Donations down, volunteering up

01/04/2009 - 22:00

THE international economic downturn has filtered through to charities, with a national survey revealing more than half of not-for-profit organisations are recording a slump in donations.

THE international economic downturn has filtered through to charities, with a national survey revealing more than half of not-for-profit organisations are recording a slump in donations.

But while the monetary amounts people are giving are in decline, more Western Australians are donating their time through volunteer work.

In its latest research, charity research group Givewell found that, of the 196 charities it surveyed, 57 per cent had reported less income from fundraising appeals held since July 2008. The average fall in donations was 12 per cent.

The survey found that, in addition to losing revenue at annual appeals, not-for-profit organisations reported regular major donors were withdrawing, people were donating smaller amounts, and it was increasingly difficult to get funding from companies.

Philanthropy Australia president Bruce Bonyhady said the report confirmed fears that charitable organisations would have fewer funds available to them this year.

Donations have almost come to a halt for East Perth-based WA Deaf Society, which recorded a 70 per cent decrease in donations since this time last year.

Figures show that $127,000 was donated to WA Deaf Society in the year to March 2008, while only $37,500 was received by the organisation in the year since.

Business development manager Marisa Powell said the society was sending out 40,000 newsletters to businesses and individuals to encourage them to donate.

"Every cent given will make a difference to the lives of deaf and hard-of-hearing people in the community," she said.

In contrast, Mission Australia chief executive Toby Hall said the downturn was yet to impact significantly on the charity's revenue with individual donations "slightly ahead" than those projected, but corporate sponsorship was slowing.

"We have hundreds of corporate partners and the majority have indicated that their support for us will continue," he said.

"But yes, two or three have indicated that their support for certain programs will wind up at the end of the financial year.''

Volunteering WA chief executive Mara Basanovic said the peak body for volunteering was aware donations had slowed.

"It could be the economic downturn and people not having money or fear of not having money or fear of losing their jobs and not having income, or actually losing their jobs," Ms Basanovic told WA Business News.

"It could be the result of people donating to the Victorian bush fires. We are trying to determine the cause.

"In contrast, all around Australia expressions of interest to volunteer since Christmas have risen sharply, as have offers for employees to volunteer from corporate organisations.

"Again, we are endeavouring to explain this and have a couple of thoughts - maybe people want to help those less fortunate at times of economic downturn, or maybe there are more people with more time on their hands as they have lost their job or reduced their hours.

"In regard to the companies, perhaps they don't have the cash flow to donate money, so to meet corporate social responsibility obligations they are offering their staff rather than donating money."

South Perth octogenarians Ron and Peggy Bell still have the philanthropic spirit, this month donating $100,000 to establish a new fellowship to accelerate research into Alzheimer's disease at the University of Western Australia.

UWA Centre for Health and Ageing director Osvaldo Almeida said philanthropic support for the centre's programs was always important, but never more so than in today's financial climate.

Mr Bell and his wife also set up a charitable foundation five years ago and have been quietly supporting a range of people in need, including children with intellectual disabilities.

"I hope our contribution will encourage others to offer their financial support to the centre," Mr Bell said.


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