Site refusals put squeeze on charities

Popular retail outlets were once the stomping ground of charities and buskers alike, but this scenario is under threat, collectors say.

The SPCA had a bumper year from Auckland street collections with $159,000 raised during its three-day appeal in November.

But it was still below the anticipated $200,000, though public generosity is not to blame – rather supermarket and mall operators are less inclined to lend a spot to collectors.

‘‘We’re seeing a scary trend where the key sites we rely on are beginning to say ‘no’,’’ marketing and fundraising manager Rona Booth said.

‘‘I’ve spoken with other charities and everyone’s finding it difficult.’’

Nationally, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals applies to local councils and businesses six months before its annual appeal.

It isn't a simple process made harder by once-supportive businesses now failing to respond.

This year a number of volunteers were turned away by new store operators who said they had not personally given permission for volunteers to collect, Booth said.

That was even though volunteers still had valid permits from previous operators.

‘‘We’d hope that the stores would honour the permits.’’

Applying for annual permits from Auckland Council was easy and they gave a blanket right to collect on the streets during the days of the  appeal, Booth said, but the most coveted sites are at malls and supermarkets.

‘‘Those commercial malls, I’d even go so far as to say there’s an ethical issue in terms of giving access to charities to give back to the community,’’ SPCA CEO chief executive Chrisdhtine Kaylin said.

Around the country, Westfield Shopping Centres each make a section of the mall available for registered charities, though there are rules.

The charity cannot be selling goods, have a third party fundraise for them or have religious or political affiliations.

There are similar sections in the malls for ‘‘casual leasing’’ which allow for temporary commercial campaigns and ventures.

Coca-Cola made use of this for its recent controversial Share a Coke campaign which encouraged people to buy cans with their name on them.

Other users are the manicure and hair styling companies which operate at a number of malls.

The Warehouse has similar rules for groups wanting to hold sausage sizzle fundraisers outside stores.

Groups are encouraged to book nine months ahead to ensure availability.

The Royal NZ Foundation of the Blind respects organisations’ rights to say no to collectors.

But times are tough, and attitudes differ up and down the country.

Wellington is the hardest nut to crack due to the CBD’s popularity with charities. And the council requires applications to be made at least one year in advance.

‘‘Wellington City Council requires applications to be made at least one year in advance,’’ executive director for marketing and fundraising support Alison Wheatley said. 

Fundraising Institute of New Zealand chief executive James Austin said property owners were bombarded with an increasing number of charities.

‘‘The calendar of events is growing. There are 80 applicants for appeals but only 52 Fridays you can do them on,’’ Austin said.

‘‘There’s got to be a mix of national and local charities and you have to be efficient so we’re not over-doing it and creating public resistance.’’

New Zealand is home to more than 25,000 charities, according to  the Charities Commission.

‘‘There’s an awful lot of charities in New Zealand," Austin said.

‘‘They’re stepping up to fill the gap by government cuts in funding. It’s a worldwide thing.

‘‘New Zealanders are extremely generous but it’s us and the retail sector chasing the disposable dollar."

Sunday Star Times