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Fears of donor fatigue as bushfire relief efforts charge on

12 February 2020 at 2:05 pm
Maggie Coggan
Charity CEO describes relief effort as a marathon, not a sprint 

Maggie Coggan | 12 February 2020 at 2:05 pm


Fears of donor fatigue as bushfire relief efforts charge on
12 February 2020 at 2:05 pm

Charity CEO describes relief effort as a marathon, not a sprint 

National food aid charity FoodBank fears the rush of donor support seen at the height of the bushfire crisis is dwindling, despite demand for services showing no sign of slowing down. 

January saw an unprecedented number of corporate and personal donations made to bushfire relief efforts, with FoodBank Australia receiving 2,500 kg of pallets of food and groceries from corporates, valued at around $5 million for fire-affected communities. 

But FoodBank Australia CEO Brianna Casey told Pro Bono News while the organisation was blown away by the generosity of individual and corporate donors, she is now worried the support will be hard to sustain for the rest of the year.

She said the ongoing drought had affected the supply of products and with the charity already feeding over 815,000 people a month before the bushfires, demand could soar.      

“Once those product donations run out – and that could be within a matter of weeks and months – will we have sufficient supplies on hand to continue our important role of fighting hunger in Australia?” Casey said. 

It’s a marathon, not a sprint 

There’s no question that corporate Australia has been generous in supporting the bushfire relief, pledging millions of dollars to charities such as The Australian Red Cross, WIRES and FoodBank Australia, matching employee donations, and donating products.           

FoodBank in particular relies heavily on its corporate partnerships with companies such as Bega, Nestle, and SPC for food products.  

But Casey said she was worried the limit for food and funds that a company could donate, had already been reached. 

“Our concern is if there are companies… who have spent an annual corporate social responsibility budget in one month, what does that mean for the remaining 11 months of this year?” she said. 

 “What does that mean in terms of our ability to keep providing food relief ongoing?”

She said she didn’t underestimate the strategy behind corporate partnerships and donations, but said it was important corporate social responsibility teams were sitting down with government and charities to work together, particularly with this summer an indication of what was to come.    

“Our experience tells us that recovery from a disaster is a marathon, not a sprint… so we need to be really sensible and pragmatic and planned in the way that we expend funds, and in our case food and groceries, that have been donated to ensure that we have got that sustainability and longevity to assist communities ongoing,” she said. 

Is donor fatigue also hitting individuals? 

According to the Fundraising Institute of Australia (FIA), no.  

A recent survey published by the peak body found that 70 per cent of people said they would continue to give in the same way as they always had, and 18 per cent said they would increase their giving levels. 

Read more: Fundraising efforts must continue

Katherine Raskob, CEO of the FIA, told Pro Bono News despite this, she believed charities faced the challenge of coordinating Christmas and natural disaster appeals, and stretching them out across the recovery period.  

“It is worrying to think if there is going to be enough to meet the increasing needs in the coming months,” she said. 

She said charities should aim to be as transparent as possible, as well as keeping up good lines of communication to make sure donations don’t drop off too quickly.   

“Really listening to their donors about how they want to be communicated with about the impact that they’re making can really help ensure charities can continue into the future,” she said. 

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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