to collect old newspapers, we got to talking; I was amazed, inspired and horrified as to how his life had unfolded and how he ended up on the street.

He had been a community adviser for a Government Dept, married with his own home. One day he came home and discovered his wife in bed with the his best friend, who’d been the best man at his wedding. Instantly Big Al’s life was changed.

He told me he hadn’t lost his temper, he simply picked up his satchel and went back out. On returning the next day he and his wife sat down and talked through what had happened, and what had led to the situation they were now in. On hearing his wife’s ‘explanation’ Big Al could see that he was perhaps one of the main causes and didn’t want his wife to ‘suffer’ in a marriage that wasn’t working for her. He packed and moved out – that night.

With nowhere to go, Big Al spent his first night on the street; and, in his words – loved the experience, except for the cold, wet and windy nights – oh, and the drunken louts.

Big Al lost his job within weeks of moving to the streets, his employer couldn’t, or wouldn’t help him; he had no way of raising money to pay for new lodgings and had promised his wife he’d continue with the mortgage payments. Lucky he did receive a substantial payment from his employer, all of which he gave to his wife to pay toward the house – she then bought him out.

With no income, and not being eligible for welfare Big Al had no option but to stay on the streets; when he did become eligible for welfare he had settled into living on the street, and didn’t want to move into a box.

Why am I sharing this? I wonder what people would have thought if they’d had the chance to read Big Al’s story, in his words; not some brief summary like this.

He was a big man, and his story was big – how can we start to get some of our local homeless writing; can we set something up in our communities to help? Should business, local or central government help or should we as a community help to set up and run something that can help homeless learn something, or simply offer some a chance they may not have otherwise had.

Are you onboard? Do you have the time and skills to help? 

While you’re here – check this out Invisible People 

Originally posted on AdageBusiness

Charities and The Privacy Act


Did you know that your organization must comply with the Privacy Act 1993 ? 

Some organizations are unaware of their requirements under the Act, and how they must deal with, treat personal information collected in the course of their work (business). 

The Privacy Act 1993 is a relatively simple piece of legislation, there are basic principles which you must comply with – these include: 

Principle 1Principle 2Principle 3 and Principle 4 govern the collection of personal information. This includes the reasons why personal information may be collected, where it may be collected from, and how it is collected. 

Principle 5 governs the way personal information is stored. It is designed to protect personal information from unauthorised use or disclosure. 

Principle 6 gives individuals the right to access information about themselves. 

Principle 7 gives individuals the right to correct information about themselves. 

Principle 8 and Principle 9Principle 10 and Principle 11 place restrictions on how people and organisations can use or disclose personal information. These include ensuring information is accurate and up-to-date, and that it isn’t improperly disclosed. 

Principle 12 governs how “unique identifiers” – such as IRD numbers, bank client numbers, driver’s licence and passport numbers – can be used. 

If you’re not sure about the Privacy Act and your organization – take a look at:  

 Getting Started 

If you still have doubts, questions or concerns contact the Office of The Privacy Commissioner – they are able to offer some training through workshops for those needing more in-depth knowledge/understanding of the Act and it’s implications, your responsibilities etc.

Also – check Keeping It Legal   – a great resource for legislation and other matters that may affect community and voluntary organizations.


Source: Image and quotes from Office of The Privacy Commissioner

You never know when you may need them

It’s been a little under a year since my great niece (Stevie) was diagnosed with cancer – she had a Wilms tumour which was successfully removed – along, unfortunately with a kidney. 

Cancer of any sort is a big thing for someone to deal with, but at the age of three it’s humungous – not only for the patient, but for the entire immediate family, with questions, doubts, self examination of whether there was something that could have been done to prevent it happening. 

Stevie – is now doing well, she’s been through rounds of chemotherapy, lost her beautiful blonde hair in the process – but that’s coming back, as is her sparkle. 

I’ve been involved in the charity sector for a number of years and was aware of the work undertaken by three charities that I have had involvement with over the years – Child Cancer Foundation, Starship Children’s Hospital (Starship Foundation) and Ronald McDonald House, all very important organisations in our community. 

Knowing that they were there to support my niece and her parents was a relief, I knew what they did, I’d read the stories, seen them in action – but, to be on the receiving end of their ‘services’ was an eye-opener. 

Families who have contact with these organisations are not just a number, they’re not an unknown – they are people, they all have names, and some how these three organisations remember ever persons name, not just the patient and immediate family, but the regular visitors too. 

The support offered by Child Cancer Foundation, both here in Auckland and in Stevie’s home town has been incredible, and no words can express my personal heart felt thanks to them for being there for them. 

Ronald McDonald House – the home away from home, is certainly that – and more, the staff who working in the house, whether doing administrative tasks, cleaning, servicing rooms – are all valuable to any family staying in the House. They make every person staying there feel special, they ensure they have everything needed. 

What can one say about Starship Children’s Hospital – other than – WOW – this isn’t a hospital in the normal sense of the word. There’s no sterile feel to the place, it’s a kids environment with pictures for and by kids lining the walls. The staff don’t talk baby to the children, they treat every person they come into contact with as an equal. Wish I could fib about my age if I need hospital care – I’d sooner stay at Starship than any other hospital. 

The next time you hear the buckets rattling, or you get a call for a donation to help any of these organisation – please give, you never know when you, or someone you know may need their help. 

Child Cancer Foundation, Starship Children’s Hospital and Starship Foundation and, Ronald McDonald House – thank you for being there for Stevie and all the other families your care for and about. 

Fundraising Goals

All too often I hear about organisations setting out on a fundriasing drive – they know they need funds, they know what they need them for, but seldom do they have a goal.

The article from The Fundraising FunnelNot my Goal is a must read on this subject

Not My Goal!

I am surprised when I work with organisations where staff do not know what the fundraising goal is for the year. They are not familiar with what the organisation needs to raise let alone what their responsibility is within the overall goal.

We have all been in a situation where our fundraising manager hands us our fundraising goal for the year. It sort of feels similar to when you get handed a sandwich over a deli counter – except you may have had more input into the make-up of the sandwich than you had in setting the fundraising goal!   The result is often that we are more invested, as well, in the sandwich than we are in the annual fundraising goal likely because we had more input into the creation of the sandwich than we did in creating the annual goal.

What is wrong with this picture and how can staff and managers change it?  Consider the following:

– Fundraising goal setting should start from the bottom up.  When creating fundraising goals, start at the programmatic level.  If you want to raise $10,000,000 this year, what programs will make up that $10,000,000?  And within those programs, what are the sub-programs or who are the donors that you project that will give what amounts?

Read full article here

Charities and increased overheads

We’re seeing the cost of electricity, postage, council rates and more going up, how will this impact on what charities are able to deliver? 

A recent newspaper article explained who a charity shop was set to face a 700% increase in council rates, how can anyone adjust to having such a sizeable increase without it impacting on their ‘bottom line’, they can’t and for a charity basing its income on earnings from a shop this can be crippling.

Now NZ Post has announced postal rate increases, the second sizeable increase in a about two years, taking the rate for a standard letter to 70 cents. Sure there are special rates for bulk items and there’s is a community post subsidy/grant charities can apply for, but age number who receive this are minimal compared to the number of nonprofit organisations in the country. 

Power companies have announced increases in supply charges due to take effect over the next few months, with some indicating that this could be an increase of as much as ten percent.

For some it mightn’t be unrealistic for them to face all three increases, how can the expect to be able to continue delivering their services at the same level?

Charities were affected by the recent recession and had to tighten their belts, now they’re having to do it again.

It’s accepted that business need to remain profitable, but major increases can have a negative impact on them as well as thier customer.

How can charities manage these increases? 

There could be ways to manage them, reduce postage items – recommend to supporters that they opt to receive communicating via email is one way, reducing the number of newsletters is another – but, this could have a detrimental effect, as supporters can be encouraged to support and support more often based on the number of communications they receive.  

It has to be remembered too that not all supporters of charities have access to internet even though it’s said that 70-80% of the population has internet access, older supporters may not. 

Could landlords be approached for rent reductions or rent holidays, possibly, but landlords need to eat too and not all of them are not in a position to reduce rents as they too are likely facing increases too. 

Rates relief can be applied for, but with added pressures on councils can they add to the growing list of organisations seeking assistance?

When it comes to electricity perhaps charities could switch to using a service such as Powershop to get the best rates for their electricity consumption, costs. 

These increases will likely result in more grant/funding applications to community organisations, gaming machine trusts but these themselves revealing funding issues and don’t have the capacity or reserves to meet current applicant requests let alone an increase in the numbers applying.

It  will take some careful planning, and perhaps some out of the box thinking for charities affected by increases to find solutions, but they will, in the mean time they should be looking at general ways to reduce overheads so as to not to effect the service les they offer. 

What can supporters, or for that matter the general public do, support more, give more – if able, but like charities these too will be facing increases in their outgoing. Next is to lobby local council to urge them to reconsider rate and other increases, local MPs should also be lobbied to urge them to stand up for organizations working in their electorate.

Is your nonprofit facing rent, rates, power or other increases – what will you do to lessen the impact these may have on your ability to deliver your services? 

How the ‘other half’ live

After talking to some people about my ‘observation’, that those on lower incomes were more generous with a recent charity appeal; then being told by some in wealthier households that they were only giving ‘Government’ money away – I thought I’d see what would happen if these two groups met and talked about the differences in each others life and lifestyle. 

Who attended the ‘gathering’ (not their real names)

Mike – business owner, father of 3, own home and holiday home

Stewart – retired business executive, father of 2, owns multiple properties

Rachael – business owner, mother of 2, own home and holiday home

Stephen – business consultant – father of 2, own home

Stephanie – solo mother of 3, beneficiary, subsidised housing

Robert – father of 2, unemployed, beneficiary, subsidised housing

Jemma – widow, mother of 2, beneficiary, subsidised housing

Angela – mother of 3, employed part-time, subsidised housing

What took place, after a casual cuppa (you can’t beat a cup of tea to get people to relax and start talking), we sat down and talked about why people give, how they give and what it is like to struggle and still find ways to help others in the community. 

For those who have a good income, own their own homes and have reasonable disposable cash giving isn’t normally an issue, but for those who struggle to cope week to week, pay cheque to pay cheque it’s a whole different story. 

What came out of the discussion opened everyone’s eyes, mine included. 

A little more background, the income range of the group was vast with the highest earner taking home (after tax) in excess of $350,000 (bonuses, car included) and the lowest taking home no more than $320 per week – now that’s a gap. 

For those on the lowest income giving was more important to them than for those earning the higher amounts. 

Another staggering thing was those who earned the most tended to give to global causes, whereas those earning the least were more concerned about their local community and causes closer to home. 

It was interesting to see people’s faces when Stephanie, Robert, Jemma and Angela all talked about their household budget and how they would buy butter perhaps once a month, when it was gone that was it until next month. Milk was also pretty much a luxury, with Jemma and Angela both saying they buy a 2 litre milk each week and it has to last until the following week. 

Bacon, what’s that? 

Perhaps we live insular lives and don’t realise how the other half live, this discussion seemed to prove that. Even though all participants watch the news, read what’s happening it wasn’t affecting them so they hadn’t seen “the full picture”. 

Mike, Stewart, Rachael and Stephen were amazed at how open and honest Stephanie, Robert, Jemma and Angela were about their situations and mentioned that they felt uncomfortable talking about themselves, but after hearing the others stories realised that they needed to listen and share more. 

By the end of the get together Mike said he would be rethinking his charity giving, so did Stewart and, Rachael offered to see what she could do to help Jemma and Angela out with perhaps a job or in some other way. 

Was it a success – hell yea, eyes were opened, ideas shared and perhaps some friendships formed. 

After we wound up everyone went out for lunch, wish I could have joined them to witness the interaction that would have taken place; I’m hoping to get updates on the lunch and what was discussed, maybe more offers of help were given – I hope so. 

I know though that changes will be made.