There were some really interesting things coming out of the work which I’m keen to explore in the next few weeks. But the first big thing that struck me was how little Otago funders spend on “Youth” - or perhaps how much Canterbury funders spend on “Youth”.
So I’ve dived into this a wee bit, as have some suspicions that spend is driven by supply, rather than demand.
In 2015 Otago funders put $798k into groups I would classify as “Youth”. In 2014 Canterbury funders put $4.4m into the same sorts of groups.
Using the 2013 census, if we define “youth” as being between 10 and 19, the spend per person = $29 in Otago, and $75 in Canterbury. If you argue that youth is actually 15 – 24, then the spend is $25 per head in Otago, and $70 per head in Canterbury. So however you cut it, these numbers look a bit out of kilter.
What I did then was to look at the purpose of the organisations getting funding, delving into the rules of the charity, the website, and sometimes the Facebook pages of the organisations. And here’s where it gets interesting – and possibly slightly uncomfortable.
In Canterbury, around half – that’s $2.2m – of funding from the community go to groups with a faith based background. In Otago the figure is 30% - that’s $245k. This can be manifested in board membership: perhaps their Board need to be active congregation members, the objects of the trust were about promoting the Christian faith, or that the Church needs to vett the board. In at least one case there was a line in the job descriptions that paid employees needed to be active members of the congregation. The other thing that is readily apparent when I look through the list of underlying entities is the sheer numbers of evangelical churches involved in this work, and that many of these have only been around in the past decade or so… curiously enough since the growth in funding sources.
Now, provided they make the community a better place then good luck to them all. It would be great to see some good data on this. But at the back of my mind is a niggle about recruitment under the guise of youth work. In my younger days I recall a youth worker trying to recruit me: things could well have changed in thirty years! But as a parent, I am concerned about normalisation of this work in schools.
Non faith based providers doing similar work received $780k – that’s 17% of funding – in Canterbury.
Also of some interest is what I have called Rehabilitation: working with those people who are at risk of hard core offending. These groups get less than 10% of funding in both Canterbury and Otago – although they do receive considerable government support.
Of course these numbers ignore Sports clubs, who often have programmes to keep the youth off the streets, and schools and alternative education providers, who of course how a vested interest in making sure that kids stay in school, and become fabulous citizens of the world.
We often wring our hands about Youth. Whether these programmes help those kids teetering on the edge of making some bad choices in their lives it’s hard to say. And I have not answered by question about if Otago is tight on Youth spending, or if Canterbury is lavish. But if anyone is interested in this part of the grant making ecosystem, please get in touch.