October 27, 2010
Melbourne community groups have ridden through the economic crisis and emerged as robust as ever, the latest Community Confidence Index indicates.
In a strong indication of the resilience and strength of the sector, 84% of community groups surveyed for the 2010 Index reported that their organisation was either "stable" or "going from strength to strength".
The Index, which was compiled from the results of an online survey undertaken between July 12 and August 9, 2010, was released in Richmond on October 26.
A total of 532 Melbourne community group representatives took part in the survey, which is an initiative of Our Community, a social enterprise that provides advice, tools and training for Australia's 600,000 community groups and schools, and Leader Community Newspapers.
"Stability is the hallmark of the community sector in metropolitan Melbourne - more than three-quarters of the organisations in our sample are very well established, having been in existence for more than 10 years," said Our Community group managing director Denis Moriarty.
"More importantly, most are thriving, even in the wake of some very challenging economic circumstances. That's very good news indeed as these are the groups on which our society depends for its strength and vibrancy.
"Still, while most organisations are doing well, the 16% who say they are 'struggling' do represent an uncomfortably large slice of the sector. Governments and others who support the sector must take note and do what they can to support those organisations' needs."
Of particular note to government should be the findings that 80% of respondents had never heard of the National Compact, a key feature of the Federal Government's interactions with the community sector.
However, the government can take heart that the survey reveals strong support for its sector reform agenda, announced during the election campaign and now taking shape.
Mr Moriarty said that while the findings of the 2010 survey were mostly positive, there were some areas of concern.
"Many community groups are relying too heavily on funding from just one income stream, usually government grants," he said. "This is a risky strategy as a change in government priorities can spell disaster for such groups. Our Community recommends that community organisations draw their funds from as many sources as possible but the results of our survey indicate that many are still not doing that."
Mobilising more 'people power' might be the key to addressing this problem; survey respondents identified lack of helpers as a key challenge to their fundraising efforts.
Risk was another area of concern, with only half the respondents saying their organisation took risk seriously, even fewer saying their organisation had a risk management plan, and fewer again having put someone in charge of risk in their organisation. More than one in 10 organisations may be operating without public liability insurance, the survey reveals.
"In the litigious age we live in this is an obvious area of concern," Mr Moriarty said.
Survey Results: www.ourcommunity.com.au/cci
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