09/06/2021 - 11:00

Charities rethink fundraising

09/06/2021 - 11:00

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The pandemic has changed the fundraising game.

Charities rethink fundraising
Peter King says the past year has highlighted the significance of digital fundraising. Photo: David Henry

A year without gala balls, fun runs and fundraising bike rides has forced donor-funded charities to reconsider their priorities.

Many Western Australian organisations moved to online fundraising initiatives or held personal challenges instead of mass events.

Royal Flying Doctor Service Western Australia held an online giving day and street appeal called Flying Doctor Day in mid-May, which at the time of writing had raised more than $629,000 (exceeding its $580,000 target).

Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research redefined its MACA Cancer 200 by asking participants to create their own personal bike ride challenges.

The event raised $3.6 million for the institute.

Charities spoken to by Business News were also surprised by their donors’ generosity, with some solid numbers despite the disrupted events schedule.

Ronald McDonald House Charities WA chief executive Peter King said the organisation usually raised between $4.5 million and $5 million from events but had raised about $2.85 million in 2020.

“A lot of our long-term philanthropists and supporters turned toward us and said, ‘What can we do?’” Mr King said.

He said once extra philanthropic donations and government subsidies were taken into account, most of the $1.7 million was made up from other sources.

“[I]t was a difficult year from a fundraising perspective, but essentially it was a year that allowed us to rethink how we fundraise, really examine everything that we do in terms of its place in the future,” Mr King said.

The organisation used the opportunity to establish some online fundraising initiatives.

It’s WA Giving Day, which involved former cricketer Adam Gilchrist hosting a virtual event live on Facebook for 12 hours, raised $265,000, exceeding its target of $250,000.

“It was completely different to anything we had done before and really whet our appetite for moving into the digital space,” Mr King said.

According to the McCrindle Australian Communities 2021 report, most Australians (81 per cent) were receptive to giving online.

The report also found that 60 per cent of respondents classified themselves as ‘opportunity givers’ (those who donate when they hear about an issue or cause), while the number of ‘committed givers’ was 40 per cent.

The rise of opportunity givers means people are more likely to donate to topical issues of the time, and not regularly give a donation each year.

Mr King said he saw the phenomena play out in last year’s east coast bushfires, when the organisation was worried it might lose vital support to disaster relief organisations.

“You have to steward those donors and create real long-lasting relationships so they will support you despite whatever is the latest issue that’s trending on social media, or if there is a disaster, that it doesn’t detract overall from the fundraising you need on a regular basis,” he said.

Conversely, Australian Wildlife Conservancy chief executive Tim Allard said while the bushfires on the east coast of Australia were traumatic, it did inspire an interest in conservation.

He said the group witnessed an increase in giving immediately following the fires.

In order to sustain interest in wildlife causes when COVID-19 began dominating news headlines and donations flowed to medical and health causes, Mr Allard said the conservancy switched to engaging online with its supporters, with events such as webinars.

“In some instances, this increased the engagement as we were able to bring in our ecologists and land managers to the call, so our supporters could connect directly to the conservation work being delivered,” Mr Allard told Business News.

The Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s 2020 annual report is yet to be released, but Mr Allard said some people gave more than usual to help the AWC through the COVID-19 pandemic, while those affected by pandemic-related economic loss gave less.

Anglicare WA found the public connected to the work it does during the pandemic, especially its crisis support services.

According to its 2020 annual report, fundraising and donations increased from $2.4 million in the 2019 financial year to $3.7 million in 2020.

“What we saw during the pandemic was the real golden heart of Western Australians,” Anglicare WA chief executive Mark Glasson said.

“They stepped up and we were really pleasantly surprised with the number of people who made contact [wanting to help].” Despite the push by most into the online space, Anglicare WA’s fundraising strategy has a focus on in-person events.

A few weeks ago, Anglicare WA revived its Op Shop Ball, an event the charity last held in 2015. The fundraiser was retired six years ago due to the competitive event environment in WA.

Mr Glasson said the organisation made the decision to revisit the ball to provide a point of difference at a time when many fundraising balls weren’t going ahead.

“We wanted it to be fun, we wanted it to be quirky, we didn’t want it to take away from the seriousness of the work we were doing or who we were raising money for,” he said.

“But we also wanted to put something on the calendar that was a bit new for Perth, a bit different.”

The ball raised more than $300,000, after costs.

Mr Glasson said Anglicare WA would run the Op Shop Ball again next year and was planning to grow its involvement in the Central Park Plunge as well as considering starting a mass event like a fun run or bike ride.

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