Last December proved to be a positive time for health and disaster relief charities, which collected more donations than in previous years.
Donations to Western Australian health and disaster relief charities’ 2020 Christmas appeals were up on the previous year, despite the economic and social upheaval wrought by COVID-19.
While business confidence by December 2020 was the highest it had been since 2007, according to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA, the economic fallout from the pandemic is still reverberating around the state.
The latest unemployment figures from December show the unemployment rate was 6.2 per cent, higher than 5.4 per cent in the same month in 2019.
Despite the economic pain and uncertainty brought by the COVID-19 pandemic and the related government restrictions, all the charities spoken to by Business News had received an increase in donations to their 2020 Christmas appeals compared with other years.
The WA division of global charity Salvation Army raised $2.5 million in its Christmas appeal, 25 per cent more than in 2019.
However, donations of non-perishable food, toys and clothes were in line with the previous year.
Foodbank WA raised $388,765 in 2019, a substantial increase from its 2019 Christmas Appeal, when it raised $194,210.
The campaign title, Uncancel Christmas, played on the number of events that had to be cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
WA’s second largest charity, according to Business News’s Data & Insights, Royal Flying Doctor Service, received $350,000 as part of its Christmas appeal, an increase of about 33 per cent on its 2019 effort, according to chief executive Rebecca Tomkinson.
“It’s in the DNA of Western Australians to help a mate out and that support is demonstrated again and again – it makes such a difference to our service,” Ms Tomkinson said.
She said Western Australians were appreciative of the health system and support services and, as a result, many people had been more generous than usual.
Others, however, had felt the economic impacts of the pandemic.
“For others, the pandemic has hit their personal economic circumstances hard and we fully appreciate not everyone has been able to give in the same way as before,” Ms Tomkinson told Business News.
She said the corporate sector had been supportive of not for profits during the pandemic.
This year, RFDS managed its Christmas appeal in-house for the first time and focused on telling stories of Western Australians, patients and the RFDS team, Ms Tomkinson said.
Crisis mental health support charity Lifeline WA said its Lights for Lifeline 2020 Christmas fundraising appeal was the most successful ever.
It raised about $270,000, 34 per cent more than in 2019, when about $183,000 was raised.
This result corresponded with an increase in the number of calls to Lifeline WA, which reached 39,895 in 2020, 16 per cent higher than in 2019.
Chief executive Lorna MacGregor said she was surprised by the fundraising result.
“It was our expectation that, with so much general uncertainty in the community, we would see a reduction in donations,” Ms MacGregor told Business News.
“We had underestimated both the generosity of the WA public, but also the gratitude.
“We heard time and time again that people were grateful that Lifeline had been there to support them, their friends and family members during a remarkably difficult year.”
The campaign changed slightly this year, with less of a focus on events and more of an emphasis on an online presence due to the threat of COVID-19, Ms MacGregor said.
She said the not for profit did not erect its Lifeline WA Christmas tree, which was located in Yagan Square in 2019, to reduce costs.
Gift-wrapping in shopping centres was a hallmark of its 2020 appeal.
“We also focused on low-value, high-volume mechanisms for donation though our online donation campaign, but also through activities such as gift wrapping,” Ms MacGregor said.
“Hundreds of volunteers wrapped gifts in shopping centres for a gold coin donation for Lifeline WA, and that raised $20,000.”
She said the number of corporate donors did not grow over the previous period, but the average donation value increased.
“Generally, there was an attitude in the community that if they could give, they would give and many who did give donated more than in the past,” she said.