Donation Dollar offers a way for Australians to give regularly
22 September 2020 at 8:00 am
Challenges like COVID-19 have highlighted the importance of regular donations, which is why the Australian Mint’s introduction of the Donation Dollar could not have happened at a better time, writes Bruce Argyle from Bendigo Bank.
When the Victorian Black Saturday fires hit in 2009, I was in the Healesville Town Hall. The fire front was three kilometres away and we were receiving a briefing from the Red Cross.
The destruction of the Black Saturday fires is well known, and forever etched into the memory of those who lived through them. It is also well known how quickly the Australian community pulls together in the wake of national disaster. Almost half a billion dollars was raised in the wake of the 2019/20 bushfires, and more than $46 million of that came through the Bendigo Bank’s national and state-based bushfire appeals.
Healesville will be familiar to many Victorians, and Melbournians in particular. It’s the gateway to the Yarra Valley Wine Region and is famous for its pristine scenery, restaurants and the Healesville Zoo. We’re a close-knit community that pulls together when times are tough.
Like many disaster-affected areas, the Healesville, Kinglake and Marysville regions were inundated with donations following the destruction. Various appeals were set up to assist with the rebuild of the community and people’s livelihoods, food was sent for those struggling and doors were opened to provide temporary accommodation for those who had lost everything.
My role was to coordinate the philanthropic response to the disaster, and I saw first-hand the impact philanthropy could have on the recovery effort. Philanthropy (as distinct from appeals and fundraisers) plays an integral role in disaster recovery. While appeals address immediate need, philanthropy often focuses on long-term rebuild. Both are essential to ensure communities and environments recover.
One of the philanthropists I worked with during the Black Saturday fires continued to fund social workers to support children affected by the fire more than three years beyond the disaster.
When we think of philanthropy, we often think of the United States with its culture of large benefactors making multi-million-dollar donations to global initiatives – people like Bill and Melinda Gates, George Soros or Warren Buffet. But actually, when it comes to giving (both money and time), Australians are rated among the world’s most generous. Individuals, businesses and governments frequently donate to causes that matter to them.
Challenges like COVID-19 have highlighted the importance of donating, but also how reliant many of our not for profits and charities are on donations of both money and time. The pandemic has seen rates of both plummet. That’s why the Australian Mint’s introduction of the Donation Dollar could not have happened at a better time.
The Donation Dollar is $1 legal tender designed to encourage Australians to give, not just in times of crisis, but regularly. One has been minted for every Australian, and Australians are being encouraged to donate the coin if they receive one in their change.
While it is important to contribute to disaster recovery efforts, many social challenges simmer along every day without the profile needed to generate mass reactive giving efforts. Think homelessness, the one in three Australian women who experience domestic violence, eradicating malaria and the enormous challenges of climate change and mental health. Regular, affordable donations are essential for not for profits to address some of these insidious issues.
Regular donations are also essential for long-term disaster recovery. The traumatic impacts of natural disaster stay long after the house has been rebuilt, the forests have been replanted and the paddocks have been restocked. Regular donations allow not for profits to plan long-term service delivery in areas that need it most.
Regular donations also provide not for profits with the financial certainty often needed to build meaningful partnerships with financial partners, governments, business and philanthropists. Diverse partnerships that represent broad community interests and experiences ultimately lead to better recovery outcomes.
If you find a Donation Dollar in your wallet in the coming months, I encourage you to donate like a philanthropist – with a long-term focus on strong communities.