Phillipa Green thought she might have to close down her charity organisation when the second lockdown hit.
The managing director of Breast Cancer Cure had seen some tough times before but nothing had quite measured up to 2020.
"This has been the toughest of my 12 years with the organisation," says Green.
Covid came as a double whammy to the fundraising sector, with the health aspect stripping away face-to-face contact and the economic impact making Kiwis more reluctant to open their wallets.
"We rely almost entirely on raising money from fundraising events and these were stopped overnight," says Green.
"It's difficult to compare, but between March and June last year we pulled in $500,000 and this year it dropped to zero. We're a very small organisation, so it was everything for us."
The knock-on effect was instant, with 12 research projects immediately being denied essential funding.
"We still had the scientific brains sitting there, but our ability to support that important work stopped. And remember, you still had women dying from breast cancer every day over the lockdown, but no one was talking about that."
Breast Cancer Cure has received around $59,250 through the wage subsidy to date, but this money has largely been used to pay the five staff members that were working behind the scenes and waiting to get back to fundraising.
"I've managed to keep all my staff, so I'm very proud of that," says Green.
"The thought that we might have to close the charity was always there, but I wouldn't let that happen on my watch.
"We just used that time to plan and then we launched a sell-out fund-raising show in Dunedin as soon as the lockdown ended. And then another in Auckland. We were just lucky we were small and could pivot and move fast once we had the chance."
Breast Cancer Cure wasn't the only charity to be rocked over this period.
An August survey conducted by Hui E Community Aotearoa, Volunteering New Zealand and Philanthropy New Zealand found that half of the 1500 respondents operating in the sector would not have enough funds to maintain staff and activity for six months or more without additional funds coming in.
The survey pointed out that reserves being used up now will be harder to replenish, particularly once government support dries up.
"We know community organisations have been working hard on reforecasting, restructuring, seeking alternative income streams and changing their business models," said Rochelle Stewart-Allen, Pou Kaiārahi for Hui E! Community Aotearoa.
Philanthropy, small council grants, and funding for the arts, film and sports sectors, have since topped up some parts of the sector.
"There remains an urgent need to fill the remaining gaps, give community organisations some certainty, help them replenish their funds," said Stewart-Allen, calling on communities to back causes.
Some members of the business community are also stepping in to lend a hand to charity organisations.
One example is advertising agency Hello, which stepped up to develop a pro-bono branding campaign for Breast Cancer Cure, which features 660 unique creative executions to represent the number of women lost to the disease each year.
Green says the willingness of the agency to do this means the organisation is able to develop awareness of the cause at a time when it simply doesn't have the budget to do this.
At a time when charities have not been able to meet people face to face, marketing through the media has been one of the only ways charity organisations have been able to retain contact with the public.
This helps explain why at such a tough time Nielsen advertising spend data shows that overall ad spend between January and August increased from $21.9 million in 2019 to $24.8m in 2020.
But marketing isn't the only lifeline available to charities.
The Ministry for Social Development announced a $36m Community Capability and Resilience Fund to aid community organisations hit by Covid.
The Lottery Grants Board also announced a $40m Lottery Covid-19 Community Wellbeing Fund, which will prioritise hapū, iwi, community or social initiatives that have been impacted by the pandemic.
Asked about the struggles facing the sector, Charities Services general manager Stephen Reilly points to a number of other resources that charity groups can tap into at the moment.
"We encourage charities to talk with their funders, explore the new funding options available, and if facing a significant shortfall, use the Charities Register to identify other groups doing similar things in their communities to see if they can work together to keep their important mahi going," Reilly says.
"We also have weekly one-on-one drop-in clinics where charities can book a time with us, or staff from the Department's Hāpai Hapori Community Operations team to discuss funding options."