Devastation and despair is the message coming out of the nonprofit sector after months of postal strikes and non-delivery of mail.
According to the Southern Africa Institute of Fundraising (SAIF) thousands of good causes and charities are experiencing deep financial difficulties as the strike impacts severely on the sector that relies heavily on public generosity to support their work through direct mail.
Providers of vital services to thousands of beneficiaries will have to cut-back on programmes and prepare for a Bah! Humbug! Christmas.
The crippling effect of this strike to thousands of needy people will be devastating, heart-breaking and recovery will be costly, SAIF president, Ann Bown, states.
The postal strike action over the past six months could mean a loss of R55 million to nonprofit organisations delivering essential social services across the country such as; home-based care services, the physically disabled, the visually impaired to vulnerable and abused children as well as neglected and forgotten elderly and indigent people in need of shelter, a meal and compassion.
According to Peter Laubscher, director of The Leprosy Mission, this raises grave concerns for his organisation as they were forced to cancel a September/Spring appeal, resulting in a loss in donations of R300 000 but it also severely impacts on the dispatch of medication to dependent patients via Post Office Econo-Parcel Services and Speed Services. Laubscher further adds, “I am unsure if our friends will receive this years’ Christmas Appeal, many of who only contribute once a year.” This annual appeal raises around half a million Rand.
Girls and Boys Town are also frustrated as they too depend on the Post Office to keep in-touch with more than 30 000 regular donors. Their August 2014 appeal letter only started to dribble into mail boxes this week. Teboho Nkoana, national fundraising and marketing officer, explains that ‘people do not respond to outdated mails, this exercise has been a waste of postage, paper and time’ he doubted that his organisation would be able to trust the post office with their end-of-year newsletter and was now seeking ways to do this job electronically, which, Nkoana further adds, is an unsuitable medium for mature donors, many contributing for more than 40 years via the jolly old postman, they don’t want to change! Private postal services are too costly and not always efficient.
Again the August 2014 mailer of the ‘Reporter’ a biannual newsletter published by The Salvation Army has received no responses. Each newsletter appeal generates around R700 000 - this loss will result in reduction of services “We serve the poorest of the poor and our work is in the neediest of communities,” says Major Carin Holmes ‘it is a real challenge to keep going with rising monthly expenses our shelters for the homeless, homes for the elderly, crèches and schools for young children and babies will all feel the consequences of this insanity’ she emotionally stated. Their Christmas appeal, usually mailed in October to donors and prospective donors, receives gifts amounting to well over R1.4 million.
The well-known annual Tree of Memories campaign; regularly mailed to the donors in October was cancelled. Hospice East Rand has now decided to rather place advertisements in local newspapers, send out emails and start an SMS fundraising appeal to the public to buy a light for the ‘Tree’ that lights up on Saturday, 22nd November 2014 with friends and family sharing memories of loved ones that have passed. Brenda Bischoff tells SAIF that they just could not risk spending the money on print and postage with no guarantee that the post will be delivered in time. ‘We know we are taking a risk via the media and technology but what can we do?”
Another big brand charity; Childhood Cancer Foundation South Africa (CHOC) has hesitated with their Christmas mailing; they also cancelled the August appeal. CHOC raises several millions from individuals. The organisation provides support and free homely accommodation at CHOC Houses to families when a child is struggling to overcome cancer and undergoing long periods of treatment at one of the major city centre hospitals. They also have welcoming child-parent-friendly spaces at all main oncology units. This knock will limit support for new cases.
The Salesian Missions celebrated 25 years of working in Southern Africa in August 2013; sadly their communication updating donors on recent events was not successful as the appeals were never delivered. The Salesians care for street children in Cape Town, Gauteng, Lesotho and Swaziland and normally receive lots of support for their ‘Learn to Live’ programme. The strike means jeopardy for homeless, hungry children who will suffer further as plates of food are reduced and new outfits become hand me downs.
The South African Federation for Mental health postponed mailing their third quarter newsletter and will now include it with their Christmas appeal. If the strikes continue, as threatened by The Communications Workers’ Union (CWU) then they will postpone again to January 2015 as a Happy New Year campaign.
SOS Children’s Villages South Africa, a pioneer in direct mail fundraising, states they no longer trust postal services as this is the umpteenth time they have been let down. They have not been able to measure a recent newsletter campaign but fear they are down by R600 000 for this single mailing, according to Yvonne Stiglingh, fundraising manager. Their average yearly income is around R7.5 million through direct mail campaigns.
Many organisations also highlighted the ongoing security problems with the postal services; theft, lost pieces of mail and delayed deliveries. Will a solution be found as unions continue to threaten employers and hold the country hostage?
Bown recommends that if viable the sector should form a Class Action against the Post Office and the Unions for loss of revenue during August, September and October but she adds we would settle for a meeting to thrash this out.
Southern Africa Institute of Fundraising
Tel: 011 795 3271
Mobile: 083 271 0572
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
The Southern Africa Institute of Fundraising is a membership-based professional body promoting ethical standards for fundraising best practices; it remains a watchdog and lobbying group. www.saifundraising.org.za
For more information contact:
The Leprosy Mission
Tel: 011 440 6323
Fundraising & Marketing
Girls and Boys Town
Mobile: 084 785 1544
Major Carin Holmes
Public Relations Secretary
The Salvation Army
Mobile: 011 718 6746