30/09/2014 - 13:12

Heart disease, dementia groups get smaller slice of pie

30/09/2014 - 13:12

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Charities tackling leading causes of death in WA are missing out on more fundraising dollars.

Heart disease, dementia groups get smaller slice of pie
ON THE BEAT: Maurice Swanson says the Heart Foundation has struggled to compete against other charities for funding. Photo: Photo: Attila Csaszar

WESTERN Australians may be more prepared to give, but some causes are receiving significantly more donated dollars than others – and it’s not representative of their impact on society, according to research by Business News.

Cardiovascular disease is the single biggest killer of Western Australians, accounting for nearly a quarter of all deaths between 2007 and 2011.

Yet the only WA-based charity dedicated to funding cardiovascular disease research, the Heart Foundation, which provides services to sufferers and increases awareness, typically receives only 5 per cent of all fundraising dollars contributed to the state’s charities.

And the foundation is not alone, according to the research.

In fact, the third-highest cause of death (behind cancer as a collective group) is dementia, which only receives about 1 per cent of all donations, including money raised from events, corporate sponsorship and bequests.

Diabetes-focused charities also suffer from a lack of support from the community. Despite diabetes-related complications claiming 3 per cent of deaths, the amount donated to WA charities looking for a cure or providing services to sufferers is little more than 0.3 per cent of total fundraising.

In contrast, cancer groups get strong support from the community.

As a collective group, cancer accounted for 16.6 per cent of deaths in the four years to 2011.

To put that in context, that is 2,400 fewer deaths per year, on average, than cardiovascular disease.

Yet it receives the highest amount of fundraising dollars than any other cause in WA, with nearly 22 per cent of donations going towards cancer charities – that’s about $21 million more than what was donated to improve the rate of cardiovascular disease in the last financial year.

Chief executive of the Heart Foundation WA Maurice Swanson told Business News the disparity emerged from cardiovascular disease not being perceived as an urgent and severe disease, especially when compared to illnesses such as cancer.

“I think that most people feel that if they survive their first heart attack then it’s just a matter of going along to the hospital and getting your plumbing fixed,” Mr Swanson said.

“There’s this mismatch between what people think are the major causes of death and illness in the community and what the actual statistics show.

“That’s a result of sustained and very clever marketing by some of these (charitable) causes.”

A Cancer Council WA spokesperson said cancer affected not only patients, but also carers and families and that every year in WA nearly 12,000 people would be diagnosed with cancer.

“We are there at every stage of their cancer journey; this past year we provided specialist information and advice, a wide range of practical and emotional support, as well as survivorship programs to more than 30,000 cancer patients and their loved ones.”

Mr Swanson said the Heart Foundation had focused on gaining support from people suffering from cardiovascular disease as a way of improving recognition of the Heart Foundation.

That has included a new support service for heart patients at Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital, which Mr Swanson said he hoped would raise awareness of the Heart Foundation’s work.

“The people most likely to support you are those that are suffering from the disease,” he said.

“You’ve just got to improve the way that you put your case to the community, you’ve got to perhaps be more convincing in the case that you put forward and also more targeted.”

Diabetes WA has taken a similar approach to fundraising, by targeting people who are either directly or indirectly affected by the disease.

Chief executive Andrew Wagstaff said the organisation estimated there were about 400,000 people affected or who know someone affected with diabetes, whom the charity was attempting to establish a relationship with.

But he also said the charity had made a conscious choice to reduce its reliance on revenue from fundraising.

About five years ago the organisation recognised that competition for fundraising dollars was increasing dramatically and the cost of going after those donations and sponsorships was becoming more expensive.

“People might be more passionate about getting rid of the cane toad or saving the trees,” Mr Wagstaff said.

“Why would I waste my dollar trying to market fundraising to people if they really want to get rid of the cane toad?” 

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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