Community readiness for when lightning strikes

Kelvyn Eglinton
CEO
Momentum Waikato Community Foundation
6 July 2020

Since the start of the Covid-19 crisis people have often said to us: "We should have set up an endowment fund five years ago.”

It can be difficult for an over-stretched community organisation, besieged by day-to-day challenges, to build its long-term resilience, to pause the urgent and focus on the important.

This year's pandemic has however emphasised and amplified the vulnerability that comes from a dependence on contestable, application-based funding and sponsorship.

In turn, the utility and assurance of a Community Foundation’s central mission to build a regional endowment fund, within which community entities can invest all or some of their capital reserves for secure long-term income, has become more widely apparent during the recent challenges.

As a result, here in the Waikato, since lockdown our conversations have markedly accelerated towards action, as more boards recognise that an endowment is a cornerstone of a diversified and therefore sustainable funding base.

As a Community Foundation we pride ourselves on being nimble, and we certainly demonstrated that as we switched from long-term strategic projects in mid-March to a rapid emergency response by the start of April. What has kept us really busy has been our direct response to the Covid-19 crisis. We pivoted from our usual focus on gathering bequests for long-term social impact investment towards short-term, quick pass-through fundraising.

For us, the local response to the Covid-19 crisis has affirmed that there is a huge need for apolitical community leadership that challenges the norms around funding, service delivery and organisational structures. As a community we need to do things differently if we are to have a truly equitable and prosperous region for centuries to come.

My fear is that our society is already sliding back to doing the things the same way they’ve always been done. What is needed now, before the next crisis hits, is to ‘build back better’ by working outside the traditional structures. Not to supersede them, but to create synergies and amplify their effectiveness by breaking out of the traditional silos of endeavour.

And in turn, now is the time to ‘plant that tree we should have planted five years ago’, by starting an endowment fund with your local Community Foundation, so your organisation is ready for the next time lightning strikes.

Date Posted: 06 Jul 2020

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