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Bushfire crisis brings out the best in Australians

10 January 2020 at 10:14 am
Luke Michael
The global outpouring of generosity during Australia’s bushfire crisis has been amplified by the rise in self-generated fundraising campaigns        

Luke Michael | 10 January 2020 at 10:14 am


Bushfire crisis brings out the best in Australians
10 January 2020 at 10:14 am

The global outpouring of generosity during Australia’s bushfire crisis has been amplified by the rise in self-generated fundraising campaigns        

The hyper-connectivity of the internet age is making it easier than ever to mobilise people to donate, and changing the way disaster response giving looks in Australia.

That is the view of Australian community leaders, who say charities have been overwhelmed by the generosity shown by the public this bushfire season, with many NFPs receiving unprecedented support during the crisis.

Donations have come in many forms, beyond simply giving to a well known charity or using crowdfunding platforms. 

Some celebrities have launched their own fundraisers on Facebook (such as comedian Celeste Barber’s viral $50 million campaign), authors are auctioning off their books for the highest donations on Twitter, while sports stars have pledged to donate money for every six they hit in cricket, or each ace they hit on the tennis court.

Georgia Mathews, the grants manager at the Australian Communities Foundation, told Pro Bono News the proliferation of the ways in which people can donate and mobilise others was changing the nature of disaster relief giving.

She said growing awareness of crowdfunding platforms such as GoFundMe has inspired new ways of giving, while Facebook’s new donation functionality has opened up a way for people to elicit or give donations without straying from their newsfeed.

“We’re also seeing online communities like #authorsforfireys and gamers on Twitch get creative about incentivising their followers and peers to give,” Mathews said.

She added that the hyper-connectivity of the internet age offered opportunities for immediate collective responses that weren’t available for Ash Wednesday in the 80s, or even Black Saturday a decade ago.

“The phenomenon of ‘going viral’ now extends to tragedy, and the fact that people can donate so easily and so publicly has already seen (and will likely continue to see) larger amounts given,” she said.

“We’re encouraging people to be discerning before they get swept up in giving to something online that doesn’t provide much information about the organisation or the use of funds. Take a moment before you click.”

Foodbank is also warning Australians to be cautious around where they donate.

The charity’s general manager of strategic partnerships, Ian Laing, said he was a bit anxious about the various scams out there around bushfire relief.

He added that the rise of companies pledging to donate to charities on social media has thrown up challenges for staff.

“We are having to screenshot social media posts, because there’s lots of brands saying they’re going to be donating money to us, but we haven’t actually seen money come through yet,” Laing told Pro Bono News.

“We need to keep a close eye on this change in the fundraising dynamic, as we don’t want people claiming they are donating to us, when that doesn’t actually eventuate… although we don’t want to discourage anyone from fundraising on our behalf.”

Laing said Foodbank had been inundated with support from both the public and the corporate sector in Australia and overseas.

He said the charity had likely not seen this widespread level of generosity before.

“When we sit down and analyse this period in the days and weeks to come, I think we’ll see unprecedented levels of public donations, food donations, corporate income, and volunteering support,” he said.

“I think every metric that we have around people supporting us is going to get blown out the window.”

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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