Social agencies generally work with the most vulnerable people in our communities – but these organisations often need plenty of support themselves.
The Social Sector Innovation Trust (known as ‘SocialLink’) provides that support to an estimated 200+ organisations that exist in the Western Bay of Plenty, many of whom rely on volunteers and operate on extremely tight budgets.
Whether it’s help to generate income, address their IT needs or learning how to use research and evidence in their daily work, SocialLink strives to give the sector a collective voice and build future capability and capacity.
SocialLink General Manager Liz Davies says a handful of social sector agencies are big players like St John and Plunket. But the vast majority are small to medium sized groups who struggle with funding and a lack of skills to operate in an optimal way.
“Our aim is to help those groups improve the quality of the services they provide. That’s not to say they’re not doing a good job now – they are – it’s just about providing extra support where they need it.”
BayTrust has just approved $50,000 worth of operational funding for SocialLink for the next three years (total $150,000) in recognition of the important role they play in supporting social agencies in the Western Bay.
“We’re absolutely rapt that BayTrust has confidence that SocialLink is able to effectively support the sector,” Liz says.
“Knowing we have funding for three years provides us with certainty and helps in terms of attracting staff.”
In addition to that grant, BayTrust has approved a further $126,000 for SocialLink to co-ordinate and deliver a huge range of training opportunities in the coming year.
“We want to help ensure people have the necessary skills to run an efficient and effective organisation so they can do their best for our community,” Liz explains.
“Research shows that by training social agencies it does increase their capability and improve the outcomes for everyone.”
The new funds will be used to deliver training workshops on key topics such as marketing and communications, digital infrastructure, management, governance, leadership and more.
“We’re also going to run a pilot project assessing technology needs. We’ll put organisations in touch with pro bono hardware and software providers and help them with installation and training. They can then use that digital technology to improve their efficiency, marketing and to help with fundraising.”
Aside from training, SocialLink’s six (many part-time) staff regularly work one-on-one with social agencies to identify their strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement.
“We also support organisations working together to address complex social problems like meth use. We support the Breakthrough Forum which is focused on reducing the impact of meth on families and our community.”
Liz says SocialLink is continuing to develop relationships with Māori social services, iwi and hapu, and has also been given responsibility for managing “the Kollective” when it opens at the Historic Village in September this year.
“The Kollective is a community co-working space funded by TECT to encourage not-for-profits, charitable organisations, social enterprise and other social agencies to work together. There will be 40 or 50 different organisations based there, including three local philanthropic funders, and we’re thrilled we’re going to be involved in such a major way.”