Disaster Donations Part of Our Culture of Giving
16 March 2009 at 3:02 pm
The early outpouring of support for Victoria’s bushfire victims is typical of Australians’ generosity in the face of disaster, according to a Queensland University of Technology philanthropy researcher.
Dr Kym Madden is a senior research fellow at the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies, which is based at QUT in Brisbane.
She recently returned from the International Symposium on Giving Culture in Korea, where she presented a snapshot of Australian volunteering and donation trends and the dynamics underpinning giving in this country.
Madden says Australians have always been extremely good at responding to natural disasters – we automatically reach out to people in need.
She says the Asian tsunami really took Australians’ generosity to disaster to a whole new level. With ordinary tourists and locals able to capture the reality of the devastation on their mobile phones, digital and video cameras and relay those scenes back home, Australians were shocked by what they saw.
She says technology not only changes our experience of disasters, it also means donors can search for the relief agency they prefer and give online anytime.
Giving to the Asian tsumani pushed charity receipts to a record Australian high at the time and now charity leaders are saying the response to the bushfires has surpassed that.
Dr Madden says people who were donating to the current appeals for bushfire and flood victims should also consider what sort of giving they could do at other times of the year.
She says while studies show relatively few Australians engage in planned giving – such as sitting down with the family and working out what they will give to whom each year – they do give unstintingly in times of crisis.
The Australian Red Cross’s bushfire appeal fund received over $15 million from over 88,000 people in the first few days of the bushfire crisis and organisations through website and phone donations.
Dr Madden was the first Australian representative to be invited to the International Symposium on Giving Culture in Seoul, which is held annually by The Beautiful Foundation (Korea’s largest private foundation).
She joined leading researchers from the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Japan, and Korea who gathered in December to discuss emerging issues in the nonprofit sector’s efforts to engage individuals and businesses in their work. The symposium offered insight into charitable giving in America, Europe and Asia and how strategies to increase public involvement were being employed.