Project aims to give aid to community groups

A strong sense of community is as much a feature of our region as thyme and wine.

However, many volunteer groups struggle to fill roles such as treasurer and secretary or find enough people to carry out their good work. Conversely with a rapidly increasing population newcomers wonder how to fit into their new community.

These dilemmas were the beginning of the Lighthouse Project.

Central Lakes Trust grants manager Mat Begg said the Trust was one part of, and one funder, for the project.

In late 2021 a survey led by Sport Otago and involving the Central Otago District and Otago Regional councils and community groups found many sport and social service groups were struggling to find office bearers.

Community workshops were held to see how the groups could work together, Mr Begg said.

The Lighthouse Project grew from there.

It was based on Taranaki’s Wheelhouse, a hub for trusts, clubs, societies and community organisations to find impartial support and advice, opportunities for learning, training, education and upskilling and access to current and relevant information, resources and research.

‘‘We think we can make that work down here,’’ Mr Begg said.

The Lighthouse Project has three goals.

The first is to improve governance skills with good information and help groups find it. The second is to build a skills bank to match volunteers with groups and the third is to help with technology, which is a challenge for some people but could make their roles much easier.

For example, many groups were battling to find a treasurer as the required reporting seemed onerous but they did not realise an accounting programme like Xero cost very little for volunteer groups and would manage the reporting for them, Mr Begg said.

The next step was to find funders for the Lighthouse Project.

Volunteer South was driving the project and Central Lakes Trust had committed $75,000 this financial year to get the project under way.

They chose Volunteer South to lead the way and make funding applications as they were already a leading force in the volunteer scene, he said.

‘‘They have got amazing contacts they are connected in to.’’