Fundraising efforts must continue
16 January 2020 at 8:51 am
There are no limits to Australian generosity. While our hearts go out to those impacted by these terrible bushfires, fundraisers should not put off their appeals – we must still think about our donors and the other causes they may want to support, writes Katherine Raskob, chief executive of Fundraising Institute Australia.
On Tuesday, I gave an interview on ABC radio where the presenter asked me about the limits to Australian generosity, fundraising fatigue and the future of fundraising. I don’t believe there is a limit to that generosity. Australians have always stepped up in times of need and fundraising fatigue is not an issue right now. Not when the need is so compelling.
At FIA, we are proud of the fantastic work conducted on the ground by many of our members to help both the human impact and the devastating environmental consequences.
“Australians have always stepped up in times of need and fundraising fatigue is not an issue right now.“
And we remain in awe of the community spirit. But the extraordinary outpouring of generosity from Australians is not unusual. For example, it occurred in the Queensland floods of 2011, the Black Friday bushfires of 2009 and the Boxing Day Tsunami in Southeast Asia in 2004.
That Australians are once again leading with their hearts during this challenging time is not surprising. Australia is ranked the fourth most generous country in the world, according to the latest report of the World Giving Index and private fundraising remains as a robust $9.9 billion sector, according to the Australian Charities Report (2017), produced by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.
Many donors plan their giving and allocate to a charity or multiple favourite causes from a set budget. But when a catastrophe occurs, they don’t tend to stop supporting those charities they care about; they are willing to give extra to help those in crisis.
During the Tsunami crisis, the response was deemed so generous that some charities, especially those not involved on the ground, assumed that because people had given already they would not donate again or as much. But studies conducted afterwards by the Queensland University of Technology and Pareto Benchmarking found that donations were up or most charities continued to raise as much money as they had before the Tsunami.
Some charities that lost out during that time were those that either didn’t send or held off on their appeals, which resulted in lower revenue. It also affected their donor relationships and their capacity to offer programs and services to their communities. These results are something to think about.
While our hearts go out to those impacted by these terrible bushfires and we will be preoccupied with this crisis for a long time, we must think about our donors and the other causes they may want to support which match the needs of thousands of charities and the services they provide.
Quite simply, the need for medical research, support for vulnerable children or community work in developing countries hasn’t gone away because of this disaster.
Fundraisers know from experience that people don’t just wake up and decide to give outside of times of crisis. They still need to be asked and alerted to important causes.
You might hold off on asking for now, but in a few months it could be fine. Have you thought that you might be limiting your donors’ giving options if you don’t communicate with them?
If you don’t send an appeal, your donors won’t see it, they won’t give to your cause and your beneficiaries will miss out. But if you send your appeal, they will at least see the ask. Of course, some will think there are more urgent needs than yours right now, but that’s up to them to decide.
You will also want to consider postcode suppressions for mailing lists when sending any appeals in the next while. Australia Post has details on postcodes affected by the bushfires in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales.
At the same time, it’s vital to follow the FIA Code around transparent, ethical best practice and respect the donor’s preferences on how they want to be contacted and asked, and always to be mindful of those in vulnerable circumstances.
Keep communicating in relevant and sensitive ways. We all have a variety of important causes we serve – let the donors decide what those priorities must be for them. You can still ensure your community gets support, be mindful of your donors’ preferences, safeguard your reputation and make the ask. Indeed, for the sake of your beneficiaries, you should.